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Arizona Cardinals offseason: Looking back and looking forward at the Cardinals tight ends

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There was good and bad.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

In our positional outlook series, we now round out the skill positions with the tight ends. We have already looked at the quarterbacks, running backs and receivers.

The roster:

John Carlson, signed through 2015
Darren Fells, signed through 2015
Rob Housler, will be unrestricted free agent
Troy Niklas, signed through 2017
Ted Bolser, signed to 2015 future contract

A look back:

2013 was a very disappointing one for the position. All through the offseason and into training camp, Carson Palmer and Bruce Arians raved about John Carlson. Carlson was hugely disappointing. He had only 33 receptions and Pro Football Focus credited him with seven drops. It didn't seem to be a problem when Drew Stanton threw to him, but when Palmer did, it was.

Carlson struggled with blocking, as well. He was never known to be good at it, but he wasn't even what someone would call a "capable" blocker in 2014.

Rob Housler, our whipping boy each of the previous three seasons, settled in nicely into a lesser role. His blocking was consistently solid and he seemed to make one big play a game.

Rookie Troy Niklas, drafted in the second round, just couldn't stay on the field, going all the way back to the offseason. He entered mini-camp and OTAs recovering from hernia surgery. His first practice back he broke a finger, getting it caught in a player's jersey. He had a hamstring issue and then his season ended with an ankle sprain that needed surgery. He had three catches.

The guy that was not a disappointment was Darren Fells. Last on the depth chart to start the season, he was the number one by the end of the year. His blocking got him on the field and he made some nice catches with Ryan Lindley throwing to him.

Looking ahead:

Fells and a healthy Niklas should be a nice pairing, both in the passing and the running game. They have size, they have the potential to be deadly blockers and will be huge targets to throw to. Fells is very athletic.

After that, Carlson very well might get cut. If he is going to be a liability as a blocker and drop passes, why keep him? His contract is reasonable, so maybe he comes back, but I think he might be gone.

Now, hear me out on this one. Rob Housler -- he wouldn't be a bad idea to keep around. As a number one, he failed. However, with improved his improved blocking and his ability to make big plays, he would be a very good number three. The price is the question. Does he want to play a bigger role elsewhere? He won't likely get big money. If I have a choice between keeping Carlson or signing Housler, I choose the latter.

The truth is, though, the team will likely want a cheaper deal.

Free agency:

With Fells and Niklas inexperienced, they need a veteran. There is a veteran tight end hitting the market, a guy Bruce Arians will know well -- the 31-year old Matt Spaeth, who played four seasons in Pittsburgh while Arians was offensive coordinator.

There are bigger names, but he would fit the bill. He probably wouldn't cost much, either.

NFL Draft:

Arians loves his two-tight end sets. Drafting a tight end seems very possible, but the team is very young and raw at the position. As I have stated before, I will let Seth Cox do the dirty work with the draft.