Free agent Dallas Clark did a great job for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012, but his outstanding career could be just about over. If the Buccaneers want to compete in the NFC South, they must make it a top priority to acquire a tight end during the 2013 off-season.
What do the other three NFC South teams have in common? Tight ends Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham and Greg Olsen have the ability to take over games and be a huge weapon for their respective team’s offense. All three of these players ranked in the top six in the NFL in receptions, top four in yards and top eight in touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers ranked in the middle towards the bottom of the league in these categories.
Tampa Bay can either go through the draft to acquire a tight end, which is something they should at least take a stab at, but they could also sign one in free agency. There are several talented players on the market who play the position well but I would recommend the team go after either Jared Cook or Dustin Keller.
There is a chance the Tennessee Titans will place the franchise tag on Cook while some people believe the team will lose the 25-year-old in free agency. Cook has caught more than 65 percent of the passes thrown his way and had another stellar year in 2012 even if his numbers dropped off a bit from the previous season. He hauled in 44 receptions for 523 yards and a career-high four touchdowns in 13 games.
Another talented tight end who has proven his worth over the years is Keller. It seems very unlikely that the New York Jets will be able to retain the 28-year-old due to the limited salary cap room, which means some team will be lucky to sign him. One concern could be the ankle and hamstring injuries he suffered last season that forced him to miss eight games. However, they should not be a problem for this year. Keller caught 28 passes for 317 yards and two touchdowns but remember this was mostly due to only playing in half of the games in 2012. His overall career numbers are fantastic and there is no reason he cannot get back to those ways, especially with a talented quarterback such as Josh Freeman throwing the ball to him.
It does not matter if Tampa Bay signs Cook or Keller because the team cannot go wrong with either one of these players. The organization’s awesome cap room situation should allow them to continue rebuilding the defense while still acquiring a decent tight end.