Before the Washington Redskins made it out of the preseason in 2015, they lost tight ends Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen to season-ending injuries.
Paul broke his left ankle in the first preseason game and Paulsen needed surgery to repair turf toe – leaving the Redskins without two of the three tight ends expected to be on the active roster.
The one constant was Jordan Reed, who emerged as one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league after hauling in 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. Reed was rewarded with a five-year, $50 million extension in the offseason.
Reed will again be a favorite target for quarterback Kirk Cousins, but what will the rest of the group look like with the return of Paul and Paulsen, plus the addition of veteran Vernon Davis? With training camp one week away, the position breakdown continues with a look at the tight ends.
Roster locks: Reed, Paul
Likely: Davis, Paulsen
On the bubble: Derek Carrier, Marcel Jensen
What to expect: The Redskins made Reed one of the highest-paid tight ends in the league and they expect him to perform like it after his breakout season. Reed sustained a concussion and sprained his right MCL and ankle in Week 4, but was on the field for a career-high 14 games. Reed was also in the best shape of his three-year career — he only played in 20 of his first 32 games — and it showed on the field. He was a matchup nightmare for opponents — too fast to be covered by a linebacker and too big to be stopped by a cornerback or safety. Reed was held out of mandatory minicamp as a precaution because of a rolled ankle but is expected to be ready for training camp.
Paul is eager to get back on track after sitting out last season. He gives the Redskins another receiving option and will be counted on as a blocker. After the Redskins decided not to retain veteran fullback Darrel Young, coach Jay Gruden said Paul will get some playing time lined up at the position, fulfilling a need without the team having to carry a traditional fullback on the roster.
The Redskins chose to retain Paulsen on a one-year contract and he’ll likely fulfill his role as the team’s true blocking tight end. Davis, 32, also was brought in on a one-year deal and his $1.35 million base salary is the second-highest in the group behind Reed. Davis is not the same threat he was with San Francisco, but believes he can still be effective. The Redskins seem to agree. Davis said he struggled to pick up the Broncos’ playbook when he was traded to Denver last season and said he is already feeling more comfortable in Washington’s system.
Carrier, who is recovering from a torn right ACL and MCL sustained in December, could start the season on the physically unable to perform list.
Because of the absence of a true fullback and the possibility of carrying two quarterbacks, the Redskins would have the room on the roster to carry four tight ends.