Going into 2013, offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch was very optimistic about the group of tight ends he was going to work with, eight-year veteran Marcedes Lewis in particular. Year one for the offense under Fisch was all about learning and growing together, coaches and players tackling a new scheme head-on, together, one step at a time.
Lewis’s season would get off to a slow start, as a calf injury that he sustained while warming up for the second preseason game held him out of the first six games with the exception of two snaps. Lewis aggravated the injury two more times which prolonged his recovery, keeping him on the sidelines a bit longer than initially anticipated.
Once he finally returned to action, Lewis gave the Jaguars some much needed help upfront, remaining one of the NFL’s best blocking tight ends. As he grew more familiar with the offense, Lewis’s receiving stats grew as well as Fisch’s ability to figure out different ways to use Lewis in the offense. In the final five games of 2013, Lewis caught 16 passes for 242 yards and four touchdowns–decent numbers for a guy who missed almost the entire first half of the season.
Many fans speculated that Lewis, who is due to make $6.7 million in 2014 with a $8.35 million salary-cap value, could be a ‘cap casualty’ and see a pink slip this offseason. In his end of season press conference, GM David Caldwell said that he anticipates on Lewis being back with the team in 2014, citing that money wasn’t the issue.
Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell on potential of keeping TE Marcedes Lewis at $6.7M in 2014: “Cap is not a problem.”
— Mark Long (@APMarkLong) December 31, 2013
Could this be another one of Caldwell’s slick ways of being coy about the future of the veteran tight end? That remains to be seen. Looking at the list of top-10 free agent tight ends in the NFL, it’s highly unlikely that we will see any of those guys in teal next season. That’s not to say however, that there won’t be a few new faces in the group of tight ends in Jacksonville next season as there isn’t all that much outside of Lewis.
Allen Reisner, a second-year tight end who the team claimed off waivers from the Minnesota Vikings, started the season at tight end with Lewis’s absence before spending eight weeks on injured reserve with an MCL knee sprain. Reisner was activated in Week 15 but never hit the field in any of the final three games. It’s highly unlikely that Reisner, who is a restricted free agent, will be back with the team next year.
Originally an undrafted rookie out of Toledo by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Danny Noble was signed to the practice squad in October before being activated to the 53-man roster in early November. Not even two weeks later, as the Jaguars faced the Arizona Cardinals at home, Noble made an impact with his first career catch, giving the team their longest play from scrimmage all season long to that point.
#Jaguars take huge gamble on 4th-1, pays off huge. 3 TE set, pass to wide open Danny Noble for 62-yd TD. Nobody near him. First career catch
— Eugene Frenette (@GeneFrenette) November 17, 2013
Noble is under contract with the team for one more season, set to make $570,000 in 2014.
Clay Harbor was claimed off waivers from the Philadelphia Eagles shortly before the season began. While he played all 16 games and started seven, Harbor didn’t have the level of blocking skills that Lewis does, a big reason for the Jaguars struggles in the run game early on. Harbor finished out the season with a dismal 292 yards on 24 receptions and three touchdowns. He’s an unrestricted free agent who more than likely won’t be back.
Fisch has made it clear that he would like for Lewis to be back with the team in 2014, but that a decision like that is left up to head coach Gus Bradley and [Dave] Caldwell. Ideally, his offense would feature a lot of two tight end formations. With Reisner and Harbor gone, Lewis and Noble under contract as well as Brandon Barden who signed a futures contract with the team at the end of the season, there’s some uncertainty surrounding the tight end position.
Follow Grant on twitter @GGunderson18.