The Buffalo Bills wanted to acquire a dynamic receiving tight end this off-season; that much is certain. The team made free agent overtures to Delanie Walker before he signed in Tennessee, and they wined and dined Fred Davis before he ultimately re-signed in Washington.
Chris Gragg, a seventh-round pick out of Arkansas with excellent athleticism (but who never caught more than 41 passes in a season collegiately), is the team's only addition at the position this off-season. Our State of the Bills Roster series continues with a look at a tight end position that has a ton of question marks as the 2013 season approaches.
- Age: 27 (28 in July)
- Contract: Signed through the 2013 season. Has already been paid a $300,000 roster bonus and will make $2.05 million in base salary in his contract year.
Chandler is clearly the best and most proven tight end on the roster, but he hasn't been overly productive - 81 catches for 960 yards and 12 touchdowns over two seasons is nothing to sneeze at, but it's not elite productivity, either - and he's also coming off of a late-season ACL injury that could affect his availability at the beginning of training camp. Word on the injury front has been relentlessly positive, and whether he's ready or not, Chandler is the only lock to receive a significant amount of playing time at tight end in Buffalo this year.
- Age: 25
- Contract: Signed through the 2013 season. Scheduled to make $555,000 in base salary in 2013.
Dickerson has stated publicly this off-season that he's moving to wide receiver - a position that he was tried at in both Houston and New England before he landed in Buffalo. We're still listing him here because it's his best positional fit. Dickerson played just 97 snaps on offense in 2012 - 47 of which came in a Week 16 loss to Miami - catching nine passes in the process. He is as intriguing an athlete as ever, but the previous coaching staff couldn't find a role for him, and the new coaching staff has more important pieces to try to integrate into the offense.
- Age: 22 (23 in June)
- Contract: Unsigned rookie. Will sign a contract worth roughly $2.16 million over four years as the No. 222 overall draft pick.
Gragg has what the Bills seemed to be targeting physically: the 6'3", 244-pound Gragg can run a sub-4.5 second 40-yard dash, and he can go up and get the ball thanks to a 37.5-inch vertical jump. He has the athleticism to stretch the seam or shake loose on underneath routes and pick up yardage after the catch. That's all great in theory, but there's not a lot to see from his Arkansas tape, and he's very much in "project" territory. There is certainly upside here, but expecting him to carve out a role as a rookie may be a stretch.
- Age: 26
- Contract: Signed through the 2013 season. Scheduled to make $630,000 in base salary in 2013.
Added to the roster way back in 2010, Caussin has managed to stick with the team for going on four years now despite appearing in only six games in that time frame. A former undrafted free agent out of James Madison, Caussin is a "move" tight end and a solid athlete, but he's looking like a longshot to stick around with a new coaching staff in town.
- Age: 25 (26 in November)
- Contract: Signed through the 2014 season. Scheduled to make $583,934 in base salary in 2013.
Somehow, Smith had as many receiving touchdowns as Brad Smith and C.J. Spiller did last season; don't let that fool you into thinking he's a legitimate receiving threat. A limited athlete, Smith has a very specific role at the NFL level: he's an enforcer. It starts with his great blocking, but he's also the one Bill most likely to get into a shoving match with an opponent. He needles, gets under the opponent's skin, and then blocks them up anyway. Smith is a good football player, has value to an offense and can play special teams, but he won't ever be a factor in a pro team's passing attack.
- Age: 27 (28 in September)
- Contract: Signed through the 2013 season. Scheduled to make $480,000 in base salary in 2013.
Summers is a fullback by trade, but he's the only one on the roster, so I decided to lump he and Smith together under the heading "blocking specialists" - because that's what they are. Summers is a 5'9", 248-pound bowling ball of a player that will need to block well and perform on special teams to crack the 53-man roster in 2013.
This position is one of the easiest to solve at the moment: Chandler's the top receiver, Smith is the top blocker, and the team has a couple of intriguing athletes to tinker with in Dickerson and, especially, Gragg. That's what the depth chart will likely be at the outset of the 2013 season; whether or not a player like Gragg is able to carve himself a niche by the end of the season remains to be seen. Here's to hoping that Chandler is healthy, because the Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett offense is poised to make a tight end or two look great.