Browns offseason analysis: Putting the TEs under the microscope


Our last position analysis of the week involves the one with the smallest number of players.

After covering the quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers, we're calling it a week with the tight ends.

The Raw Data

Jordan Cameron - 10 games, 24 receptions, 424 yards, 2 TDs

Jim Dray - 16 games, 17 receptions, 242 yards, TD

Gary Barnidge - 13 games, 13 receptions, 156 yards

The Rankings

Receiving yards by tight ends - 822 - 15th

Receiving touchdowns by tight ends - 3 - T-25th

The High Point

Pretty much everything went right in the Browns' early October rout of Pittsburgh, and the big plays made by Cleveland tight ends certainly contributed to it. Cameron caught passes of 51 and 42 yards in his only 100-yard game of the season. Dray added his longest catch of the season, a 31-yarder, on a third-quarter drive that ended with a field goal. All three helped block for a running game that accounted for 158 yards and three touchdowns.

The Low Point

Cameron was a defenseless target when he received a hard hit to the head and neck by Oakland's Brandian Ross in the late October clash at FirstEnergy Stadium. Cameron, who missed a game earlier in the season with a shoulder injury, suffered a concussion on the play and was ultimately sidelined for five weeks. It was a frustrating stretch for Cameron, who was close to returning on multiple occasions but was held out when symptoms resurfaced. Ross was fined $22,050 for the illegal hit.

Best Catch

The Browns needed an offensive spark in the worst way as they struggled to do much of anything for a fourth straight week at Carolina. The Browns hadn't scored an offensive touchdown in nine quarters when Brian Hoyer connected with Cameron on the team's longest pass of the season and eighth-longest in franchise history. The 81-yard, catch-and-sprint touchdown was the Browns' longest by a tight end since 1968 and the longest by any NFL tight end since 2009.

Surprise, Surprise

Before the 2014 season, Barnidge had never caught more than three passes in a single game during his previous six years in the NFL. When Barnidge was summoned for expanded duty in the Browns' second game of the season because of Cameron's shoulder injury, he responded with a career-best four catches (on four targets) for 41 yards. His 10-yard catch on fourth down late in the fourth quarter was pivotal and preceded Cleveland's game-winning field goal.

Quote to Note

"It'd be cool to finish here. I started here. There's a lot of factors that go into it and I haven't given it thought. I've been focused solely on the games being played. Now it's time to think about it and I'll sit down with my agent, but right now it's up in the air and there's a lot of stuff that has to go into me coming back here." -- Cameron, Dec. 29

Outlook for 2015

We addressed the big question mark surrounding this position about 10 days ago, and it will remain one until free agency opens in a few months. Cameron is an unrestricted free agent and appears poised to test the market. The Browns, of course, have the option to use their franchise tag on him. Because a number of the league's tight ends making big money in 2014, doing so would be a pricy expense. Dray and Barnidge, both of whom are coming off some of the most productive seasons of their respective careers, are set to return. Among the biggest names in this year's class of tight end free agents: Jermaine Gresham, Jacob Tamme, Charles Clay, Owen Daniels and Julius Thomas. It'd be unexpected for a tight end to come off the board in the first round of this year's draft, but a number of them could be feasible options in the middle rounds. Maxx Williams (Minnesota), Nick O'Leary (Florida State) and Jeff Heuerman (Ohio State) are among the most NFL-ready college prospects.

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