Now that the first week of free agency is nearing its end and most of the significant deals have been signed, I’d like to look at the new Tight Ends contracts compared to their peers as well as each player’s past work.
Martellus Bennett: 3 years, $21M, $6.3M Guaranteed
In my 11/22/16 article, I concluded that Bennett would re-sign with New England for 3 years and $21M. While I had the team wrong, the contract is right in line with what I expected, although with less guaranteed dollars. In lieu of signing Bennett, New England opted to trade for Dwayne Allen, who will count for a total of $17.4M over 3 years with no dead money in any season. New England is saving $3.6M in cap space over 3 years by going with Allen over Bennett, but they are also slotting a player in behind Gronkowski that is a clear step down from Bennett.
From Green Bay’s prospective, Bennett presents an upgrade over Jared Cook. While both have been relatively healthy over the past four years (5 and 6 games missed total, 3 seasons each with 16 games), Bennett’s production has exceeded Cook’s in each year on a per-game basis. Add in Bennett’s superior blocking ability, and Green Bay has a definite upgrade at TE. Bennett’s new contract is the 13th highest among TEs. While I don’t think it would be unreasonable for Bennett to have asked for a contract more in the $7.5M APY range (above Fleener, Allen, Rudolph), $7.0M APY is a very fair deal.
Jack Doyle: 3 years, $18.9M, $9.5M Guaranteed, $7.5M Fully Guaranteed
In my TE Tiers articles this past season, I frequently commented that Doyle was outplaying his teammate Dwayne Allen on a much smaller contract. After sitting behind Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener for three years, Doyle had his first significant amount of playing time in Indianapolis’ offense. In 2016, Doyle set career highs across the board, but did not have a game over 80 yards and only one game over 6 receptions. He also totaled 10 games with 40 yards or fewer, including 4 with 10 or fewer yards.
Given that Doyle’s new contract puts him just below the top tier of TE contracts, Indianapolis should be expecting around 75 receptions for 800 yards and 5 touchdowns. Those totals would amount to a roughly 30% increase over Doyle’s 2016 season, which should be possible given that Doyle should be filling Allen’s #1 TE role in 2017. If it turns out that Doyle played to his ceiling in 2016 and Indianapolis drafts or signs someone to play ahead of Doyle, this contract would be a bit high, but still palatable for a second TE in a two-TE system.
Dion Sims: 3 years, $18M, $6M Fully Guaranteed
It’s very hard not to see this as an overpayment for a blocking TE. After totaling 699 yards on 74 receptions and 8 TDs over his first 4 years in the league, Chicago gave Sims a contract that doesn’t trail Bennett and Doyle by much. Sims has never had a game with over 60 yards receiving or more than 4 receptions. Even if Sims was the best blocking TE on the market, I would have expected a deal more along the lines of 3 years $10-12M with little guaranteed.
Vernon Davis: 3 years, $15M, $7.5M Fully Guaranteed
This contract looks to be a backup plan in the event of another injury to Jordan Reed. With Reed, Doctson, Crowder, and now Terrelle Pryor in the mix on offense, Davis is likely to be at best a 5th passing option while Reed is healthy. Davis’ $5M APY places him 22nd among all TEs. Veteran TEs that aren’t blocking specialists usually sign for at least $4M APY, so $5M APY is a fair number for a player that had an up year in Washington last year and will give the team a competent starter if Reed is injured in 2017.