What the Eagles did: Basically, nothing.
Some people are obsessed with the rise of the two tight end formation. I’m not, but it’s become a mini-trend around the league, and the Eagles are no exception. In 2011, the Eagles backup tight end was on the field more than twice as much as their fullback.
So, logically, one might expect that the team would pursue some legitimate options to keep a third tight end, or perhaps even someone who could challenge Clay Harbor’s second-fiddle role to Brent Celek. But that didn’t happen. Instead, we have the same two tight ends we’ve seen the last two seasons, plus a pair of undrafted free agents -- one from this year and one from last year.
It’s not like the two guys they added don’t have some raw athleticism and talent. 6-foot-5, 246-pound Brett Brackett was a solid player at Penn State before going undrafted to Miami in 2011. Chase Ford, whom the Eagles signed after the draft ended this year, did next to nothing in two years at Miami after transferring from junior college, but he’s even taller: 6-foot-6, 245-pounds.
Neither player has the experience needed to serve as a backup in the NFL at this point, meaning their both probably competing for a practice squad spot.
What I would have done: It would be nice to see that the Eagles (a) had a backup plan in case either Harbor or Celek injured themselves and (b) had some competition for Harbor’s job, a backup role that actually requires a good deal of playing time. But it was not to be.
Way-too-early prediction: Celek had a great rebound year in 2011. After a disastrous 57.5 percent catch rate in 2010, he jumped back to 66 percent -- and had the highest yards after the catch per reception (8 yards) in the NFL. He’s no Gronkowski, but at 27 he still has more than a few years of above-average play ahead of him. Hopefully he can continue to improve and become more consistent going forward.
On to Harbor, I’m surprised the Eagles seem so confident in his abilities that they haven’t bothered to bring in competition. His play has been fine for a backup, and he’s improved as a blocker, but I haven’t seen anything that made me think he’s more than that. Perhaps the coaches know more than I do, and there’s actually reason to suggest that he’ll have a breakout season.