Around the League

Presented By

Free agency primer: Top seven tight ends

The deepest positions in free agency this offseason: Defensive end, cornerback and the offensive line. Tight end is the shallowest (with quarterback and linebacker not far behind).

Jimmy Graham, the top overall potential free agent on the market, was hit with franchise tag by the Saints. The Baltimore Ravens re-signed Dennis Pitta before free agency started. The rest of the options at the position are injury risks or borderline starters. Let's take a look:

Medical concern

  1. Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers

Finley is coming off spinal fusion surgery and his future in football is not guaranteed. But his agent has said there is a "99.9 percent" chance Finley will recover fully, and we can only evaluate Finley as if he'll return to the field. His medical evaluations will decide his value.

While there will be an extra layer of risk involved with any Finley contract, we expect plenty of teams to be interested on a short-term deal with incentives. He has a chance to be the biggest difference-making receiver available at any position this offseason.

Borderline starters

  1. Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions
    1. Dustin Keller, Miami Dolphins
    2. Garrett Graham, Houston Texans
    3. Scott Chandler, Buffalo Bills
    4. Jeff Cumberland, New York Jets (UPDATE: Re-signed with Jets.)
    5. Brandon Myers, New York Giants

Pettigrew has plenty of drops over the years, but he's competent in pass protection and has averaged more than 60 catches over the last four years with 67 starts. ... Keller is coming off a gruesome injury that included a complete tear of his knee ligaments in addition to a dislocation. If he can get healthy, he's the most natural receiver in this group. ... Chandler is a league-average starter who can cover up a roster hole for a year. ... Graham has the highest ceiling of this group, while Cumberland was quietly solid for the Jets.

Should stay in the NFL

Ed Dickson, Andrew Quarless, Tony Scheffler and Michael Hoomanawanui.

Also available

Kellen Winslow, Anthony McCoy, Dallas Clark, Kellen Davis and Ben Hartsock.

Like this year's draft class, the 2014 free-agent crop is deep and talented. Take a look at the top remaining 25 NFL free agents.

Teams with a need

Swinging for the fences: Jermichael Finley

Teams with salary cap space should be looking for one-year deals that can improve an offense in the short term. Finley qualifies. Would you rather overpay for midlevel free agents or take a swing at a difference-maker? Finley has to check out medically before anything can happen. No team is going to put Finley at risk of serious injury, but he's worth a shot if cleared.

Best chance to breakout: Garrett Graham

Perhaps Graham will follow in James Casey's footsteps as a surprisingly well-paid free-agent target. Graham had a 136-yard game against Oakland and an eight-catch outing against Jacksonville in Week 14 before hurting his hamstring. He can catch passes up the seam and occasionally get vertical.

*The latest " Around The League Podcast" talks 49ers drama, franchise tags and wide receiver rankings. *

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content