Restoring the relevancy of the tight end in Buffalo has been a refrain echoed endless times over the past decade, give or take. With Aaron Hernandez and Gronk putting up huge numbers in New England, its hard not to become jealous of the teams that feature top notch talent at the TE position. I too would love to see the Bills feature an explosive tight end to add another dimension to this offense.
My problem though is that we overlook whats in front of us. The fact is that the tight end position in Buffalo is as relevant as Chan Gailey wants to make it. Neither the front office or the coaching staff has demonstrated with their actions any desire to add an explosive TE to the offensive repertoire.
Take a look at the front office. Buddy has not sought out talent either in the free agency pool or in the draft to add explosive talent at the TE position. How many valuable draft picks have been spent on the TE position since he became GM. Even before Buddy, the front office has not appreciated the TE position to the same extent as fans. Shawn Nelson is the highest TE taken for Buffalo in my memory over the last decade. The front office doesn't value the TE position. Street free agents have started more games at tight end in the last decade than high draft picks.
Further, the explosive talents other teams feature at TE dont fit Buffalo's mold. Buffalo has seemed to value tight ends who can block and catch. The BIlls seem willing to accept a TE with more marginal receiving talent if that TE can block. Look at the star TE's in the league. They are WR playing TE and playing in the slot. Their use is far different than how the Bills seem to use the TE.
Look too at the coaching staff. The staff, in my recollection, has not spoken at length about a desire to get better at the TE position. We've suffered through Robert Royal, Michael Gaines, Shawn Nelson, etc. without much clucking from our coaches that they needed more. I don;t think the team has a plan to use a TE more even if they had one. Scott Chandler is the most used TE we've had lately. He's used a lot becasue he can be a dump off guy and a big red zone talent. I don;'t think the team has any designs to feature him any more than that.
Those other teams that feature the TE more in their passing attack do so by moving the TE around. Jeremichael Finley is basically a slot receiver masquerading as a TE. We might recall the franchise tag arguments between he and the team. Finley argued he wasnt even a TE - that he lined up so much at WR that he should be considered a WR.
The Bills don't need that of their WR. David Nelson nicely fills the role of the big possession receiving split out. He does a lot of what other teams might use their TE for. He certainly does so better than I believe Scott Chandler could. Any expansion of the TE role in Buffalo, in my opinion, would likely come at the expense of Nelson's reps.
In short - I get it. I wish we had Gronk. I wish we had a more explosive athlete at TE. The fact remains though that the team doesnt. Buddy doesn't & Chan doesn't, just like prior regimes. So long as Buddy and Chan are here, in my opinion, we're not likely to see the team invest heavily in the position. We're not likely to see the team spent early picks on the spot or big free agent dollars. The fact is, the actions of the team show that Scott Chandler is about their perfect TE. Like it or not, the TE is as relevant today as its going to be, in my opinion, for years to come here in Buffalo.