After Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman successfully wooed Chip Kelly from the University of Oregon, the first big move the dynamic duo made was signing former Houston Texans tight end James Casey as a free agent. The pen used to sign the three-year, $12 million contract is just about all Casey has had in his hands since coming to Philadelphia.
Through three regular season games, Casey has been on the field for eight plays. Yes, eight offensive snaps, and two of those were for simple kneel down plays. Over the entire NFL season that translates to 32 legitimate offensive plays for Casey, at $125,469 per snap. Hardly the value that the Roseman/Kelly regime was looking for back in March.
So what exactly has happened to the much talked about three tight end sets that were the buzz during OTAs and training camp? In addition to incumbent starter Brent Celek and stud second round draft pick Zach Ertz, Casey was billed as the most dynamic of the three headed monster at tight end. With the flexibility to be lined up as a tight end, in the backfield, and split wide as a receiver, his talents were supposed to be heavily utilized in Kelly’s unconventional offense.
What has happened to the Rice University graduate in the last six months is one of the Eagles’ biggest mysteries. After undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery during the team’s OTAs, Casey was listed as one of two starting tight ends on the Eagles’ initial preseason depth chart in early August. However, he only caught two passes for 10 yards during exhibition games and was dressed for the team’s final preseason game, normally reserved only for young players and non-starters.
Recently asked about Casey’s status on the team, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur referred to him as a “role player”. Puzzling how a guy went from the team’s prized free agent acquisition to a role player without seeing many opportunities in game action.
Could Roseman’s judgment have been that bad? It sure seems that paying millions for a guy who has amassed 66 catches for less than 755 yards and only four career touchdowns in four full NFL seasons was an enormous miscalculation. Right up there with drafting a 27-year-old Canadian fireman with very little football experience as a first-round offensive lineman.
Learning the fine art of assembling an NFL roster from former team president Joe Banner and Andy Reid doesn’t bode well for the future success of Roseman. Factoring in the contribution of Kelly into the decision making process that targeted Casey, the tandem certainly hopes that the former Texan doesn’t remain a ghost in the Eagles’ offense moving forward. Instead, Eagle fans hope the rumors that three-tight-end sets and Casey’s dynamic utilization are actually Kelly’s secret offensive weaponry that he has yet to unveil to the NFL. Only time will tell.