The Redskins went into free agency with a potential Pro Bowl tight end in Jordan Reed and another productive tight end in Niles Paul, who appears to be on schedule to be ready for training camp following the severe ankle injury he suffered last August.
But Scot McCloughan added more to the mix. Veteran Vernon Davis, who clearly has declined from his Pro Bowl form of a few years ago but still has something to offer, signed a one-year free agent contract. Logan Paulsen, who missed all of 2015 with a toe injury, was re-signed to compete for a chance at a seventh year with the team.
Last August with both Paul and Paulsen on the shelf, McCloughan did something he really doesn’t like to do—he traded away a draft pick. He picked up Derek Carrier from the 49ers, a move forced by the injuries and lack of available players at the position.
As with other positions, McCloughan would rather build depth at tight end through the draft. But you can’t draft players who aren’t on the draft board and there is a scarcity of quality tight ends in the draft pool. And that’s not just a quirk this year, the tight end shortage has become an perennial issue.
McCloughan said that colleges just don’t develop tight ends like they used to.
“It’s simple – because of the spread offense,” the Redskins’ GM said to reporters this week. “You know, we’ve got a Y and a U. The Y is the inline, blocking, receiving blocking tight end, and the U is more like the receiving tight end. The Y’s aren’t there anymore. It’s the spread offense. The U’s are playing flexed out as a receiver, and they’re not going with the tight end inline, you know? So it’s tough.”
Players who may have been Y tight ends are now offensive tackles or perhaps defensive ends. The shortage frequently forced the Redskins to use tackle Tom Compton lined up at the Y tight end spot. That helped as far a blocking goes but it also left the Redskins with essentially just four eligible receivers on the field.
So McCloughan is forced to make moves that he otherwise would avoid, like signing Davis and trading for Carrier. But he has to do what he can with the resources at hand.
“It’s a dying breed. It really is,” he said. “And you can’t invent them, you know? You see what you see, and that’s what you get.”