With free agency set to begin in less than one month, Redskins.com's Stephen Czarda previews the 2015 NFL free agent class. Today's focus is on the tight ends.
Whether it's blocking for the running back, protecting the quarterback as he examines his options down field or even having his own number called, the tight end can be one of the most versatile tools within an NFL team's offense.
A countdown of the Top 10 images of Redskins tight end Niles Paul during the 2014 season.
Last season, four-year veteran Niles Paul did it all from the position in his most extensive action to date, as he climbed up to No. 2 on the team's depth chart and was a reliable player while starter Jordan Reed was sidelined with injury.
Paul recorded career highs in receptions (39) and receiving yards (507), while also nabbing his first touchdown since Week 12 of the 2012 season.
But with his rookie contract ending and his stock rising, there may be some uncertainty with his status with the Redskins moving forward.
As it stands now, Paul is one of 18 veterans tight ends set to become a free agent next month:
- David Ausberry, Oakland Raiders
- Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns
- Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins
- Owen Daniels, Baltimore Ravens
- Ed Dickson, Carolina Panthers
- Virgil Green, Denver Broncos
- Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati Bengals
- Rob Housler, Arizona Cardinals
- Lance Kendricks, St. Louis Rams
- Anthony McCoy, Seattle Seahawks
- Zach Miller, Chicago Bears
- Niles Paul, Washington Redskins
- Dante Rosario, Chicago Bears
- Alex Smith, Cincinnati Bengals
- Lee Smith, Buffalo Bills
- Matt Spaeth, Pittsburgh Steelers
- Jacob Tamme, Denver Broncos
- Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos
From a production standpoint, the most recognizable name on this list is Julius Thomas.
Over the last two seasons Thomas became a consistent target for Peyton Manning, hauling in 108 receptions for 1,277 yards and 24 touchdowns.
During that same timeframe, Thomas recorded at least five receptions in 10 games.
Jordan Cameron can also provide a big-bodied target in the passing game, as he recorded 130 receptions for 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns during his first four seasons in the NFL, all of which have been with the Cleveland Browns.
Jermaine Gresham, meanwhile, experienced some of his best seasons under Jay Gruden when the current Redskins head coach was the offensive coordinator for the Bengals.
In his three seasons (2011-13) with Gruden, Gresham caught 166 passes for 1,791 yards and 15 touchdowns.
David Ausberry has ties to the Washington, D.C. area, as he's from Strasburg, Va., while Owen Daniels (32 years old) is the longest active player on this list, just completing his ninth season in the NFL.