A pair of San Diego Chargers headline the list of available free agents at tight end.
Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green are at different points in their careers, with the 35-year-old Gates looking for one more contract after posting 56 catches for 630 yards and five touchdowns in 11 games last season.
Green, meanwhile, is a full decade younger. He finished with 37 catches for 429 yards and four touchdowns, taking advantage of the time Gates was out. It’s expected the Chargers will make a push to bring both players back, as Green would be a logical successor when Gates does retire.
If another team were to make Green a monster offer, however, he could be persuaded to leave Southern California.
Here is an overview of the pending unrestricted free-agent crop at tight end, along with how the Buffalo Bills may approach the position:
Starting caliber: Zach Miller, Chicago; Vernon Davis, Denver; Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis; Coby Fleener, Indianapolis.
The skinny: Miller had 34 catches for 439 yards and five touchdowns in 15 games last season. He is 31, however, and has a lengthy injury history, which should drive his price down. … Davis has experience playing in Greg Roman’s offense from their time together with the 49ers. … Allen had eight touchdown catches in 2014, but that number dropped to just one in 2015. He hired high-powered agent Drew Rosenhaus this offseason and is determined to show teams he can be a dual threat. … Fleener maybe hasn’t live up to his first-round draft status, but has pretty good numbers with 183 catches for 2,154 yards and 17 touchdowns. He’s played with Andrew Luck since college.
Aging veterans: Daniel Fells, New York Giants; Benjamin Watson, New Orleans; Scott Chandler, New England; Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville; Kellen Davis, New York Jets; Alex Smith, Washington.
The skinny: Fells has needed at least 10 surgeries in his foot to treat a MRSA infection in his foot. It’s unclear if he’ll ever play again. … Watson surprised everyone by being the replacement for Jimmy Graham with the Saints. He had 74 catches for 825 yards and six touchdowns – perfect timing in a contract year. … Chandler was released recently by the Patriots after one season in New England. … Lewis just completed his 10th season and is a valuable locker-room presence who is likely to stay in Jacksonville. … Davis was part of a Jets’ tight end group that had just eight catches all season.
Depth options: Michael Hoomanawanui, New Orleans; Bear Pascoe, Detroit; Clay Harbor, Jacksonville; Andrew Quarless, Green Bay; Allen Reisner, Baltimore; Rob Housler, Chicago; James Hanna, Dallas; Tony Moeaki, Atlanta; Jermaine Gresham, Arizona.
The skinny: Hoomanawanui previously spent time with the Patriots and is more of a blocking tight end. … Pascoe only finished last season with Detroit after an injury to Brandon Pettigrew. His NFL career is hanging on by a thread. … Quarless was injured last season and involved in an off-the-field incident in which he was alleged to have waived a gun around in public. … Reisner broke his ankle during the preseason and missed all of last year. … Housler is 6-foot-5 and had a few productive years with Arizona. … Hanna had six tackles on special teams last season and has developed into an adequate blocker. … Moeaki previously spent two games with the Bills in 2013. He had just three catches with Atlanta in 2015. … Gresham lingered on the free-agent market last season as teams were skeptical that he was healthy, but he made it through a full season in Arizona and will likely look for a bigger role somewhere else.
Who might fit the Bills: Restricted free agent MarQueis Gray tweeted a goodbye to Bills fans, so it seems he’s been informed by the team he’s not in their plans moving forward. That means Buffalo could be in the market for more depth at the position behind starter Charles Clay. Heading into last season, it was thought tight end would play a big role in Greg Roman’s offense, but that never really materialized. Outside of Clay, contributions from the position were minimal. If the Bills want a blocking tight end, free agency would be the likely route, since the spread offenses that dominate the college game today has put less of an emphasis on that skill. Hoomanawanui would make sense in that scenario.