It is getting repetitive at this point to say that the tight end position is the Baltimore Ravens most glaring need.
Earlier this week, we focused on the tight ends that the Ravens could select in the NFL Draft. This year’s class of tight ends is not a strong one, and that’s why the Ravens should sign Jermaine Gresham.
The Ravens obviously know Gresham well. The former Oklahoma Sooner was the Cincinnati Bengals first-round pick in 2010, and while he has never lived up to the expectations of a first-round talent, he has enjoyed a very consistent career in his five seasons in the NFL.
At 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, Gresham has the physical traits that make him an effective option in the red zone. He has great speed and athleticism for the position, and his size gives him a large catching radius. He has not garnered much in terms of yards after the catch (5.6), but he has strong hands and will move the chains. The only major flaw in his game is fumbling issues as he’s put the ball on the turf 11 times in his NFL career.
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The knock on Gresham coming out of college was that he was a “finesse blocker,” but Pro Football Focus ranked him as the top blocking tight end in 2014. He made the Pro Bowl in 2011 and 2012, and joined Mike Ditka and Keith Jackson as the only tight ends in NFL history to have over 50 receptions in the first three years of their career. Gresham became expandable in Cincinnati with 2013 first-round pick Tyler Eifert on the team.
Some are saying that Gresham is coming off a down year, but his 62 receptions were the second-best of his career, and just two catches short of a career high. He also recorded touchdowns in each of the Bengals final three games of the 2014 season, including a nine catch performance against the Denver Broncos.
Gresham is the top tight end available in the free agent market, and it would be wise for the Ravens to make the move to bring him in. The Ravens are lacking experience on the roster with Phillip Supernaw and Crockett Gilmore as the only healthy options.
What makes Gresham attractive is his durability. The Ravens have hoped for a healthy Dennis Pitta, but he has played in just seven games over the past two seasons. Gresham has played in 74 of a possible 80 games since being drafted, while Pitta has played in just 50 in that same span.
He is recovering from surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back, but is expected to be ready for training camp. Other teams interested in the sixth-year pro are the Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills and the Bengals. He was close to signing with the Raiders earlier this offseason, but the team backed out after learning of his back issue.
A lot of the new offenses in the NFL feature two tight end sets, and what makes Gresham unique is his ability to contribute as the receiving or blocking tight end. The Ravens could still draft a tight end or enter the season with Gresham and Gilmore as their one-two punch. Gilmore hasn’t been given much credit for his strides in 2014, and the Ravens hope his progression continues.
It would behoove the Ravens to bring Gresham aboard on a one-year deal. If he makes a significant impact, he could be a long term solution. If it doesn’t pan out, he is a one-year rental and the team could go elsewhere next season.
He’s certainly a better option than what the Ravens currently have on their roster. That reason alone is why he should be catching passes from Joe Flacco next season.
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