ESPN Insider: Keeping Gresham was a bad move by Cardinals
The 2017 free agency period didn’t treat the Arizona Cardinals well, as the team lost high-prized players like Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson.
But despite the losses, Arizona did manage to keep some free agents on the team, one of the most notable being tight end Jermaine Gresham.
And while the goal is to keep as many free agents as possible, ESPN Insider Mike Sando thinks the Cardinals overpaid for Gresham.
In his story ranking the value of free agency signings, Sando put Gresham in the “bad” category.
Contract: four years, $28 million
The Bengals let Gresham walk in free agency two years ago when the tight end was coming off a two-season stretch with 108 receptions for 918 yards and nine touchdowns. Gresham’s numbers are way down in two seasons with Arizona: 55 catches for 614 yards and three scores. Those are modest stats for a player now set to earn $16.5 million in guaranteed money, including $5.25 million fully guaranteed in 2018. Finding the resources to keep Gresham seemed odd for a team that couldn’t find a way to retain homegrown safety Tony Jefferson.
Sando seems to think the Cardinals should’ve tried harder to keep Jefferson, who signed a four year contract worth $34 million with the Baltimore Ravens. Although Jefferson is making more money, the contracts aren’t drastically different. Jefferson also earned $19 million in guaranteed money while Gresham made $16.5 million guaranteed.
In 2016, Gresham played in all 16 games and had 37 receptions for 391 yards and two touchdowns. Those are respectable numbers for a tight end, but his receiving yards were tied for 28th in the NFL.
But in fairness to Gresham, the Cardinals have so many offensive weapons. It’s understandable that Bruce Arians didn’t use him as often as he got the ball to Larry Fitzgerald or David Johnson.
In theory, retaining Gresham would mean Arizona wouldn’t have to draft a tight end in the first round of the NFL draft, but that hasn’t stopped some mock drafts from projecting former Alabama tight end O.J. Howard to the Cardinals.