The Arizona Cardinals announced on Monday that they had agreed to terms on a one-year contract with free agent tight end Jake Ballard, and that they also released rookie tight end D.C. Jefferson.
Ballard (6-6, 275) played in 15 games (13 starts) with the New York Giants over two seasons (2010-11) and collected 38 receptions for 604 yards and four touchdowns. He missed the 2012 season with the Patriots after being placed on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list with a knee injury. He spent training camp with New England, but was released by the team on August 30.
Ballard entered the league with the Giants as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Ohio State in 2010. He played in one game as a rookie and then played in 14 games with 13 starts in 2011, helping the Giants win Super Bowl XLVI.
Jefferson was drafted by the Cardinals in the seventh round (219th overall) of the NFL Draft out of Rutgers and appeared in four of the team's eight games this season and played 16 offensive snaps.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Josh Weinfuss of ESPN reported that Ballard worked out for Arizona, but durability concerns remained. Weinfuss also said that if Ballard had come in that Rob Housler would be pushed into a secondary role (which he sort of has right now) and that Jim Dray would be pushed out of the offensive rotation.
Jefferson could viably return to the practice squad, as there currently is an opening there. Receiver Kerry Taylor, who held a practice squad spot, was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars to the active roster.
However, Jefferson was arrested Friday night in Scottsdale on DUI charges. Many believed that his dismissal from the team was related to that. Head coach Bruce Arians dispelled that notion, saying that the roster decision had already been made Friday.
While it may not have factored into the decision to cut him, we will see if the arrest has any effect on his coming back to the practice squad.
Arizona already has a tight end on the practice squad-- Darren Fells.
If Jefferson does not return, it would mean that two 2013 draft picks would not be with the team any longer.
As for what the signing means, we will see whose playing time Ballard takes. If Weinfuss is correct, then we will see him in a starting role and Housler in the secondary role. Dray had been starting and getting more playing time in recent weeks. Will he get bumped out of the offensive rotation and stick to special teams, where he has played his entire career thus far?
Or is the team giving up on Housler, who was supposed to be a breakout player, catching 80 passes. He has not been productive at all. Of course, adding Ballard, who is a prototypical tight end in terms of build and ability to both block and catch, could be the right compliment to Housler and give the offense the flexibility that Arians wants.
If Ballard's health can hold up, it potentially will be a huge boost in production from the position.
What do you all think of the move? Is Ballard the answer? Is Jefferson done?