Tight End Contract Tiers through 2016 Week 8

This week, I’m going to revisit the 2016 signings and note where each player stands after 8 weeks on their new contracts.


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<$4M

n/a – Veteran Backup/Blocking Tight End

 

Results through 2016 Week 8

   

16 Game Pace

 
Tier 1 ContractsCurrent APYGames PlayedCatchesTargetsCatch %YardsTDsAPY Value
Expectation$9M+ 8012066%1,00011 
Travis Kelce$9.37M7 of 77810376%8627High Tier 2
Jordan Reed$9.35M6 of 811215771%1,1078Tier 1

 

Travis Kelce: Kelce’s production so far in 2016 is very similar to his results of the prior two seasons. He is on pace for essentially identical yards to go along with two additional touchdowns and a handful of additional catches. Kansas City shouldn’t be too disappointed as Kelce hasn’t regressed below his prior production, but he also has disappeared for entire games. In 4 out of 7 games played this year, Kelce did not exceed 35 yards. While his overall production is just a bit below expectation based on his APY, Kansas City should be expecting much more consistency.

Jordan Reed: Jordan Reed has had issues staying healthy for a complete season so far in his career and that trend has continued in 2016. When he has been on the field, he has performed up to the level of his contract. Over the past three games alone, he has averaged 9 catches for 75 yards and a touchdown. When considering that he is only participating in 75% of this team’s games, he is really only on pace for a 84/830/6 season. Those totals would still indicate that Reed is providing Washington with a reasonable value.

   

16 Game Pace

 
Tier 2 ContractsCurrent APYGames PlayedCatchesTargetsCatch %YardsTDsAPY Value
Expectation$6.5M-$9M 7511068%8005 
Zach Ertz$8.5M5 of 7486475%4800Tier 4
Dwayne Allen$7.35M6 of 8487267%5125Tier 3
Coby Fleener$7.2M7 of 7579461%7255Low Tier 2/High Tier 3
Delanie Walker$6.7M7 of 8649667%9267Tier 2

Zach Ertz: Ertz is currently performing at a veteran minimum salary level on an $8.5M APY contract. In the past four games, he has totaled 9 catches for 92 yards and no touchdowns. Regardless of what Ertz brings as a blocker, the Eagles are getting a poor return.

Dwayne Allen: Allen’s production has not improved over the past few weeks. Allen does bring additional value as a blocker, but he should be generating around 50% more than he has so far in terms of receiving yardage and touchdowns. Allen’s best game in 2016 was either week 1 or week 5 when he either had 4 catches for 53 yards and a touchdown or 6 catches for 50 yards and a touchdown. Neither one of those should be the high mark for a player on a $7M+ APY contract.

Coby Fleener: Fleener is giving the Saints very uneven production so far. In games against the Falcons and Panthers, he performed very well, averaging 7 catches for 91 yards and a touchdown. In his other games, Fleener did not exceed 4 catches or 44 yards and has not scored. That level of inconsistency is more in line with a player on a $5M APY contract than Fleener’s current $7.2M contract.

Delanie Walker: Walker’s production is pretty close to what should be expected, possibly a bit higher than expected. His catch totals are a bit low, but his yardage and touchdowns make up for it. This continues to be a very good contract for the Titans.

   

16 Game Pace

 
Tier 3 ContractsCurrent APYGames PlayedCatchesTargetsCatch %YardsTDsAPY Value
Expectation$4M-$6.5M 558563%5004 
Jordan Cameron$6M3 of 7435973%3205Low Tier 3
Antonio Gates$5.5M6 of 85610454%4058Tier 3
Ladarius Green$5M0 of 7

n/a – Injured

 
Brent Celek$4M7 of 7111863%1810Tier 4
Marcedes Lewis$4M7 of 7304665%2992Tier 4

Jordan Cameron: Cameron’s three games prorated over 16 would indicate a player on at best a $4M APY contract. Give that Cameron is missing over half of the Dolphins’ games, Miami would be better off spending those cap dollars pretty much anywhere else. Cameron’s 8 catches for 60 yards and a touchdown on the season should be one good game, not a half season’s worth of work.

Brent Celek: If Celek were producing to the level of his past two seasons, he would be worth around $4M APY given his blocking abilities and his knowledge of the system. Given that he has been primarily a blocking tight end (only 8 targets in 7 games), Celek’s contract should be well below his current $4M APY.

Marcedes Lewis: Lewis is in the same position as Celek. It has been over three seasons (2012) since Lewis has totaled more than 360 receiving yards or 5 touchdowns. He is on pace to fall well short of those low expectations.

   

16 Game Pace

 
Tier 4 ContractsCurrent APYGames PlayedCatchesTargetsCatch %YardsTDsAPY Value
Zach Miller$2.75M7 of 87510175%6977Tier 2/3
Jack Doyle$1.678 of 8627286%6368Tier 2/3

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: Given Miller’s target volume, catch rate, and touchdown totals, he is performing at a Tier 2 level on a Tier 4 contract. The only statistic that indicates a slightly lower performance level is his yardage. Even considering the low yardage, Miller is performing at least on the level that would be expected from a $6.5M APY player, so the Bears are getting a great value.

Jack Doyle: Doyle has already set career highs in targets, catches, yards, and touchdowns. While he has been a bit inconsistent – he has two games that total 14 yards on 3 catches, Doyle’s performance so far is more in line with a player on a $6.5M APY contract. If Doyle is unable to play in the Colts’ final 8 games, he will have already provided the team with a good investment on his $1.67M APY contract. Doyle’s catch rate in every game this season is at least 66%.

  • Werner

    M. Benett would be a good benchmark after being traded and approaching Free Agency. Would also be nice to see how much value was unlocked being served by T.B. instead of J.C.

    • Charles Crawford

      Bennett’s APY is $5.1M. At that cost, anything over 55/500/4 in a season is good value for the Patriots. Since 2014, Bennett has consistently been above those levels. He’s currently on pace for around 62/800/8. Consider Bennett vs Fleener. The Saints are paying $7.1M for less production than the Patriots are getting out of Bennett’s $5.1M.

      Bennett was clearly the #1 TE in Chicago and is the #2 TE in New England, so his volume is understandably lower in New England. Bennett saw 7 and 8 targets per game in his last two years in Chicago. This year, he is seeing 5 targets per game. Those ~40 fewer targets in a season would mean around 28 fewer catches, 300 fewer yards, and 2-4 touchdowns less just due to decreased usage.

      Where Bennett does appear to be benefiting is in his performance on a per target basis. This year, Bennett is catching 77.5% of his targets compared to 66% and 70% in Chicago, he is averaging almost 13 yards per reception after averaging 10.2 and 8.3 in Chicago, and he is catching a touchdown on every 10th target compared to every 21st and 27th in Chicago.

      • Werner

        Charles, thanks for fast reply. Will create the delicate situation for the Patriots that the #2 TE would need to be contracted at a higher APY relative to the #1 in 2017 (Gronk at 7M$) and the TE will cost NE at around 20ME the years after barring a bad decline for Gronk in his high end years 18 and 19.

        • Charles Crawford

          I’m not concerned with a Gronk decline in 2018/2019 unless he gets injured. He’ll still only be 30 years old in 2019, so age shouldn’t be an issue.

          Regarding re-signing Bennett – If the Patriots try to keep Bennett after this year, they have the cap room to do so. Today, they have around $64M project cap space for 2017. However, New England has a lot of upcoming free agents that they will want to keep: Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Sebastian Vollmer, Donta Hightower, and possibly Marcus Cannon and Jabaal Sheard in addition to Martellus Bennett.

          They can’t keep all of them and I don’t think Bennett is in their top 4 in terms of priority. If Bennett is after a #1 TE contract like Gronkowski, I would expect it to be with another team. If he’s willing to take something along the lines of of a 2 or 3 year deal at $5M APY similar to the contract he’s on right now, I think the Patriots would take that to keep their 2 TE package going for another few years.