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Three free agent tight ends the Buccaneers should consider

At $7 million, Cameron Brate is too expensive

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Free agency begins in just over a month and we suspect the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be decently active during the month of March.

Typically, when new Head coaches come in, the roster sees a substantial overhaul within the first two years. With Bruce Arians at the helm, I think we can expect more of the same with the Buccaneers.

In our latest episode of Overtime, one of the topics discussed was possible free agent targets at tight end for Tampa Bay. On paper, you might not think they need a tight end with Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard, but I made the case for Brate to be cut, strictly because of cap reasons.

There is no doubting that Brate has a good chemistry with Jameis Winston inside the redzone, but Brate has a salary cap number of $7 million heading into the 2019 season. That is simply too much for a backup tight end. If that number held, Brate would be the 9th highest paid Buccaneers next season. The number is simply too rich for my liking and I would not be surprised at all if the Buccaneers either released or traded Brate. You could use that $7 million in better places then on a backup tight end.

Here are three names that were discussed in last week’s episode of Overtime.

1. Jesse James: James has kind of been the forgotten man in Pittsburgh. They have so many weapons that the ball simply can’t find him as much as it should. He did haul in 30 catches for 432 yards and two touchdowns last season, but he didn’t do anything special to warrant a big time contract. James is only 25 years old and still has some upside that hasn’t been reached yet with the Steelers. PFF ranked him as the 30th tight end overall and gave him a pass block grade of 76.8, which is good for top 10 at his position. Expect a $3 million dollar contract for James and for him to be a target of the Buccaneers if the team does indeed move on from Brate.

2. Demetrius Harris: Harris, like James, never really got much of an opportunity to showcase his abilities in Kansas City. Playing behind Travis Kelce, who is the best tight end in football, almost guarantees you very little action, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t a good tight end. Harris is another one of these very good pass/run blocking tight ends, which the Buccaneers need. PFF graded him a 72.0 run blocker and a 73.0 pass blocker. Both are very solid numbers for his position. Harris is 28 years old, but also won’t command a ton of money. Again, this could be a solid option for Tampa Bay if the roster shuffles.

3. Maxx Williams: This is an intriguing name for me. Williams, is a former second-round pick who has battled injuries during his four year tenure with the Baltimore Ravens. Williams, has only played in 42 games in four years, but is coming off a solid season in Baltimore. He was graded the 16th best tight end according to PFF and like the others is very good in run/pass protection. Williams isn’t the best receiving tight end, but with all the other weapons Tampa Bay has, I don’t think they need that. He’ll instantly improve the run blocking and will help out both tackles when necessary. This is a $2-$3 million dollar investment I would make if I was Tampa Bay.

To put some of these numbers from PFF I mentioned into perspective, Brate was the 61st ranked tight end last season and had a run blocking grade of 59.1. He was a little better in pass protection at 70.6, but you just can’t afford to pay your second tight end $7 million dollars.

It’ll be interesting to see which way Bruce Arians decided to go with Cameron Brate. My gut tells me there would be a decent trade market for him if he was put up.

Only time will tell.