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Top 10 Free Agent Tight Ends Still Available

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Top 10 Available Free Agent Tight Ends

Dallas Clark
Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

It's difficult for tight ends to age gracefully in the NFL. Much like safeties or running backs, veteran tight ends that still play at or near the peak of their abilities late into their careers (Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates) are rare.

Here are 10 notable veteran tight ends that are still available as we head into training camp. NFL teams are skeptical of the value they can bring to their rosters, yet there are several teams that have identifiable tight end needs.

The Seattle Seahawks have a veteran starter at tight end, Zach Miller, who is now entering his third season with the team. He has yet to deliver anywhere near the productivity he showed with his previous team, the Oakland Raiders. Behind Miller, the Seahawks have five more tight ends vying for roster spots. Combined among them, they have zero NFL catches. One of the participants in the Seattle backup tight end derby didn't even play college football.

The mess that is the Oakland Raiders are another team with a "help wanted" sign out at tight end. The Raiders' 2012 reception leader was tight end Brandon Myers. Myers is now a member of the New York Giants.

The New England Patriots have at least one opening for a tight end. Leader Rob Gronkowski has become a surgical marvel and leading backup Jake Ballard missed all of last season recovering from an injury.

Other teams that are lacking in a bona fide starter or quality depth include: Arizona Cardinals, Washington Redskins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins.

With so much veteran talent available, NFL teams have made it clear that they prefer youthful bargains at this crucial position. With the continuing disappearance of the fullback position on many NFL teams, the tight end is increasingly called on to fill a lead blocker role out of the backfield. Whether pass-catching or lead-blocking specialists, these veterans are most likely to be post-Week 1 pickups — if at all. Their salaries will not be guaranteed for the season if added to rosters after Week 1.

Julian Rogers is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter (@mrturophile), or connect with him on Facebook and Google.

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10. David Thomas

David Thomas
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

A seven-game starter in New Orleans last season, David Thomas is adept at filling both the tight end and fullback role. At age 30 and relatively injury-free, Thomas may have the most left to give to a new team.

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9. Travis Beckum

Travis Beckum
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Drafted in 2009 by the New York Giants, Travis Beckum's career has never really gotten off the ground. His most productive season was 2010 where he tallied 13 receptions for 116 yards and two touchdowns. Beckum tore his ACL in Super Bowl XLVI against the Patriots. Teams seem to be taking a wait-and-see approach on whether or not he has fully recovered from his February 2012 injury.

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8. Dallas Clark

Dallas Clark
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The long-time Indianapolis Colts player most recently played with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At age 34, Dallas Clark's short area quickness and durability are question marks for many teams. His pass-catching and route-running prowess are not.

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7. Kevin Boss

Kevin Boss
Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Boss began his career with the New York Giants where he played for four seasons. He supplanted Jeremy Shockey and then moved on to one-year stops in both Oakland and Kansas City. His 2012 season in KC was a washout with only two games played and three receptions. He is considered a medical risk with a history of concussion issues.

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6. Todd Heap

Todd Heap
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Todd Heap's career took a major turn in 2012. He began the season as the Arizona Cardinals' starter, but was waived in December. His play and availability have been affected by numerous knee and hamstring injuries. Now in his 13th year, he may not find another opportunity unless a team suffers a catastrophic injury at the tight end position.

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5. Visanthe Shiancoe

Visanthe Shiancoe
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Visanthe Shiancoe was drafted by the New York Giants but is probably best known for his most productive years as a member of the Minnesota Vikings. He most recently played for the New England Patriots but was waived in December after posting zero receptions as a backup to stars Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

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4. Randy McMichael

Randy McMichael
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Randy McMichael spent multiple years each in Miami, St. Louis and San Diego. At age 34, he offers more blocking ability than pass-catching ability at this stage of his career. The Chargers released him in March.

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3. Chris Cooley

Chris Cooley
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Redskins' franchise record holder for most receptions by a tight end, Chris Cooley is being kept at arms' length by his former team. They released him in 2012, only to bring him back midseason. Time will tell if they intend to cut the cord for good in 2013, or may bring him back after Week 1.

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2. Evan Moore

Evan Moore
Eric P. Mull-USA TODAY Sports

Evan Moore is another player that cannot seem to stick with a team for very long despite a strong skill set. He offers athleticism but little in the blocking game. He spent the first three years of his career in Cleveland and has since held short stints in Seattle and Philadelphia. The Eagles released him in April after they drafted Zach Ertz.

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1. Will Heller

Will Heller
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

After stops in Tampa Bay, Miami and Seattle, Will Heller found a home in Detroit for four seasons. The Lions released Heller in the offseason despite starting four games for them in 2012. He is considered more of an in-line blocking tight end at 6-foot-6, 275 pounds.