Jermaine Gresham could instantly help ease concerns about the Cardinals' tight ends leading into training camp.TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals may have found the solution to replacing tight end John Carlson.
Veteran tight end Jermaine Gresham is scheduled to visit Arizona this week, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Once he's in the building -- and the Cardinals' medical staff rules him healthy -- general manager Steve Keim can't let Gresham leave without a contract.
He could instantly help ease concerns about the Cardinals' tight ends leading into training camp.
The Cardinals' tight-end room currently consists of Troy Niklas, who's entering his second season; Darren Fells, a 29-year-old former college and international basketball player; Ifeanyi Momah, who has never played a regular-season game after entering the NFL in 2013; and Gerald Christian, who was the last player drafted this year. Ted Bolser and rookie Gannon Sinclair are also on the roster but aren't likely to make the team.
Gresham would add experience and savvy. He has 280 career receptions for 2,722 yards and 24 touchdowns in five seasons, an average of 56 catches, 544 yards and about 5 touchdowns per year. The last time the Cardinals had a tight end who caught at least 50 passes was 2003 when Freddie Jones had 55 receptions for 517 yards and three touchdowns.
But Gresham has to be healthy for the signing to make sense. He underwent surgery in March to repair a herniated disc, and the Cardinals can't afford to have an injury limit a key component at a vital position. Gresham has the receiving ability that the Cardinals need to complement quarterback Carson Palmer, who Gresham played with in Cincinnati as a rookie. He had 62 catches for 460 yards and five touchdowns in 15 games last season, while owning the lowest drop rate (1.59) among tight ends in 2014.
Gresham and Palmer would reunite five years after they connected on 52 passes for 471 yards and four touchdowns, although Gresham was targeted 82 times.
More importantly, at least to Bruce Arians' offense, Gresham is a solid blocker.
He was tied for the third-best pass-blocking tight end last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Among tight ends, he was second in pass-blocking efficiency. According to PFF, Gresham didn't allow a sack or a hit, and just one quarterback hurry in 100 pass-block snaps. He was also tied for the 35th-best run-blocking tight end.
If he's healthy -- and in Gresham's case, it's a big if -- he'll command a hefty salary. Last season, the final year of his rookie contract, he made $3.6 million. By comparison, all four of Arizona's tight ends last year earned about $5.1 million combined.
Schefter also reported that Gresham has an offer from the New Orleans Saints -- who are in desperate need of a big, athletic tight end to replace Jimmy Graham -- and has other visits scheduled over the next two weeks before camp starts. Gresham would certainly be a risk because of his back, but he could be the answer Arizona has been looking for at tight end.