That’s why I have tight end ranked 10th in my position-by-position breakdown of New Orleans’ needs.
Current depth chart:
Coby Fleener. Age 28, signed through 2020. 2017 salary and bonuses: $5.9 million. 2017 salary-cap number: $7.5 million.
Josh Hill. Age 26, signed through 2018. 2017 salary and bonuses: $1.85 million. 2017 salary-cap number: $2.683 million.
Michael Hoomanawanui. Age 28, signed through 2018. 2017 salary and bonuses: $1.6 million. 2017 salary-cap number: $1.933 million.
John Phillips. Age 29, unrestricted free agent.
Garrett Griffin. Age 22, scheduled to be exclusive-rights free agent in 2019. 2017 salary and bonuses: $465,000. 2017 salary-cap number: $465,000.
Jake Stoneburner. Age 27, scheduled to be restricted free agent in 2018. 2017 salary and bonuses: $615,000. 2017 salary-cap number: $615,000.
Fleener had a decent season (50 catches, 631 yards, three touchdown catches and one TD run) ... but “decent” wasn’t nearly good enough compared to lofty expectations and his lofty price tag (five years, $36 million).
Fleener isn’t going anywhere, though. His base salary is fully guaranteed in 2017. And coaches remain optimistic that he can become even more of an asset in Year 2 after he gets more comfortable with the system and continues to develop a rhythm with Drew Brees.
It’s hard to expect a major breakthrough, especially since Fleener remains fourth fiddle behind the terrific receiving trio of Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas and Willie Snead. But maybe Fleener will turn into a late-round, fantasy-football sleeper instead of a fantasy bust this time around.
The Saints’ depth will improve quite a bit, too. Versatile backups Hill and Hoomanawanui will both return from leg injuries after finishing last season on injured reserve. Hill (a versatile asset as a blocker, pass-catcher and special-teamer) broke his fibula in early December. Hoomanawanui (primarily a blocker with some decent pass-catching ability) missed the entire season after suffering an unspecified leg injury last summer.
The Saints also liked Phillips, a solid blocker they signed midseason. So they could bring him back as well.
Overall, the group is way more solid than spectacular. But the depth is good enough to make it a lower priority this offseason.
No. 12: Specialists
No. 11: Wide receivers