It’s a good thing the Ravens aren’t looking for a pass-catching tight end in free agency because pickings are slim.
Jermichael Finley, the top free agent tight end in this year’s class, won’t hit the market as the Green Bay Packers re-signed him to a two-year deal last month. That leaves the Washington Redskins’ Fred Davis as the top free agent at the position, but there is a chance the Redskins could use their franchise tag to keep Davis.
Finley and Davis are the only two consistent receiving threats in this class, but there are a few intriguing players who have had varying degrees of success as receiving tight ends. That includes John Carlson of the Seattle Seahawks, Visanthe Shiancoe of the Minnesota Vikings, and Jeremy Shockey of the Carolina Panthers.
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The Ravens are set with Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson, who are entering their third seasons and Kris Wilson is a free agent. If the Ravens do sign a tight end, he will likely be a cheap option that rounds out the depth chart.
Here is a look at five of the top free agent tight ends on the market and where they could wind up in 2012.
1. Fred Davis: Davis had a career season in 2011, catching 59 passes for 796 yards and three touchdowns, but he missed the final four games of the season after he was suspended for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Another violation could get Davis booted from the league for a year, which makes him a risky pickup.
2. John Carlson: Carlson was viewed as one of the NFL's top up-and-coming tight ends before his production dipped in 2010 and an injury sidelined him for the 2011 season. He could be a low-risk, high-reward signing.
Potential suitors: Seattle Seahawks, New York Giants, Cleveland Browns.
3. Martellus Bennett: Bennett has the size and athleticism to be an impact pass-catcher, but he was said to have maturity issues with the Dallas Cowboys and he missed out on opportunities due to the presence of Jason Witten. His potential should garner him plenty of interest as a free agent, but we’ll see if he pans out.
4. Visanthe Shiancoe: Shiancoe clicked with Brett Favre when he was with the Minnesota Vikings. The former Morgan State tight end has since seen his role decrease and he isn't expected to re-sign with the Vikings.
Potential suitors: New York Giants, Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills.
5. Scott Chandler: Chandler came out of nowhere to become a red zone weapon for Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buffalo Bills. After catching one pass before 2011, the 6-foot-7 tight end hauled in 38, including six for scores.
Potential suitors: Buffalo Bills (the Bills are reportedly closing in on a deal to keep Chandler in Buffalo in 2012).
Other notable free agents (2011 team in parenthesis): Jacob Tamme (Indianapolis Colts), Jeremy Shockey (Carolina Panthers), Joel Dreesen (Houston Texans), Bo Scaife (Cincinnati Bengals), Kellen Davis (Chicago Bears).