For fleeting moments of the 2011 regular season, Scott Chandler made the tight end position relevant in Buffalo again. A long-defunct position - and that's saying something for a team that hasn't been to the playoffs in a dozen seasons - Chandler resuscitated a bit with what was, in the end, fairly meager production at the position.
Chandler's 38 receptions ranked him tied for No. 22 in the league among tight ends, tied with Jake Ballard of the New York Giants. His 389 yards placed him No. 27 overall in receiving yardage by a tight end. Touchdowns are where he really stood out, as he ranked tied for seventh with six scores despite otherwise low totals. All of those touchdowns came during the team's 5-2 start, including four in the first three games.
A closer look at the tight end position lies after the jump.
Age: 26 (27 in July 2012)
Contract: UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT
Despite Chandler's best efforts - particularly in the red zone - it's clear that the tight end won't be prominently featured in a Chan Gailey offense unless a dynamic threat is acquired. Chandler is not dynamic - and coupled with his pedestrian reception and yardage totals, there's little wonder that GM Buddy Nix isn't willing to over-spend to retain Chandler's services. That said, Chandler was also a consistent and reliable receiving target in 2011, and is, quite simply, a good football player. Unless he gets a lot of interest elsewhere - and that's somewhat difficult to envision - it's not hard to imagine the Bills re-signing Chandler to a reasonable deal.
Age: 24 (25 in November 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2015. Bills took on a four-year, $2.29M contract in claiming him off waivers from New England.
Smith is more of the prototype tight end insofar as what Nix and Gailey seem to prefer at the position: a massive, nasty blocker. If you haven't yet, take the time to watch Smith play - he's constantly needling opponents and getting under their skin. It's been a while since the Bills have had a player like that. He's highly one-dimensional in that he won't add anything as a receiver, but Smith is already a good blocker with the potential to get better.
Age: 24 (25 in February 2012)
Contract: Contract details undisclosed. Signed off of the team's practice squad in November.
Caussin spent most of the season on the practice squad, then was added to the active roster when the injury bug bit the position. He stayed there even with the Bills having just two tight ends on the active roster. When he played, he saw a few passes thrown his way, and was fairly lights out on special teams. After two years in the organization, however, it's tough to see much upside here.
Age: 25 (26 in April 2012)
Contract: Contract details undisclosed. Signed off of the team's practice squad in December.
Brock flashed briefly at the end of the season when pressed into action, and could get a chance to compete at the position if brought back for training camp this summer. He's more of a receiver than a blocker.
Age: 25 (26 in November 2012)
Contract: Contract details undisclosed. Signed off of the Jaguars' practice squad in December.
Onobun was signed directly to the Bills' active roster off of Jacksonville's practice squad, but was never active on game day for the Bills. The former basketball player at Arizona is an excellent athlete, but hasn't been able to stick with a team for long as a project tight end. He'll likely be back for a longer look in training camp now that he's been in the offense for a while.
POSITIONAL OUTLOOK: Chandler made this position sporadically relevant again, which is why it's not surprising that the team wants him back. He fits into Gailey's offense as a secondary possession threat and a problem matchup in the red zone, but that's about the extent of his involvement in an ideal world. From there, the team's goals seem to be to find blockers and project receivers that they can try to mold into something better than what Chandler offers. For a position largely ignored, that's about as good as it's going to get on the scouting front.
FREE AGENCY: Re-signing Chandler won't be the team's top priority, but it'd be nice if they got him under contract. That way, the position won't be a complete wasteland from a pass-catching perspective. If they target a tight end in free agency, expect a project receiver or a sturdy blocker.
2012 NFL DRAFT: Let's talk about the draft in general for a minute. Unless the Bills were to stumble across a sure thing at tight end - a player whose receiving skills were so excellent that it'd be impossible to pass on him - it's tough to imagine this regime spending a premium pick on one. Gailey coached Tony Gonzalez's best season, but otherwise has ignored this position. That's likely to continue, with project receivers and blockers the focus. Nix has yet to draft a tight end in two drafts with the Bills.