Tight End Contract Tiers through 2016 Week 14

This week, I’m going to revisit the 2016 signings and note where each player stands after 13 games on their new contracts. This will be the final installment until the end of the season, when I will look at each new signing’s full season along with their game to game consistency.


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

16 Game Pace
Tier 1 ContractsCurrent APYGames PlayedCatchesTargetsCatch %YardsTDsAPY Value
Expectation$9M+ 8012066%1,00011 
Travis Kelce$9.37M138612071%1,1274Tier 1
Jordan Reed$9.35M109613173%1,0248Tier 1

 

Travis Kelce: Outside of his touchdown totals, Kelce is meeting or exceeding all of the statistics that should be expected of a Tier 1 receiver. Kelce has been especially consistent and effective over the past several games: in his past seven games, he has exceeded 100 yard 5 times. In terms of catches and yards, Kelce compares very favorably to Graham and Gronkowski, the two current top TEs.

Kelce has accounted for 23% of the Chiefs’ receptions and 28% of the Chiefs’ receiving yards. Gronkowski and Graham normally account for around 18-25% in each category. The only area where Kelce hasn’t matched other top TEs is touchdowns. He has accounted for 28%, 25%, and 20% of the Chiefs’ receiving TDs in his three years in the league. Gronkowski and Graham average between 30% and 40% of their teams’ receiving TDs when they complete full seasons. This is a long way of saying that even given the lack of touchdowns, as long as Kelce is producing comparable to Gronkowski and Graham, he is giving the Chiefs a good return on his new contract.

Jordan Reed: Jordan Reed has missed three games this year, but has been very productive in the games he has played. His per game averages are right in line with expectations for a Tier 1 Tight End with the exception of being slightly behind on touchdowns.

Both Reed and Kelce have done well in terms of catch percentage throughout their careers. Reed has never finished a season below 73% and Kelce has never finished lower than 69.9%.

16 Game Pace
Tier 2 ContractsCurrent APYGames PlayedCatchesTargetsCatch %YardsTDsAPY Value
Expectation$6.5M-$9M 7511068%8005 
Zach Ertz$8.5M118311671%8203Tier 2
Dwayne Allen$7.35M11416365%4777Tier 3
Coby Fleener$7.2M13538463%6814High Tier 3
Delanie Walker$6.7M126810565%9168High Tier 2

Zach Ertz: Ertz has done much better in the latter half of this season. After topping 40 yards only once in his first 5 games with no touchdowns, Ertz has averaged 69 yards over the past six games with two touchdowns.

Dwayne Allen: Dwayne Allen is a hard player to evaluate. While I haven’t completed an analysis on TE consistency similar to my post on WRs, I expect Allen to grade poorly. In five of his past six games, Allen has totaled 0, 0, 9, 15, and 49 yards with no touchdowns. In the sixth game, Allen scored three touchdowns on 72 yards. For a low-volume red-zone target, Allen’s contract is a bit high. Allen is still being out-performed by his teammate Jack Doyle, who is on a much cheaper contract.

Coby Fleener: Fleener has yet to live up to his new contract with the Saints. His season-long totals are more in line with a player with closer to a $6M APY than Fleener’s current $7.2M. While that doesn’t seem like much of a difference, consistency has been an issue the entire year. Fleener has 6 games in 2016 with less than 30 yards receiving and catches a low percentage of his targets. Fleener’s catch rate of 63% is the lowest on the Saints among players with more than 4 targets. All TEs as a group this year are catching 66% of their targets.

Delanie Walker: As has been the case for the whole season, Walker’s production is in line or above expectations for each statistical category based on his contract.

16 Game Pace
Tier 3 ContractsCurrent APYGames PlayedCatchesTargetsCatch %YardsTDsAPY Value
Expectation$4M-$6.5M 558563%5004 
Jordan Cameron$6M3435973%3205Low Tier 3
Antonio Gates$5.5M115710256%5647High Tier 3
Ladarius Green$5M5428350%7423Tier 3
Brent Celek$4M13111669%1400Tier 4
Marcedes Lewis$4M10324867%2702Tier 4

Jordan Cameron: Has missed all but three games this year, so the Dolphins are not getting a good return. Even when he was in the lineup, his production was not in line with his contract.

Antonio Gates: While clearly on the back stretch of his career, Gates’ red-zone and third down production still support his current $5.5M APY. Outside of his low catch rate, which is easily his lowest in the past 10 seasons, Gates has exceeded the expectation of a Tier 3 contract.

Ladarius Green: Excluded from this analysis for most of the year due to missed games, Green still hasn’t played enough to properly evaluate. However, the early returns on his contract in Pittsburgh are positive.

Brent Celek: See my prior posts on tight ends for a more lengthy analysis. Celek’s production this year should place him on a veteran-minimum contract.

Marcedes Lewis: See above. Same for Lewis.

16 Game Pace
Tier 4 ContractsCurrent APYGames PlayedCatchesTargetsCatch %YardsTDsAPY Value
Zach Miller$2.75M107510273%7786Tier 2
Jack Doyle$1.67M13597381%6115High Tier 3

There are too many Tier 4 contracts signed in 2016 to list here. The chart above shows two players that are producing above their APY expectation.

Zach Miller: Miller’s touchdown rate has dropped significantly, with only one touchdown in the past six weeks after three in the first four. That being said, if Miller’s season were to end today, his annual production has already been worth his $2.75M APY. His production has been closer to that of a player that would be expected to have an APY around $6.5M.

Jack Doyle: Doyle’s touchdowns have cooled quite a bit, with no scores in the past six games, but like Miller, his season-long production has already justified his $1.67M APY. He has more catches and yards than his higher-paid teammate Dwayne Allen on better efficiency (81% catch rate vs 65%), has just one fewer touchdown, and has not missed a game this year.