Kicking the Tires on the Options at Tight End
John Fennelly , Executive Editor
While we wait to see if the Giants get priced out of the market for pending free agent TE Martellus Bennett, there’s suddenly plenty of other options at TE bubbling to the surface. We’ll get to those in a minute, but first:
Is TE really a “need” position at this point? In this man’s NFL, you not only need one good one, you need two. Look at New England and New Orleans. A good TE – or two – with a star QB throwing to them is the copycat strategy teams are gravitating towards.
The Giants have four TEs currently under contract: Bear Pascoe, Adrien Robinson, Larry Donnell and Jamie Childers. Nothing to get excited about, I know. Pascoe is steady, but not the game-breaker a team needs in today’s NFL. Robinson is said to have unlimited potential, but we have yet to see it. The others are simply hoping to make the roster.
They could also bring back Travis Beckum real cheap, but why go backwards?
The best-case scenario has Bennett coming back to the Giants at some type of hometown discount and Pascoe continuing in his current role while Robinson develops into the “JPP” of TEs GM Jerry Reese advertised last April. The team is still high on Robinson (they used a 4th round pick on him), and they will give the former U of Cincinnati star every chance to succeed.
“He flashed a lot of good things at practice,” Reese said of Robinson the other day at the Combine. “I just think he needs to get out there and play. I think it’s the number one thing you need to do with players – put them out there and let them play. Hopefully he’ll be able to get out there and play. That’s what’s most important for me – to get him out there.”
The Giants’ TE strategy is still being decided. They can place the franchise tag on Bennett this season for $6 million (probably not happening), which would be a last resort because they do not want devote that much cash to one TE.
Bennett has sent mixed messages this offseason about his intentions. He wants to remain a Giant but also intimated he wouldn’t mind playing with his brother Michael, a DE for the Tampa Bay Bucs. Michael is also a free agent this winter, and Tampa wants him back, but will look to sign him rather than tag him. If he signs early on during the UFA period he could influence Martellus to come along. The Bucs have oodles of cap room, btw.
If Bennett goes, the Giants will surely look to bring in a player that will help Day One. In the draft, there seems to be a few of those. Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert is the most impressive. His combine performance the other day simply blew scouts away. His stock has risen to the point where he may be gone by the time the Giants pick at #19.
If he is, and the Giants are still looking, there’s Stanford’s Zach Ertz and Gavin Escobar of San Diego State according to NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock. Personally, Ertz is the guy I would take. His style is compared to that of Jason Witten. Enough said. Escobar ran a 4.8 40 at the Combine. If he’s that slow at this point of his career, why would you draft him this high?
Ertz will probably not be the best overall player on the Giants’ board when they select in Round One. If he could slip to them in Round Two that would be nice.
Ertz and Eifert have the same dimensions (6’5″, 250) and are smart players who work hard. More importantly, they are productive. Eli will make them better.
I see them as interchangeable. Both will be solid pros. Both need to improve their blocking skills, but what rookie TE doesn’t? TE coach Mike Pope can surely fix that. Don’t forget, he made a star out of Jake Ballard, a UDFA who had little experience in the passing game at Ohio State.
Escobar is not as football-savvy as the other two. He does not block well, but teams may look past that. A former basketball player (6″6″, 255) he could pique the interest of many looking to catch lightning in a bottle. He’s no Jimmy Graham (he has been compared to Jacob Tamme), but he has good hands and can play a role in isolation and red zone situations.
Don’t count out Colorado’s Nick Casa, a 6″6″, 270 former DE whose physical style has caught the eye of scouts. He could be a find on Day 3 if things break for the Giants.
If you’re thinking the Giants can pick up a veteran TE via free agency, think again. Bennett is probably the most attractive option. Why downgrade?