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4 potential free agent replacements for Buffalo Bills tight end Charles Clay

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Could a high 2018 salary as well as the addition of new OC Brian Daboll spell the end of Clay’s time in Buffalo?

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Charles Clay has been productive over his three seasons with the Buffalo Bills, but has the seven-year man been productive enough? This is a question that the Bills brass might possibly ask themselves this offseason in regards to their starting tight end, who, per Spotrac, has a cap hit of $9 million for the 2018 season, higher than that of every other Bill aside from Tyrod Taylor, Cordy Glenn, and Jerry Hughes.

Clay has been one of the main focal points of Buffalo’s offense throughout his tenure, but with a new offensive coordinator on board in Brian Daboll, as well as general manager Brandon Beane, who didn’t sign Clay to his current lucrative contract, looking to build on a successful first year on the job, Clay could be in trouble.

The Bills have a good backup in Nick O’Leary, but he has yet to show that he’s a No. 1. Here are four of the more well-known unrestricted free-agents-to-be that the Bills should perhaps consider rolling with in 2018 should they elect to move on from Clay.

Jimmy Graham, 31, Seattle Seahawks

Just a few years ago, Graham was legitimately challenging Rob Gronkowski for the title of best TE in the league. While his numbers haven’t been as good with the Seahawks the last few years as they were with the New Orleans Saints, they’re still pretty darn good. In 2017, he hauled in 10 touchdowns; no Bill recorded more than three this past season. Given his age, Graham could even potentially check in with a smaller salary cap hit than Clay.

2017 stats: 57 receptions, 520 yards, and 10 touchdowns
Career: stats: 556 receptions, 6800 yards, and 69 touchdowns

Ed Dickson, 30, Carolina Panthers

Dickson hasn’t been much of a touchdown threat in his career but he’s nonetheless a dependable option, who’s has started a lot of games (85) and has been productive on two teams (Ravens and Panthers). He’s missed just four games in eight seasons, and impressively has three times finished out campaigns with better than 13 yards per reception.

2017 Stats: 30 receptions, 437 yards, and one touchdown
Career Stats: 178 receptions, 1985 yards, and 12 touchdowns

Tyler Eifert, 27, Cincinnati Bengals

Eifert, a former first-round pick, has had success in the league but has missed an alarming 41 out of 80 games over the course of his five-year career, including 14 this past season. The 2015 Pro Bowler, who snagged 13 touchdowns that year, should be pretty cheap to sign, though.

2017 stats: four receptions, 46 yards, and zero touchdowns
Career stats: 127 receptions, 1537 yards, and 20 touchdowns

Richard Rodgers, 26, Green Bay Packers

Rodgers is an off-the-radar option. He’s fallen off the map the last couple of years, but back in 2015, Rodgers was the team’s starter and caught eight touchdowns. It’s possible that his strong performance that year was a product of playing with the great Aaron Rodgers, but either way, it won’t cost the Bills much at all to find out if he still has those type of results in him.

2017 Stats: 12 receptions, 160 yards, and one touchdown
Career Stats: 120 receptions, 1166 yards, and 13 touchdowns

To be frank, this year’s free-agent tight end market isn’t shaping up to be very attractive at all. Besides debating between whether he’s actually worth the fourth-biggest cap hit on the team, the Bills and Daboll will have determine how just how much tight ends figure to feature in their offense next season. Buffalo still has Kelvin Benjamin, who’s basically a tight end playing out wide, and after last year’s embarrassing performance for the receiving corps overall, wide receiver is undoubtedly one of the Bills biggest off-season needs.