The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could sign a young — but injury-prone — tight end in free agency.
As noted by Tyler Sullivan of CBS Sports, an “ideal” landing spot for former Dallas Cowboys tight end is the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay is likely seeking a veteran replacement following the retirement of starting tight end Rob Gronkowski, with the only viable option left on the roster being Cameron Brate.
“It wasn’t too long ago when Blake Jarwin was in line to be the TE1 for the Cowboys,” says Sullivan. “However, injuries took the 27-year-old off that path, and he would later fall behind Dalton Schultz on Dallas’ depth chart.”
“A pairing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would not only give Jarwin a fresh start, but he’d also be able to compete to be the club’s starting tight end,” explains Sullivan. “This offseason, the Bucs saw O.J. Howard sign with the Buffalo Bills and Rob Gronkowski retire, leaving Cameron Brate as the only viable tight end on the roster. Tom Brady has utilized the tight end position a great deal, so it’d behoove Tampa Bay to bolster that spot before camp. Jarwin comes with plenty of upside.”
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Jarwin’s Starting Career Derailed by Injuries
Jarwin was once the starting tight end of the Cowboys before injuries derailed his career. Upon Jason Witten’s departure to the Las Vegas Raiders during the 2020 offseason, the former undrafted tight end signed a three year, $24.25 million deal with the Cowboys.
He started the season opener versus the Los Angeles Rams, but tore his ACL on his first reception of the season. Not only would Jarwin miss the remainder of the season, backup Dalton Schultz would flourish as the starter, posting 63 receptions on 89 targets for 615 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
Jarwin would be limited by injuries again during the 2021 season, playing just eight games before being placed on injured reserve in the middle of the season due to a hip injury. The Cowboys would go on to release Jarwin earlier this offseason.
The 27-year-old’s best season to date was in 2019 when he frequently started out games in double tight end sets with Witten. Jarwin started seven of his 16 games, posting 31 receptions for 365 yards and three touchdowns.
Why the Buccaneers Should Sign Jarwin
According to Pro Football Focus, Jarwin posted a 61.4 offensive grade and a 66.6 receiving grade during the 2019 season. By comparison, Brate posted a 57.0 offensive grade and 57.6 receiving grade while playing valuable snaps during Gronkowski’s five-game absence last season.
Brate is 31 years of age and hasn’t served as a full-time starter since the 2016 season when he started 10 games. Outside of his 2016 campaign, Brate has never started more than six games in a single season.
In fact, Brate has never played more than 53 percent of his team’s offensive snaps in a given season, leaving one to question whether or not he has the durability to serve as a full-time starting tight end.
The Buccaneers’ other top tight ends are rookies Cade Otton and Ko Kieft. Kieft is primarily a blocking tight end, while Otton could one day emerge as the Buccaneers’ next franchise tight end.
Greg Auman of The Athletic tweeted on Wednesday, July 6, that the Buccaneers could add a veteran tight end before training camp.
“There isn’t a ton of difference between signing a tight end now and waiting two weeks, just before the start of training camp,” says Auman. “Makes sense that Bucs would add a proven veteran to help offset Gronkowski’s retirement.”
But Tampa Bay clearly needs insurance at the position entering training camp and Jarwin can provide that. With Jarwin lacking a market due to his recent injury history, the Buccaneers could sign him to a bargain, incentive-laden deal.
In a best-case scenario, Jarwin shows off the potential that once made him the heir apparent to legendary Cowboys tight end, Witten. In a worst-case scenario, he’s cut by the Buccaneers with very little amount of money lost.