1. Jimmy Graham (NO) – It’s unlikely that the Saints will let Graham walk in 2014, and we’re probably looking at a landmark contract for a TE – if that’s what we’re still calling him (apparently Drew Brees still is). Recently, Graham – easily the best fantasy TE in the league over the past couple of seasons – brushed off questions about if he should qualify as a TE or WR in contract negotiations. He did express a desire that the Saints not slap him with the franchise tag, a designation that could be applied as soon as today. Even if there’s a serious breakdown and a volatile contract dispute occurs, it’s almost outside the realm of possibility that Graham spends 2014 anywhere but New Orleans.
The Best Fit: Saints, Packers, Steelers
2. Dennis Pitta (BAL) – The Ravens absolutely love Pitta, who missed 12 games last season following a hip dislocation. Pitta is already best friends with franchise QB Joe Flacco and the tight end’s sharp intermediate routes complement the big-play ability of Torrey Smith. Just last week, it was revealed that Gary Kubiak, the Ravens new OC, has big plans for Pitta in his offense – one that made relevant fantasy contributor out of several TEs in Houston, including Owen Daniels, Joel Dreessen, James Casey and free agent Garrett Graham. GM Ozzie Newsome said re-signing Pitta is a top priority and if a deal cannot be reached, he’s a prime candidate for a franchise tag. The Falcons and Dolphins will make every attempt to woo Pitta if he can’t reach a deal in Baltimore.
The Best Fit: Ravens, Falcons, Dolphins
3. Brandon Pettigrew (DET) – Pettigrew will draw interest from plenty of teams looking for a balanced TE with experience, even if the 28-year-old has underperformed relevant to expectations during his career. According to Pro Football Focus, he played 925 out of 1,158 snaps for the Lions offense last season as the team emphasized Pettigrew’s run-blocking ability and utilized the other skill positions and featured Joseph Fauria near the goal line. While new Lions OC Joe Lombardi seems high on Pettigrew’s fit in the offense as a well-rounded blocker/receiver, I think he’d also do well joining the Falcons, where they need to fill a gaping hole at TE in the wake of HOFer Tony Gonzalez’s retirement.
The Best Fit: Falcons, Lions, Steelers, Packers
4. Jermichael Finley (GB) – Finley had neck fusion surgery this off-season after a scary mid-season injury that put his career in considerable jeopardy. His doctor, neurosurgeon Joseph Maroon (who actually works for the Steelers) believes Finley will make a full recovery within the next 4-8 weeks, although he’s already running routes and catching footballs. The Packers are unlikely to re-sign the veteran TE, who’s still only 26 and was having a solid season in 2013 before bruising his spinal cord in Week 6. The Seahawks could be a player in the courtship of such a talented offensive weapon, and while the Giants have been mentioned as a possible landing spot, they probably don’t have the cap space to land a guy like Finley. Also in the mix are the Jets, who have a glaring need to fill at TE.
The Best Fit: Seahawks, Steelers, Jets
5. Garrett Graham (HOU) – Graham’s career year in 2013 could mean decent money on the free agent market, but he’s not enough of a household name at 32 to make a big splash. The Texans would be wise to offer him a relatively low-cost deal and bring him back – he was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season. Another team that could use the services of a TE is the Giants – who might not be able to land a high-profile FA but will be in the mix for a value buy. The G-Men might also be interested in the services of Fred Davis, who’s eager to get targets and reestablish himself as an offensive contributor in the NFL.
The Best Fit: Texans, Giants, Dolphins