The tight end position has sparked in usefulness in the NFL over the past few seasons. Big name players are now making big time money, when previously they never really had contracts that could compare to wide receivers in the league. But as the receiving tight ends becomes even more of a focus, these guys will be earning more and more.
The free agent market this year was actually fairly strong, with some promising young players hitting the market, alongside some of the biggest names of the last decade, looking for another shot. At this point, the market has dried up for the most part, but let's take a look at the biggest contracts thus far.
1. Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams - five years, $35.11 million ($7.022 million per season, $5 million signing bonus, $19 million guaranteed)
2. Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons - two years, $14 million ($7 million per season, $3.5 million signing bonus, $7 million guaranteed)
3. James Casey, Philaelphia Eagles - three years, $14.5 million ($4.83 million per season, $4.015 million guaranteed)
4. Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans - four years, $17.5 million ($4.375 million per season, $3.95 million signing bonus, $8.6 million guaranteed)
5. Anthony Fasano, Kansas City Chiefs - four years, $16 million ($4 million per season, $4.5 million signing bonus, $4.5 million guaranteed)
Jared Cook was the surprise of free agency. Most felt he had the most upside of all the tight ends, but he didn't have a whole lot to show for it so earning above $7 million per season was somewhat shocking. Still, if it all works out, the Rams just got a young, athletic target for quarterback Sam Bradford.
Tony Gonzalez was lured out of retirement to accept his contract, but most feel he won't actually be around for the second year of the deal. Delanie Walker has been the man behind Vernon Davis with the San Francisco 49ers his whole career and could be a very underrated signing by the Tennessee Titans.
Pitta is technically a restricted free agent, but he might be the kind of RFA that a team could go after. He won't cost a ton and he's not carrying a first-round tender. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of TE-needy teams out there, which likely limits Pitta's market. Returning to the Baltimore Ravens seems most likely.
While Clark has been one of the best tight ends in the NFL for a long time, he's slowed down considerably. He signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season and only had 435 yards, with four touchdowns. That was up from his previous two seasons, but he also played in all 16 games, whereas he played in 11 in 2011 and six in 2010.
He's been on the market for a while now, having been released by the New England Patriots after one game with them. Prior to that, he was released by the Seattle Seahawks after they traded for him from the Bucs. He's effectively been out of the NFL for a year, but in 2011, he had 763 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns. He thinks he can play and he might find a home for 2013.
2012's Biggest TE Contracts
Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers - two years, $14 million ($7 million per season)
John Carlson, Seattle Seahawks - five years, $25 million ($5 million per season)
Jacob Tamme, Denver Broncos - three years, $9 million ($3 million per season)
Kevin Boss, Kansas City Chiefs - three years, $9 million ($3 million per season)
Kellen Davis, Chicago Bears - two years, $6 million ($3 million per season)
The tight end market in 2013 was massive compared to what it was in 2012, and so were the contracts. Jared Cook's $35 million deal was more than every contract signed by a tight end in 2012 and more than three of the top five combined. In the top five in 2013, there wasn't a single tight end contract for less than $14 million while there were thre under $9 million in 2012.