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Offseason Movement - TEs/Ks
A Fantasy Perspective
7/17/04

Very few tight ends or kickers have made a splash in free agency over the years, with only a limited number of success stories coming to mind. Shannon Sharpe left his longtime home Denver in 2000 for the Ravens. That year Sharpe helped raise the production level of Baltimore’s passing game with 810 yards receiving and five touchdowns, and aided in their postseason dominance and eventual NFL championship. Thought by many to be finished at the age of 42, kicker Morten Andersen found a second wind when he was signed by offensive juggernaut Kansas City in 2002. Andersen has proven to be a reliable kicker for both the Chiefs and fantasy owners, maintaining an 80% completion rate over the past two years.

An equal amount of disappointments can be found in the tight end/kicker free agency pool. In 1996 kicker Chris Boniol, then one of the most reliable legs in the NFL, left the Dallas Cowboys in favor of division rival Philadelphia for what would be one of the largest contracts ever awarded to a kicker. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Boniol forgot to pack his accuracy when he made the move east, and wound up out of the league just two years later. In 2002, The Arizona Cardinals snatched up one of the more promising young tight ends through free agency from the San Diego Chargers. Whether it has been due to his own shortcomings or the lack of talent on the Cardinal roster, two years have now passed and Freddie Jones has yet to develop into one of the top flight tight ends in this league.

This offseason has not seen any notable stars make the move to a new team, but we shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the potential for some lesser names to emerge with their new clubs in 2004. Do not make the mistake of overlooking the free agent tight ends and kickers of this past offseason without first taking some time to understand the playing situation that each one is entering.

Tight Ends

Jed Weaver/O.J. Santiago/Byron Chamberlain
SF/OAK/MIN – DEN
It will be a difficult task for any of these three newcomers to fill the void left by future Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe. All have shown sparks of potential throughout their respective careers, but none have elevated their game to a level of consistency that would solidify a starting position elsewhere. O.J. Santiago has bounced from team to team throughout his career, continually finding work because of the potential that lies in his size and strength. Byron Chamberlain had been tabbed as Daunte Culpepper’s main man in the redzone, but was supplanted by a tougher and more consistent Jim Kleinsasser. That leaves Jed Weaver, who has been mentioned in reports out of minicamp as the favorite to start on opening day. It doesn’t hurt that Weaver also makes the most money of the three. Last year Jake Plummer relied in Sharpe heavily in the redzone, and fantasy owners hope that he will continue that relationship with this year’s starter. Keep an eye on the tight end competition in Denver and consider selecting whomever is named to the first team.

Mikhael Ricks
From DET to NYJ
Ricks showed the potential while in Detroit to be a very good tight end in the NFL, and you have to wonder why the Lions would want to release him when he had one of the highest receiving totals on last year’s team. Now with the Jets, it is too early to tell if Ricks will share time with Anthony Becht or replace him as the outright starter. If Ricks does take over the starting position, you should consider drafting what would be a huge target for Chad Pennington over the middle of the field this season.

Todd Yoder
From TB to JAX
Last season there were too many tight ends in Tampa to count, but somehow the name Todd Yoder (hold all Amish jokes) emerged on the Sportscenter highlights. In limited action Yoder proved to be a very reliable redzone target for Brad Johnson, and he will now come into competition with the Jaguars Kyle Brady, who’s production over the past few seasons has been a disappointment. Monitor Jacksonville’s training camp reports, and hopefully on draft day the name Yoder can be called out with confidence as your starting tight end in larger fantasy leagues.

Dave Moore
From BUF to TB
Moore enters a very congested situation in Tampa, where two of the six tight ends on the current roster are Ken Dilger and Rickey Dudley. The promise of consistent playing time has not come from coach Jon Gruden for any of these three, and for that reason fantasy owners should look elsewhere for their tight end needs on draft day.

Walter Rasby
From NO to WAS
After seeing little action last season as a reserve for the New Orleans Saints, Walter Rasby will have an opportunity to play this season for Washington, but the position won’t be handed to him. Rasby will compete with Fred Baxter, Brian Koslowski and Robert Royal throughout training camp for the starting position. Fantasy owners may want to keep an eye on who emerges from this group during camp. Joe Gibbs had his heart set on choosing Kellen Winslow Jr. in this year’s draft and utilizing the tight end position in the Redskin offense, but made a concession to the rest of his staff by selecting Sean Taylor.

Mark Bruener
From PIT to HOU
Never utilized as much more than a blocking end while in Pittsburgh, Bruener will be lucky to see limited time on offense this season with the Houston Texans. Barring an incredible display of talent in August training camp, Bruener will be on the third team behind Billy Miller and Ben Joppru.

Jermaine Wiggins
From MIN to CAR
Much like Bruener in Houston, Jermaine Wiggins will join his new team with little chance of starting for the Vikings. After Jim Kleinsasser’s emergence last year as a favored target of Daunte Culpeppers’, Wiggins will instead be challenged to secure the backup spot from virtual unknowns Rich Angulo, Sean Berton and Ben Steele.

Kickers

Bill Gramatica
From AZ to NYG
The younger brother of maniacal Martin will always be known as the kicker who tore his ACL while jumping in the air to celebrate a kick. He will battle Giants kicker Matt Bryant for the right to stand on the New York sideline while their offense struggles once again this year.

Jeff Chandler
From SF to JAX
Chandler failed to convert easy kicks on a consistent basis while with San Francisco, so God only knows why the Jaguars would invite him to play on their team. Seth Marler will return as the Jaguars kicker from last season and face a battle in training camp that includes both Jeff Chandler and rookie Josh Scobee. Stay away fantasy owners, far away.



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