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Free Agency Primer 2015: Tight Ends

Carlson, Niklas, Fells on board, but Cardinals could look to upgrade position

The Cardinals are busy surveying the free agent landscape, hoping to add more key pieces to a core which has won 21 games over the past two seasons. Free agency begins on March 10, and we'll break down the team's needs at each position leading up to the signing period.

More free agent analysis: QB I RB I WR

Free agent primer: Tight ends

Cap numbers of players under contract for 2015: John Carlson ($1.65 million); Troy Niklas ($914,386); Darren Fells ($510,000); Ted Bolser ($435,000)

Scheduled free agent: Rob Housler

Need: Medium

Images of notable tight ends scheduled to hit free agency

Analysis: The Cardinals have three of their four tight ends from last year under contract, but it's still a position the front office could look to upgrade. Fells took over as the starter as the season wore on and proved to be a useful blocker, although he finished the season with only 12 catches for 71 yards. He has only played football for a couple of years after a professional basketball career, and figures to keep improving as he gains experience. Carlson led the tight ends with 33 catches for 350 yards, but had a handful of untimely drops and didn't make the impact expected after an impressive training camp. Only $50,000 of Carlson's $1.65 million cap hit is guaranteed, so if the Cardinals find an option they prefer more it would not be a costly transition to release him. Troy Niklas, last year's second round pick, was injured for much of his rookie season. He has the raw ability to fulfill Arians' vision of a tight end which can both block well and catch passes, but will need to develop this offseason. Housler is free to test the market and seems unlikely to return.

The most high-profile free agent tight ends are Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron, but the Cardinals don't seem likely to be in play for them, preferring to spend the biggest chunk of their cap space in other areas. If the Cardinals add a tight end in free agency, it will likely be someone from a lower tier who can compete for playing time with the returning players at the position. Former Eagles tight end James Casey has already reportedly visited with the Cardinals, and others could be making their way to Arizona when the free agency period opens.

Notable past free agent TE signings by the Cardinals: Carlson (2014); Jake Ballard (2013); Fells (2013) Todd Heap (2011); Jeff King (2011); Freddie Jones (2002); Chris Gedney (1997).

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