Gary Barnidge was the breakout star in 2015 for the Browns as he led the team in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. It was a remarkable year for Barnidge, who had spent all of his career up to that point as a backup tight end. The Browns smartly signed him to a good contract this offseason. However, behind Barnidge there isn’t very much to see.
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The backup tight ends offered little in the pass game or as blockers. Jim Dray only caught six passes and E.J. Bibbs struggled to see the field. Rob Housler was waived mid-season. In addition, Barnidge will turn 31 shortly after the start of the 2016 season, so the Browns need some talent and youth at the position.
Free Agent Options
Dwayne Allen from the Indianapolis Colts would be a good addition for the Browns in free agency. Overshadowed somewhat by Coby Fleener, Allen is a much more rounded player. In Indianapolis, where he played under new Browns offensive assistant Pep Hamilton, Allen was relied upon as a blocker, something the Browns’ tight ends did not do very well in 2015. As a receiver, he caught eight touchdown passes in 2014, making Allen a good No. 2 alongside Barnidge.
Ohio State’s Nick Vannett is a great prospect. He was somewhat underused as a receiver at Ohio State, partly because of his excellence as a blocker, but has prototypical size and moves fluidly. He could be a day one contributor for the Browns.
Western Kentucky tight end Tyler Higbee has a lot of potential later in the draft. A former wide receiver, he still demonstrates natural ability as a receiver and at 6-foot-6 is a big target. He needs a lot of work as a blocker, often struggling with leverage, but isn’t averse to it and can overpower smaller players.