OVERVIEWL.J. Smith played under the franchise tag last season, but struggled to stay healthy. He signed with Baltimore last month, leaving the Eagles with just two tight ends on the roster. Brent Celek is the starting tight end and behind him is veteran Matt Schobel.
After making an immediate impact as a rookie in 2007, Celek emerged in a big way in 2008, including a career-high 10 catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns in the NFC Championship Game. He continues to work at his game and that includes polishing his blocking skills. Schobel, meanwhile, remains a capable reserve at the position and a contributor on special teams.
Andy Reid and Co. have used three second-day picks at this position and in between landed Smith with a second-round pick in 2003.
Smith had his moments during his six seasons in Philadelphia and seemed poised to become one of the game's elite tight ends. However, thanks in part to injuries, he saw his production drop from a career-high 61 catches for 682 yards in 2005 to just 27 catches for 321 yards in 2008.
Meanwhile, the Eagles locked up Celek with a fifth-round pick in 2007 and the former University of Cincinnati product has delivered. He made the most of some late-season opportunities during his rookie season and improved to post 318 yards and a touchdown in the 2008 regular season.
Prior to drafting Smith in 2003, Reid tabbed former Penn State product Tony Stewart with a fifth-round pick in 2001 and Oregon's Jed Weaver with a seventh-round pick in 1999. Weaver bounced around and even won a Super Bowl, while Stewart is entering his third year with the Raiders as a backup tight end and contributor on special teams.
In terms of rookie free agents, the team has found the likes of Stephen Spach, who was with Arizona last season.
PREVIEWCelek has come a long, long way, but the Eagles could use another player behind Celek with Smith gone to Baltimore in free agency. Ideally, they need a young player who is better than Smith to come in and challenge Celek for extended playing time and to give the team depth and another weapon at the position.
It seems highly likely the team will address this position in the early rounds of the draft. But who and when…? Are they looking for a tight end who is more of a receiver than a blocker or vice-versa? Stay tuned.