So far we've covered quarterbacks and running backs in our state of the roster segment, and our next trip will be to the outside of the offensive line. The Cardinals haven't featured a top tier tight end in their history in Arizona and currently feature a tight end by committee. Each brings their own flares of contribution to the offense, so should the Cardinals consider drafting a tight end in April?
Age and 2009 Stats: 25 (08/23/1984) - 12 catches, 146 yards, 2 touchdowns
Contract Status: Restricted free agent
2009 Analysis: While Patrick's numbers don't scream tight end threat, keep in mind that he did miss the first four games of the season after serving a suspension. He spent the majority of year protecting Kurt Warner as well, and we all know how important it is to give Warner enough time in the pocket. Patrick didn't put up the kind of numbers that you come to expect from tight ends these days, but he showed flashes of his true potential. He caught two touchdowns and has improved has receptions and yardage totals each year the past three seasons.
2010 Outlook: Patrick is a restricted free agent so his chances of returning to the Cardinals seem more then likely, especially considering his age(25) and upside. He's shown that he can be a capable receiving tight end, and if he can improve his blocking considerably, he'll serve a better chance at competing for the starting role next season.
Age and 2009 Stats: 32 years old (08/08/1977) - 7 Catches, 61 yards, 1 touchdown
Contract Status: Unrestricted free agent
2009 Analysis: Anthony Becht was brought on last offseason to provide veteran tight end support, and to assist with the blocking game. He successfully completed his job during the season when the Cardinals did use one or two tight end sets. Becht's success didn't transfer to the receiving game, as he only caught seven passes and one touchdown all year.
2010 Outlook: Becht will be 33 when the 2010 season starts and one would have to assume that the Cardinals won't flirt with the idea of bringing him back to the desert. Although he's a capable blocker, he's a liability in the receiving department. At this point in his career, if he hasn't developing dependable hands and I wouldn't foresee that happening anytime soon.
Age and 2009 Stats: 27 years old (07/18/1982) - 4 catches, 38 yards
Contract Status: Restricted free agent
2009 Analysis: Spach didn't enjoy the same success he held down the stretch in 2008 for various reasons. He started the season late due to the torn knee ligament he suffered against the Panthers in last year's road playoff game. The injury bug crept it's way into 2009, and slowed him for most of the year. Four catches for the entire season clearly signifies the lack of contribution Spach was able to make to the Cardinals.
2010 Outlook: It's unfair that injuries have plagued Spach during his career with the Cardinals. He's shown flashes of what he's capable of doing, and it wasn't that long ago that he was highly anticipated by Cardinal fans during the offseason. Spach will be a restricted free agent, and the Cardinals have to be asking themselves how much he brings to the table and how high the injury risk is.
Age and 2009 Stats: 25 years old (02/07/1984)
Contract Status: Signed to a reserved/future contract
2009 Analysis: After being out of football in 2008, the Cardinals brought on Dominique Byrd to compete for the tight end position this past season. Byrd saw most of the action from the sidelines, or at home, as he didn't register any statistics in 2009.
2010 Outlook: Since we didn't see much of Byrd, it's difficult to judge how effective he'll be next season. For now, he's the only tight end signed to a future contract, so that certainly provides hope for himself. The main problem, is that he couldn't beat out Patrick, Spach, or Becht which means he doesn't bring anything to new the table for the Cardinals.
Potential Free Agents:
- Ben Watson - I don't foresee the Cardinals going out and spending money on a tight end but if they did I'd prefer Watson. He's a big, pass-catching tight end with vertical speed that can be a challenge for defenses to cover. He's an unrestricted free agent and I think he'd be a serviceable security blanket for Leinart in his first full season.
- L.J. Smith - Smith hasn't been as productive as he was when he was with the Philadelphia Eagles a few years back, but that doesn't mean he can't provide quality tight end play. He's 30-years old but still has the speed to be a target on the receiving end. His blocking is suspect however.
- Matt Spaeth - Here's the most important free agent to watch for. Spaeth spent the start of his career with the Steelers and will be a unrestricted free agent. If we've learned anything from Ken Whisenhunt, it's that he likes to bring in former Pittsburgh players. Spaeth is a good blocker and has good enough hands to be at the receiving end of the a lot of balls thrown his way. He's only 25 but I'd imagine he's already hit his "upside".
- Brandon Manumaleuna - Manumaleuna is 30 and has bounced around to different teams, but he would shore up the loss of Becht. He's a massive blocker that could immediately help the running game, and he can catch as well. The drawback is that he's slow and has struggled with weight issues.
Overall I'd say the Cardinals are bound the bring a new face at tight end this offseason. Patrick seems like a lock to return, and the Cardinals could give Spach a chance to return at full strength. Becht is the odd man out, especially at his age. The Cardinals didn't pursue a tight end in the draft last year, even with it being a pressing need, so I don't imagine the same this year. I'd expect them to pick up a small name free agent. What are your thoughts on the tight end situation?