Next up in our continuing free agency preview series is tight end. The Eagles currently have four tight ends on the roster in
1. Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta – Ht: 6-5, Wt: 247, Age: 37, Exp: 16
Career: Gonzalez spent 12 years with the Chiefs before he was traded to the Falcons in 2009. Gonzalez is second on the all-time receptions list with 1,242 catches and his 14,268 receiving yards are good for seventh in NFL history. Needless to say, when Gonzalez retires, he is sure to be a first ballot Hall of Famer. During the 2012 season, Gonzalez said repeatedly that it would be his last season, but reports indicate that he may be open to returning.
Fit: While every team in the NFL could use a player like the ageless Gonzalez, who reeled in 93 passes for 930 yards and eight touchdowns last season, his future is up in the air. If he does decide to return, it would likely be with Atlanta, the team with which he nearly made it to the Super Bowl last season.
2. Brandon Myers, Oakland – Ht: 6-3, Wt: 256, Age: 27, Exp: 4
Career: Drafted in the sixth round of the 2009 draft, Myers had a breakout 2012 campaign. He led the Raiders with 79 receptions for 806 yards. He also chipped in four touchdowns and was a reliable target all season. On a team that had trouble generating a running game, Myers helped move the Raiders’ passing offense along.
Fit: The Raiders will reportedly make keeping Myers a top offseason priority. But if he decides to leave, Myers could be a nice complement to Brent Celek.
3. Jared Cook, Tennessee – Ht: 6-5, Wt: 248, Age: 25, Exp: 4
Career: Cook has been a consistent player for the Titans since being drafted in the third round of the 2009 draft. Last season he caught 44 passes for 523 yards and four touchdowns. Cook has above average speed for the tight end position, and has lined up in the slot on occasion.
Fit: Retaining Cook is reportedly the Titans’ first priority this offseason, and general manager Ruston Webster believes Cook will return for the 2013 season. If he does leave Tennessee, Cook could be a valuable piece in head coach Chip Kelly’s offense.
4. Dennis Pitta, Baltimore – Ht: 6-4, Wt: 245, Age: 27, Exp: 3
Career: Pitta has emerged as a key member of the Ravens offense. In 2012, he was second on the team in receptions (61) and touchdowns (seven), while racking up 669 receiving yards. He also caught four passes for 26 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl XLVII.
Fit: Pitta is a restricted free agent. With the first Ravens’ offseason domino falling after the extension of Joe Flacco, the team will now shift their focus to Pitta and their other free agents. Pitta will reportedly receive a second-round tender, which may be too much for the Eagles to give up.
5. Fred Davis, Washington – Ht: 6-4, Wt: 247, Age: 27, Exp: 5
Career: Fred Davis played second fiddle to All-Pro Chris Cooley for much of his five-year career. But when Davis was named the starter last season, he suffered an Achilles injury in Week 7 and missed the remainder of the season. When healthy, Davis is an athletic playmaker who could help the Eagles.
Fit: Over the past two seasons, Davis has missed 13 games due to injury and suspensions. Reports out of The District indicate that the Redskins may not be able to keep Davis, as they are looking for ways to get under the salary cap. The Eagles are looking to get younger, and a 27-year-old tight end with an injury history isn’t the most appealing option. But if Davis can stay healthy all season, the Eagles could certainly benefit from his skill set.
6. Martellus Bennett, New York Giants – Ht: 6-6, Wt: 265, Age: 26, Exp: 5
Career: Bennett was drafted by the Cowboys in 2008 and spent the first four years of his career in the shadow of perennial All-Pro Jason Witten. After signing with the division-rival Giants in 2012, Bennett had a breakout year. He caught 55 passes for 626 yards and five touchdowns, all career highs.
Fit: Bennett reportedly does not expect to be back in New York, and will look for a starting job for the 2013 season. He has said he wants to join his brother, former Buccaneer defensive end Michael, wherever he ends up next season. It’s not likely that either Bennett brother will be an Eagle next year.
7. Dustin Keller, New York Jets – Ht: 6-2, Wt: 250, Age: 28, Exp: 5
Career: Keller was the Jets’ first-round pick in 2008, and has been a solid contributor since. But 2012 was the worst season of his career, as injuries kept him out of eight games. Keller finished the season with 28 catches for 317 yards and two touchdowns.
Fit: Keller has been solid in his tenure with the Jets. He shows nice athleticism and route running ability, but Keller turns 29 in the fall. It’s unlikely he would be interested in joining the Eagles as a second tight end.
8. Ben Watson, Cleveland – Ht: 6-3, Wt: 255, Age: 32, Exp: 9
Career: The veteran Watson has been a reliable target in New England and Cleveland for almost a decade. Last season was another solid one for Watson, who caught 49 passes for 501 yards and three touchdowns.
Fit: Watson is nearing the end of his career and reports indicate that Cleveland is prepared to cut ties. Watson would provide a veteran presence on a young Eagles team, but could he produce throughout the length of a free agent contract? If the Eagles go after Watson, don’t expect much more than a minimal commitment.
9. Ed Dickson, Baltimore – Ht: 6-4, Wt: 255, Age: 25, Exp: 3
Career: The former Oregon tight end was drafted in the third round of the 2010 draft. His career started well – Dickson started all 16 games in 2011 and caught 54 passes for 528 yards and five scores. But his play seemed to regress in 2012 as he took a backseat to Pitta. He started in 11 games last season, catching 21 passes for 225 yards.
Fit: Dickson had plenty of kind words for his old college coach, so he may be more inclined to join the Eagles than other teams. A restricted free agent, Dickson is reportedly in line to receive a third-round tender. If the Ravens don’t tender Dickson, he could make for a quality depth addition.
10. Anthony Fasano, Miami – Ht: 6-4, Wt: 255, Age: 28, Exp: 7
Career: Fasano was drafted by the Cowboys in 2006, where he started 10 games in two seasons. He was then traded to the Dolphins, where he’s been a solid contributor ever since. Last season he caught 41 passes for 332 yards and five touchdowns.
Fit: Reports are that the Dolphins will let Fasano walk. The veteran will be 29 by the start of the season and his upside is limited at this stage of his career. Expect the Eagles to pass.
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