TE Contract Tiers – 2016 Season Review

Now that the regular season is over, I’m going to review each of the 2016 signings at Tight End to determine what kind of value each team received compared to the player’s contract. Contrary to my previous posts in this series, I will use each player’s season totals as well as prorated 16 game totals.

Methodology


See my prior article here for more information regarding how these tiers were constructed and what types of tight ends fit into each tier.

 APYCatches/16Targets/16Catch %Yards/16TDs/16
Tier 1$9M+8012066%1,00011
Tier 2$6.5M-$9M7511068%8005
Tier 3$4M-$6.5M558563%5004
Tier 4<$4Mn/a – Veteran Backup/Blocking Tight End

 

Results through 2016 Week 14

   

2016 Season Totals

 
Tier 1 ContractsCurrent APYGames PlayedCatchesTargetsCatch %YardsTDsAPY Value
Expectation$9M+ 8012066%1,00011 
Travis Kelce$9.37M168511773%11254Tier 1
Jordan Reed$9.35M12668974%6866High Tier 2

 

Travis Kelce: Kelce’s continuing issue as it relates to his performance versus his contract is touchdowns. He has now finished the past three seasons with 4, 5, and 5 touchdowns. For a player that is second only to Jimmy Graham in terms of APY, that should be considered underperforming. However, given his contributions elsewhere, I still think that Kelce provided the Chiefs with a good value on his contract.

Kelce is 15th in the NFL in receptions, 12th in receiving yards, was one of only three TEs with 100 targets to have a catch rate over 70% (Ertz and Pitta were the others), and had 5 100-yard games on the season – 2 more than any other TE in the NFL. Kelce had over 500 more yards and over 20 more receptions than the next highest Chief.

While he doesn’t meet the statistical expectations for touchdowns, by any measure, he was one of the top (if not the top) tight ends throughout the regular season.

Jordan Reed: Jordan Reed missed four games this year, somewhere around what should have been expected based on the 2014 and 2015 seasons when he missed 5 and 2 games. On a per game basis, Reed was below expectation in terms of yards and touchdowns. Had he been healthy for all 16 games, his pace would have him end up with around 900 yards and 8 touchdowns, both a bit below what a TE on a $9M+ contract should produce.

A big reason why Kelce gets a pass in my book on the low touchdowns while Reed doesn’t (even though he has more) is (1) Reed missed 4 games, (2) Reed was 3rd on his team in receptions and 4th in yards, and (3) Reed’s blocking isn’t in the same ballpark as Kelce’s. Reed’s production is above the Tier 2 expectation of 800 yards and 5 touchdowns, but falls short of what Washington should expect over a full season.

   

2016 Season Totals

 
Tier 2 ContractsCurrent APYGames PlayedCatchesTargetsCatch %YardsTDsAPY Value
Expectation$6.5M-$9M 7511068%8005 
Zach Ertz$8.5M147810674%8164Tier 2
Dwayne Allen$7.35M14355267%4066Tier 3
Coby Fleener$7.2M16508261%6313Tier 3
Delanie Walker$6.7M156510264%8007Tier 2

Zach Ertz: Ertz’s performance this year was almost exactly in line with what Philadelphia should have expected on his new contract – his line of 78/816/4 is nearly identical to the expectation of 75/800/5. Where the Eagles should be especially optimistic is Ertz’s final 8 games: 55 receptions for 569 yards and 4 touchdowns, which would be a season-long pace of 110 receptions for 1,100 yards and 8 touchdowns. After a somewhat slow start to the season, Ertz performed like a Tier 1 TE over the second half.

Dwayne Allen: Outside of a blowout victory over the Jets, Allen’s season long production was more in line with a player on a contract around $4M, not Allen’s $7M+. Without that week 13 game, Allen’s season totals were 31 receptions for 334 yards and 3 touchdowns. Allen completed 10 games in 2016 with less than 40 receiving yards. 24 tight ends this year had more receiving yards than Allen, who was 3rd on the Colts in yards and 4th in receptions while carrying the 10th highest TE contract by APY in the NFL.

Coby Fleener: Like his old teammate Allen, Fleener has yet to live up to his new contract. Fleener finished the season with 1 100-yard game, and was no better than 4th on the Saints in any receiving category while carrying the 5th highest cap hit on the team and the 12th largest contract among NFL TEs.

Delanie Walker: Like Ertz, Walker ended the 2016 with nearly identical production compared to expectation: 65/800/7 compared to an expectation of 75/800/5. This is Walker’s third straight year with at least 800 yards, 4th straight over 60 receptions, and has averaged almost 6 TDs per year in Tennessee. The Titans should feel very good about the return they are getting on Walker’s contract.

   2016 Season Totals 
Tier 3 ContractsCurrent APYGames PlayedCatchesTargetsCatch %YardsTDsAPY Value
Expectation$4M-$6.5M 558563%5004 
Jordan Cameron$6M381173%601n/a
Antonio Gates$5.5M14539357%5487High Tier 3
Ladarius Green$5M6183453%3041Tier 3
Brent Celek$4M16141974%1550Tier 4
Marcedes Lewis$4M10203067%1691Tier 4

Jordan Cameron: 8 receptions for 60 yards and 1 touchdown for the whole season (3 games for Cameron). The Dolphins are getting essentially no return on their contract with Cameron.

Antonio Gates: Outside of his low catch rate of 57%, Gates gave the Chargers a good return on this contract. He exceeded expectations in terms of yardage and touchdowns and was right around expectation for receptions.

Ladarius Green: After returning from injury issues in Week 10, Green had 3 good games and three nearly invisible games. On a full season at his 2016 pace, Green would have ended up somewhere in the 48/811/3 range, which wouldn’t be a bad return on his contract. As it is, missing 10 games means that the Steelers didn’t get a good return, but Green fared pretty well when on the field.

Brent Celek and Marcedes Lewis: See my prior posts on tight ends for a more lengthy analysis. Celek and Lewis’ production this year should place them on a veteran-minimum contracts.

   16 Game Pace 
Tier 4 ContractsCurrent APYGames PlayedCatchesTargetsCatch %YardsTDsAPY Value
Zach Miller$2.75M10476473%4864Tier 2/3
Jack Doyle$1.67M16597579%5845High Tier 3

There are too many Tier 4 contracts signed in 2016 to list here. The two that clearly outperformed their contracts were Zach Miller and Jack Doyle.

Zach Miller: Miller missed most of the latter portion of the season, but still gave Chicago a good value. When healthy, Miller performed like a Tier 2 TE: 16 game pace of 75/778/6. However, since he missed almost half the season, his actual totals were closer to a Tier 3 TE. Either way, his $2.75M contract has been one of the better values this year.

Jack Doyle: Doyle’s season long production is more in line with a player on a $6.5M contract, not his current $1.67M. While he was relatively consistent in terms of home/away splits and first 8 games versus second 8 games, he has too many games with almost no impact. Doyle finished 4 games with 10 or fewer receiving yards, another 6 with less than 40 yards, and season best game total was 78 yards.