CLEVELAND -- During the 2015 season, Cleveland Browns tight end Gary Barnidge turned a team-leading 79 receptions into 1,043 yards and a Browns-best nine touchdowns, but other than him, the tight end position was not a productive one for the organization.
The Browns’ only other returning tight end from 2015, E.J. Bibbs had just one reception throughout the entire season, and he was waived ahead of tonight’s preseason finale against the Chicago Bears at FirstEnergy Stadium. However, new Browns tight ends coach Greg Seamon feels the position will play a big role in the team’s offense in 2016.
“It’s very prominent,” Seamon said of the role of the second tight end. “If you look at Hue’s (Jackson) offenses in the past, multiple tight ends are a big part of what we do. We have some flexibility in that there’s flexibility with what Gary does. He can be a point-of-attack guy. He can be a slot guy. He can be out on the edge.
“We can put Gary anywhere. That helps because we can then play off of that with how we structure the rest of the depth chart. We’ve got a good spread of other kids in the room in terms of their abilities. They’re all a little bit different. We just have to see how they perform, and then, we’ll match them up.”
In 2015, Barnidge came into the final season of his contract with the Browns having been on the receiving end of just 44 passes for 603 yards and three touchdowns over his first seven years in the NFL, but when given an opportunity to show what he could, the veteran tight end more than answered the bell.
The Browns’ 2015 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award winner for his work in the community, Barnidge more than tripled many of his single-season career highs last year. He caught 79 passes for 1,043 yards and nine touchdowns, all of which led the Browns.
In order to get some help for Barnidge, the Browns signed Connor Hamlett during the offseason.
Although the 6-foot-7, 259-pound native of Riverside, California, wanted time away from the game after a collegiate career full of injuries, Hamlett signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars and bounced around to the practice squads of the Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns during the 2015 season.
Now, in 2016, Hamlett aims to make the Browns’ roster out of training camp.
Rookie draft pick Seth DeValve was one of the other additions to the Browns’ tight end room.
In his collegiate career, the 6-foot-4, 245-pound DeValve caught 122 passes for 1,336 yards and seven touchdowns, and averaged 44.5 yards per game. In Princeton history, DeValve finished 10th in receptions and 13th in receiving yards. He ended his career with a nine-catch, 110-yard performance against Dartmouth, but missed much of training camp due to injury.
“What we have at my position really is Gary and the kids,” Seamon said. “There are five or six of them and none of them have really played. Some haven’t played at all. We are giving everybody an opportunity to play different positions within the tight end group through camp here. It’ll play itself out as we go through the preseason.
“I’m lucky in this regard. They’re all bright kids. They’re all hard workers and they all certainly have unique skills to themselves. Connor is a long, tall, spidery guy with excellent hands. He’s very smart. We’ll see how it plays out.”