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OFFSEASON PREVIEW: Tight Ends

Visanthe Shiancoe had a rough start to his tenure with the Vikings.  His 2007 season was marred by a ridiculous amount of endzone drops.  2008 looked to be heading in the same direction until about a third of the way through the season, Shiancoe seemingly had the “light go on” and now he has become a top flight tight end worthy of Pro Bowl consideration.  While commentators regularly gave Brett Favre credit for Shiancoe’s break out season, it actually started with Gus Frerotte under center.  In the last two seasons, only Larry Fitzgerald and Randy Moss have caught more touchdowns than Visanthe Shiancoe.

Last offseason the Vikings faced a crossroads with Jim Kleinsasser, as he was a free agent at the age of 32.  The bulky tight end had seemingly lost his ability to be any sort of serious threat in the passing game, but his blocking skills are so good for that position that he was often referred to as an “extra tackle” when placed on the offensive line.  The Vikings extended his contract until 2012.

Backup tight ends Garrett Mills and Jeff Dugan provide quality-enough depth when called upon to do so.

2009 Season

In 2009, Shiancoe led the tight ends with 56 catches, 566 yards, and 11 touchdowns.  Kleinsasser had 10 catches for 70 yards and Jeff Dugan ended up with six catches for 52 yards and two touchdowns.

Overall, the Vikings had a very productive year when tight ends were targeted, as is the way of things when Brett Favre is your quarterback.

Current Roster

None of the four guys on the roster are set to leave this season.  That fact, coupled with satisfactory production, seemingly leaves very few questions as to the status of this position on the roster. 

Unrestricted Free Agency

There are a number of quality tight ends available in free agency.  No real game changers, but a few serviceable options.  Ben Watson, Alge Crumpler, Ben Hartsock, and Billy Miller are some of the headliners of this free agency class. 

Like I said, no terrific options there but some guys that can help teams improve over their current tight ends.  I don’t view the Vikings as one of those teams.

Restricted Free Agency

Owen Daniels and Tony Scheffler are two guys that I would say are top 10 NFL tight ends at this point.  Daniels is coming off an injury that ended his season, and Scheffler was incredibly underutilized in Josh McDaniels offense.  It will be interesting to see how the offseason plays out for these two talents.  If their current teams don’t tender them, then I would not rule out the possibility of the Vikings pouncing on the opportunity to land one of them, though it seems unlikely.

A few other restricted tight ends are Bo Scaife, Jeff King, Derek Schouman, and David Thomas.

Draft Possibilities

Jermaine Gresham out of Oklahoma is a great talent and almost sure to be the first tight end drafted in April.  Even if he somehow “falls” to the Vikings in the first round, I don’t foresee them biting.  There are too many other needs on this roster and taking a tight end would just clutter an already solid position.

In fact, I don’t see the Vikings pending a draft pick on any tight ends this year.  There are plenty of solid prospects that will be available, but the Vikings just don’t need them yet.  Next year will be a different story.

Projections

I think there will be a lot of continuity in the tight end position for the Vikings in 2010.  I do not see any big splashes being made in the draft, in free agency, or in trades.  What you saw in 2009 will likely what you’ll see in 2010… and given the recent history with this group, that shouldn’t be considered a bad thing.


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5 Responses to “OFFSEASON PREVIEW: Tight Ends”

  1. c.carterhof says:

    With Big Shank, little Shank, the Saucer, and that TD scoring machine Dugan. We are set at the TE position for years.

  2. Todd Flaxton says:

    All of Shakoes drops were Mister Random’s fault. What a terrible blogger.

  3. Mark S says:

    I definitely think they will and should draft a TE. In the late rounds they could get Andrew Quarless or Jim Dray from Stanford (sleeper). Also, there is Derrick Epps, Nate Byham, & Jeron Mastrud too.

    The Vikings need to free themselves of Kleinsasser’s salary. And if Shiancoe gets hurt (knock on wood) they will be in big trouble as far as a receiving TE goes.

    In all of my mocks I have the Vikings taking Quarless somewhere around round 5.

    I like Kleinsasser but his days are over and if they are going to give 3 million to a vet they need to give it to Chester Taylor.

    • Adam Warwas says:

      I think you are underestimating The Saucer’s blocking skills.

      • Mark S says:

        I know he can block but so can Dugan. We need someone that can catch. If VS gets hurt we are in big trouble. Plus VS is 30 so getting a young guy to groom makes too much sense.

        I like Jimmy but it is time for Jimmy to become a coaching assistant.

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