Despite resting a majority of its starters in last Friday’s preseason game against the Washington Redskins, the Buffalo Bills still couldn’t escape without major injury. Fourth-year tight end Chris Gragg was one of two players who suffered a torn ACL in the contest which has all of the sudden put the team in a hole at the position.
Throughout a strong preseason, Gragg served as the main backup to Charles Clay and no one was close said Rex Ryan. His absence now leaves those duties to Blake Annen, Nick 0’Leary, Jim Dray and Glenn Gronkowski; not exactly the most exciting and experienced bunch.
And though that group of tight ends does offer a mix of blocking, good hands and speed (Annen), it’s still a major drop off from Clay in terms of a receiving threat. Rex said the team has options in referring mainly to Annen and O’Leary, but now that Gragg won’t be in the middle to serve as a buffer, the team may look elsewhere for help at the position.
Rex Ryan says it’s “definitely a possibility” that the Bills will bring in a tight end from outside the organization.
— Matthew Fairburn (@MatthewFairburn) August 28, 2016
Given that most of Buffalo’s healthy tight ends behind Clay are young and have little NFL playing time, the team may want a veteran presence who is a proven commodity. If the Bills do decide to go that route, here’s a quick list of who’s available (Hint: It’s pretty slim pickings):
Owen Daniels: The 11-year veteran has been a sturdy player for most of his career and won a Super Bowl ring with the Denver Broncos last season. He’s definitely lost a step at 33 years old but did catch 46 passes for 517 yards and three touchdowns in 2015 along with making a few huge plays in Denver’s playoff run.
Dorin Dickerson: The versatile tight end spent a year with Buffalo in 2012 in which he recorded nine receptions for 117 yards. Dickerson was a jack of all trades in college at Pittsburgh, playing receiver, H-Back and tight end. He has great athleticism as he ran a 4.4s 40-yard dash and recorded a 42-inch vertical leap coming out of college. He signed with the Tennessee Titans last season but missed the entire year due to injury.
Cooper Helfet: After signing with the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent from Duke in 2012, Helfet recorded 25 receptions for 315 and two touchdowns between 2014-15. He’s 6’3, runs a 4.6s 40-yard dash and has also played fullback/H-back in his career.
Kellen Winslow: The former first-round pick last played with the New York Jets in 2013 but is reportedly attempting a comeback. Winslow has talent and good size and has been productive in the past, totaling over 25 touchdowns and 5,000 in his nine-year career.
Matt Spaeth: The veteran spent nine seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers but was released earlier this offseason due to a failed physical. If he’s not healthy enough to pass a physical than he may not even get a sniff from the Bills. If he is ready to play, it could be a realistic option as Spaeth has caught over ten touchdowns in his career.
Colt Lylerla: I seriously doubt this would happen but the former Oregon Ducks tight end was recently playing well in the Arena Football League for the Portland Steel before suffering a shoulder injury in April. He ran into some off-field issues a couple years ago but has a lot of potential. Lylerla is fast, athletic and a fluid-route runner that offers versatility to play H-back as well. Here’s a piece I wrote last year about how Buffalo should have taken a look at the kid.
Jack Tabb: He signed with the New Orleans Saints last year as an undrafted free agent out of North Carolina but missed the season due to an ACL injury. Tabb was in camp this summer but was cut by the Saints early in July. He’s 6’3, 243 pounds, runs a 4.62s 40-yard dash and says he feels “great” health-wise.
Craig Stevens: The former 2008 third-round pick of the Tennessee Titans recently hung up the cleats but he was one of the better blocking tight ends in the NFL before retiring.
Daniel Fells: He also retired earlier this year but would Buffalo try to lure him out of it? Probably not, but you never know.