The Redskins face the very real possibility of losing their starting tight end as a free agent. Fred Davis is scheduled to visit the Bills on Wednesday after a planeload of Buffalo brass came to Washington on Saturday to dine with the 27-year-old tight end. It would be premature to say he is as good as gone but it’s not too soon to look at what the Redskins can do if he does wind up wearing Bills colors in 2013.
One option would be to stand pat. Logan Paulsen started the last nine games last year after Davis went out with an Achilles injury. He wasn’t the type of pass-catching threat who keeps defensive coordinators up late but perhaps if they go into the season knowing that he’s the starter they could design a few more plays and help increase his offensive output (25 receptions for 308 yards and one TD for the season).
It remains to be seen if Niles Paul can rise above the level of being a special teams demon/backup tight end/emergency wide receiver. He had issues with drops (two in 15 targets) so those would need to be straightened out before he could be considered for a role larger than the 241 offensive snaps he took in 2012.
If the Redskins want to go young with the third TE position they could take a look at DeAngelo Peterson, a 2012 rookie free agent originally signed by the Rams who spent all of last season on the Redskins practice squad. He’s 6-3, 243 and played well enough at LSU to warrant a serious shot at a roster spot.
What about Chris Cooley? Neither he nor the Redskins have completely closed the door on a return but nothing seems imminent. Put it in the category of something that is unlikely but bears watching.
The free agent options are fading fast. Dallas Clark will be 34 and he had modest production with the Bucs last year. Kevin Boss missed most of last year with a concussion. The market is so bleak that Jeremy Shockey would be Rotoworld’s fifth-best available tight end if Davis is off the market. Nobody saw fit to sign Shockey in 2012.
How about the draft? While it will be hard hard to find an immediate starter there given the Redskins don’t have a first-round pick, that doesn’t mean they can’t find some productivity. From 2000-2012 there were 48 tight ends drafted in the second and third rounds. Of those, 17 had 25 or more receptions as a rookie. Eight of those players had 35 or more catches as a rookie including Cooley, a second-round pick in 2004.
There is, of course, no guarantee. A dozen second- and third-round tight ends have been in the league for at least two seasons and have fewer than 30 career catches. Another potential issue with the draft strategy is that the Redskins may want to use their top picks to address other needs, particularly in the secondary.
Of course, Davis could decide that the Bills’ quarterback position is too shaky to deal with and return to the Redskins. Returning last year’s top three is probably the best solution of all.