Monday, July 15, 2024
Home NFLTampa Bay Buccaneers 2024 Buccaneers offseason tight end preview

2024 Buccaneers offseason tight end preview

by Moxieplay

No position group has received less attention on the Buccaneers roster in the past two years than the tight ends. With greater needs at other positions, that pattern is unlikely to change in 2024.

Since the departure of Rob Gronkowski at the end of the 2021 season, the Bucs have spent minimal free agent money and modest draft capital on tight ends. The addition of Kyle Rudolph in in 2022 was less than impactful, and veteran Cameron Brate was a shell of his former self. Both struggled to stay healthy enough to get on the field, much less make a difference on it.

When Tampa Bay drafted Cade Otton in the fourth round of the 2022 draft, he practically became their TE1 by default, taking 66% of the offensive snaps to Brate’s 29.2% and Rudolph’s 6.5%. Otton entered the 2023 season as the starter and was perfectly adequate, catching 60 of 86 targets for 610 yards and five touchdowns in the regular season and playoffs.

Unfortunately, “perfectly adequate” was the ceiling for the Bucs’ tight ends in 2023. Ko Kieft, also a 2022 Bucs draft pick, is not an NFL-caliber receiving option and 2023 fifth-round pick Payne Durham rarely ran a route. All three tight ends struggled in run support and were not often used as pass blockers.

There is little question the Bucs offense would benefit from an upgrade in tight end talent. The problem is the Bucs have too many other glaring needs to truly dedicate resources to improving the group.

This year’s rookie tight end class is thin from top to bottom. Georgia TE Brock Bowers is easily the best prospect in the class, but he will be long gone by the time the Bucs are on the clock late in the first round. Tampa Bay might have a shot at Texas TE Ja’Tavion Sanders or Ohio St. TE Cade Stover on Day 2 of the draft, but taking either would mean forgoing bigger needs and value at edge rusher, inside linebacker, safety and along the interior offensive line.

There are more options at tight end in free agency, but whether any of them represent a true upgrade is dubious. PFF’s Brad Spielberger named Patriots TE Mike Gesicki as a potential fit for Tampa Bay. However, Gesicki is notorious for being a “receiver-only” tight end. He adds nothing as a blocker which appears to be a driving factor for the tepid interest in his services.  Gesicki is two years removed from his best seasons with the Dolphins and was relegated to minimal roles in Mike McDaniels’ first season as head coach and with the Patriots last year.

If the Bucs entertain any free agents at all, they will likely target inexpensive value signings, a hallmark of Bucs general manager Jason Licht as of late. Former Broncos and Eagles TE Albert Okwuegbunam flashed in Denver in 2021, but injuries and team dysfunction derailed his career. He could be a low-cost, low-risk signing to reinforce Tampa Bay’s tight end depth.

Expectations for any significant moves at tight end in Tampa Bay should be low. Licht tends to value a draft and develop strategy over splashy free agent signings or blockbuster trades. Otton’s improvement as a receiver in 2023 will likely keep him the starter in 2024 while Kieft and Durham will get their own opportunities to prove their long-term viability. At most, a more or two at the fringes of the tight end depth chart will make for some training camp intrigue and preseason hype.

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