This post is part of a series entitled State of the Bills Roster, in which we're breaking down and evaluating the Buffalo Bills on a position-by-position basis. If you're confused about the number and letter classification appearing after each player's name, read this post. You can check out all previous installments of this series here.
Back in May of 2010, we took a rather close look at Buffalo's tight end position - probably closer than the situation really warranted, but hey, overkill is a specialty of ours. We talked about the fact that Chan Gailey historically doesn't get anything out of tight ends, and we talked about the fact that the Bills hadn't had a productive tight end in years.
Four Bills tight ends combined to catch 23 passes for 187 yards and one solitary touchdown in 2010, and the Bills still haven't had a productive tight end in years. We seriously doubt anyone is going to put money down on that changing in the near future.
A look at Buffalo's bleak tight end situation lies after the jump.
Right now, the Bills have five tight ends in their organization.
David Martin (3-E). He joined the team late in the summer, and didn't start immediately because of it. Eventually, he split time as the team's starter, and is responsible for the lone touchdown from this group on a play WECK 1230's Nick Mendola described as a "sixth grade Hail Mary" in Week 4 against the Jets. (Man, I love that imagery.) I'd like to say that Martin was solid in 2010, but I didn't really notice him much - so I'm chalking up his anonymity to his doing a semi-acceptable job.
Scott Chandler (3-E). Easily the best physical specimen of this group, Chandler saw limited action late in the season after being poached off of the Cowboys' practice squad. Gailey seemed to like his size and upside, so he could get another look heading into the 2011 season.
Jonathan Stupar (4-F). Much like when someone crosses the Moats - albeit to a far less dangerous degree - I'm hesitant to besmirch the name of Stupar. Still, after a late-season performance in which he was routinely horrific in picking up blitzes in pass protection, Stupar's true colors were revealed: he's adequate at best, awful at worst, and not remotely irreplaceable.
Shawn Nelson (4-F). Bills fans had high hopes for this 2009 fourth-round pick out of Southern Mississippi, and in his first NFL game, he scored a touchdown on Monday Night Football in New England. It's been downhill, to say the very least, for Nelson since that point. He made a minimal impact in spot duty as a rookie, missing several games due to migraines. Then he got suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. He fumbled in overtime to set up a loss to the Ravens, and then landed on IR with the same migraine issues that plagued him as a rookie. The talent is still there; whether or not he gets an opportunity to use it in Buffalo is another question entirely.
Mike Caussin (4-F). Signed off of Jacksonville's practice squad late in the year, Caussin was never active for the Bills. A former James Madison teammate of Arthur Moats.
Contract situations to monitor: Martin was signed to a one-year deal as a street free agent last September, and will be a free agent. Chandler is listed as a restricted free agent by RotoWorld.com, so it should be relatively easy to retain him. Stupar, too, is a free agent, while Nelson still has two years remaining on the rookie deal he signed in the summer of 2009.
Outlook: Gailey's expressed being intrigued by Chandler, and he certainly has the size to help out as a blocker. Martin was reliable in that capacity, as well, and we can assume that he'll be considered as a re-signing this off-season. Stupar and Caussin are wholly replaceable, and while Nelson may be afforded one last opportunity to realize his solid potential, he also may not. Expect this to be an also-ran position for the Bills going forward, with the tight ends acting much more like sixth offensive lineman than third or fourth receiver.
Possible Acquisition: If the Bills stumble across a do-everything tight end at some point in the 2011 NFL Draft, they should seriously consider taking him. In the likely event that doesn't happen, expect more of the same - big bodies that can catch in the flat on rare occasion, block effectively, and not screw up.