The Detroit Lions are in a precarious situation at tight end. The team just released Matthew Mulligan, who may have been their best blocker among healthy tight ends. Some took the view that Mulligan’s release indicated Brandon Pettigrew was closer to a return from his torn ACL than expected, but a day later the Lions placed Pettigrew on the reserve/PUP list, meaning he won’t be available until at least Week 7.
That leaves the team with the following five tight ends:
- Eric Ebron (injured, hasn’t fully practiced in over three weeks)
- Andrew Quarless (suspended first two games)
- Adam Fuehne (undrafted rookie free agent)
- Cole Wick (undrafted rookie free agent)
- Orson Charles (nine career receptions since entering the league in 2012)
Considering the start of the season is less than two weeks away, this isn’t exactly where the Lions wanted, or expected, to be. There’s little doubt this unit needs to be upgraded quickly. With 31 other franchises cutting their teams down to 75 players on Tuesday, there is an entire batch of new players available on the market.
While most of these options include similarly inexperienced players to Wick And Fuehne, there are a few intriguing options the Lions may consider.
With that in mind, here’s a look at every single tight end cut this week.
UDFA tight ends with limited or no NFL experience
Bills TE Jimmay Mundine - 2015 UDFA from Kansas. He’s an intriguing option because he was signed by Patriots while Bob Quinn was there, but he was cut before the season started. In 2016, he signed with Bills on Aug. 7.
Panthers TE Braxton Deaver - 2016 UDFA from Duke.
Panthers TE Miles Shuler - 2016 UDFA from Northwestern.
Bengals TE John Peters - 2015 UDFA from Mount St. Joseph, a Division III school. Cut after training camp in 2015, but rejoined the team this offseason. Huge measurables at 6-foot-8, 261 pounds.
Browns TE David Reeves - 2016 UDFA from Duke.
Broncos TE Manasseh Garner - 2015 UDFA from Pittsburgh. Bounced around rookie year, ended on Bills practice squad. No playing experience.
Colts TE Mike Miller - 2016 UDFA from Taylor, a NAIA school.
Rams TE Benson Browne - 2016 UDFA from NC State. Always a long-shot at roster, only four receptions in college.
Dolphins TE Gabe Hughes - 2016 UDFA from Florida Tech.
Patriots TE Steven Scheu - 2016 UDFA from Vanderbilt.
Giants TE Ryan Malleck - 2016 UDFA from Virginia Tech.
Jets TE Jason Vander Laan - 2016 UDFA from Ferris State.
Steelers TE Michael Cooper - 2016 UDFA from Indiana. Already waived by Washington and Steelers.
Buccaneers TE Tevin Westbrook - 2015 UDFA from Florida. Practice squad as a rookie.
Drafted tight ends and/or some with NFL experience
Browns TE E.J. Bibbs - 2015 UDFA. He played in seven games his rookie year, but only tallied one catch for 7 yards. However, he was on the roster all 17 weeks of his rookie season. Bibbs has limited athleticism, but caught eight touchdowns in his senior year at Iowa State.
Cardinals TE Gerald Christian - 2015 seventh-round pick, Christian was Mr. Irrelevant (last pick in the draft). He lost his rookie year to a knee injury in the preseason.
Falcons TE Arthur Lynch - 2014 fifth-round pick. Lynch has jumped around to four teams in three years: Dolphins, Jets, Broncos and Falcons. Lynch only has practice squad experience and has never appeared in a game.
Colts TE Konrad Reuland - 2011 UDFA. He joined Jets for two years in 2012. In his first year there, he had 11 catches 83 yards in 16 games. Since then, he has only had one reception for 7 yards. Reuland has special teams experience (4 career tackles). 6-foot-5, 254 pounds.
Jaguars TE Nic Jacobs - 2014 UDFA. Started career on the Saints’ practice squad, but was poached by the Jaguars to make their 53-man roster a few weeks into the 2014 season. Since then, he has played in 24 games with the Jags with six starts. However, he has just three career catches for 22 yards and a TD. Jacobs is a strong blocker, but had a lot of problems with drops in Jacksonville during training camp.
Rams TE Jake Stoneburner - 2013 UDFA from Ohio State. Stoneburner played in nine games with the Packers in 2013 before spending the entire 2014 season on the Dolphins practice squad. He was promoted to the active squad in 2015 with Miami, where he was active in 11 games. He was valuable on special teams and had five catches and two touchdowns last year.
Vikings TE Brian Leonhardt - 2013 UDFA from Bemidji State. After a year on the Raiders practice squad, Leonhardt played in 12 games for Oakland in 2014, starting in three of them. He managed six receptions for 35 yard and a score that year. Since then, he jumped to San Francisco, where he made four game appearances. The Vikings gave him a shot this offseason, but he was released on Monday.
49ers TE Rory “Busta” Anderson - Seventh-round pick in 2015 from South Carolina. He made initial 53-man roster, but was immediately placed on injured reserve. Anderson is an extremely athletic player at 6-foot-five, 244 pounds, but couldn’t make a 49ers team that is thin on tight ends.
So, anyone worthwhile?
Detroit should probably pass on any of the tight ends in the first category. They already have two inexperienced players, but at least those options have the benefit of spending the entirety of training camp with the team.
The most intriguing options are Jake Stoneburner and Nic Jacobs. Stoneburner has a good amount of experience, albeit on special team, and even showed a little value as a receiver with the Dolphins last year. Jacobs, on the other hand, could fill the blocking void among a weak tight end group. He has the most experience out of the entire group, and while his issue with drops is certainly an unwelcoming attribute, it’s clear at this point the Lions aren’t going to get a perfect option. Jacobs’ blocking skills are more valuable to the team as it is.