The 2015 NFL offseason has begun for the Philadelphia Eagles, which means Chip Kelly and his staff will spend the next couple of weeks evaluating the 2014 roster. While the team was able to achieve 10-6 record, they fell short of making the playoff, and there are still many ways the Eagles roster could be improved upon. By the time NFL free agency starts on March 10, the Eagles will have a good idea of which players they'll want to bring back for the 2014 season. Today we'll continue this offseason review series by looking at the tight end position.
Numbers: 827 snaps, 32 recs, 340 yards, 10.6 Y/R, 1 TD, 1 fumble
Review: The veteran Celek wasn't much of a threat at all in the Eagles passing attack. His 10.6 yards per reception was a career low. His third career fumble came at a poorly-timed moment in the Eagles' Week 15 game against the Cowboys.
But to say Celek was useless would be off-base. He was extremely effective as a blocker. Pro Football Focus ranked Celek as the NFL's second best blocking tight end in 2014. Given the Eagles' myriad of offensive line injuries, the pressure was on Celek to perform and he did his best.
Chip Kelly had a great quote about Celek following Philadelphia's 27-0 victory over the New York Giants in Week 6. Emphasis mine: "I think he's awesome. I love the way he approaches everything. He's got the right demeanor. He's everything you want. He's totally selfless. He's exactly what you want. When you talk about what a Philadelphia Eagle looks like, Brent Celek is what a Philadelphia Eagle looks like."
Numbers: 603 snaps, 58 recs, 702 yards, 12.1 Y/R, 3 TD, 1 fumble
Review: Ertz's sophomore campaign wasn't quite the breakout that most expected, but the numbers certainly don't look bad. His 12.1 yards per reception ranked 10th among qualified tight ends. Ertz broke an Eagles single-game franchise record for most receptions in a game with 15 in the team's Week 16 loss to Washington.
The only problem is that it would be ideal if he could steal more playing time away from Celek. For that to happen, Ertz needs to be a better blocker. Ertz was an underutilized weapon in 2014.
Numbers: 173 snaps, 3 recs, 59 yards, 19.6 Y/R, 2 TD, 0 fumbles
Review: Three targets, two touchdowns. Casey was all about efficiency. While the veteran tight end didn't play much on offense, he did make valuable contributions in his limited snaps. Like Celek, he's proved to be heck of a blocker. Check out this block from the Eagles-Cardinals game where Casey destroys an Arizona outside linebacker.
Casey also made huge contributions on special teams. He among the team leaders in special team tackles and he blocked two punts. He may not have warranted the full value of his high salary but he certainly earned some of it. Multiple reporters have noted that Casey is consistently one of the first players to arrive early at the Eagles facility every morning.
Review: Burton only played six snaps on offense, and those came at running back due to an emergency situation. He was a big contributor on special teams; he blocked a punt in Week 4 and returned a blocked punt for a touchdown in Week 17. Burton's efforts earned him recognition on the 2014 PFWA All-Rookie Team as the best special teams player. Burton flashed some potential as a receiver in the 2014 preseason.
Who Could Leave
The Eagles save nearly $5 million by cutting Brent Celek but that doesn't seem likely. What does seem more likely is that James Casey could be a cap casualty. Casey is due $4 million and none of it is guaranteed.
Who Could Sign
The Eagles are set at tight end and the free agent market is slim pickings. Philadelphia probably won't be looking to sign anyone in free agency other than a camp body.
The Eagles like to "stockpile" tight ends so it's hard to rule out the possibility of them drafting one. Not to mention that Celek is set to turn 30 at the end of January.
Maxx Williams is potentially the top tight end from this year's class. Local Delaware product Nick Boyle is big and can block. Oregon tight end Pharoah has #DuckBias going for him and, let's be real, who wouldn't want to draft a guy with an awesome name like that? Jeff Heuerman from Ohio State, Tyler Kroft from Rutgers, and Clive Walford from Miami are a few other names.