The tight end position was utilized more often when Mike Heimerdinger was in his first stint with the Titans but things are different now. Frank Wycheck and Erron Kinney, two guys who you could count on, are retired. The Dinger won’t find as much talent on hand now and the Titans are in dire need of an upgrade for the position group.
Here’s a look at the tight ends currently on the roster:
Bo Scaife – He’s really a H-back, but since he’s listed as a tight end, I’ve included him in this position group. Scaife was by far the most productive pass-catcher in the group last year and the Titans need more of the same in 2008. A restricted free agent, Scaife will definitely be tendered and be back this fall. He’s one of Vince Young’s favorite targets and a fan favorite. One thing I like about Scaife is his work ethic — he blew out both knees in college but persevered to continue his career. Scaife lacerated his liver at the end of last season but is expected to completely recover.
Ben Hartsock – A true tight end, he’s the inline blocker the Titans need at the position. Although he’s not known for his pass-catching ability, he does have decent hands when he’s thrown a catchable ball. He’s not the athletic type who can go get the ball. Hartsock is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March and resigning him should be a priority. It’s difficult to have the strong ground game Jeff Fisher wants when you don’t have a good blocking tight end like Hartsock.
Ben Troupe – It’s really sad to see so little productivity out of so much talent. After a great 2005 season, he was the most disappointing Titan a year later. He did nothing to improve in 2007 and his three catches in the season finale was too little, too late, to help him. Troupe will also be an unrestricted free agent but the Titans will let him walk. I hope another team gives him another chance and he’s able to take advantage of it.
Casey Cramer – He’s listed on the roster as a fullback, but Cramer can also play a little TE/H-back, as he did with the Panthers. I doubt if any other team will pick him up and he could be back in the Titans camp later this year.
Jamie Petrowski – After spending two years in camp and a little time on the practice squad, Petrowski finally saw some action after Scaife’s injury. He could also be back for minicamps and training camp.
Outlook: Scaife is the only TE who will definitely be back, and since he’s not a true tight end, the position becomes one of urgency. Besides getting a blocking TE, the Titans also need a big target over the middle. I fully expect Tennessee to try their best to resign Hartsock, as well as look to add another player either in free agency or very early in the draft.
Some free agents who I’d like to see the Titans look at are the Saints’ Eric Johnson and Billy Miller, the Bills’ Michael Gaines and the Colts’ Ben Utecht. An intriguing possibility is Dwayne Blakley, who outplayed Troupe in training camp in their rookie year, but was released because of Troupe’s draft status. All of these guys are UFAs, except for Utecht.
Next in the series we turn our focus to the tackles.