After Smith and Clark, there are names like Eric Johnson from New Orleans, Ben Troupe from Tennessee and Michael Gaines from Buffalo. Johnson is more of a receiver than a blocker, ranking fourth on the team in catches with 48. He has the ability to stretch the middle of the secondary and force mismatches. Troupe and Gaines are both pretty much in similar situations because neither one is considered a starter, but both see a lot of action and produce given the opportunity. Gaines caught 25 passes for Buffalo and Troupe caught just five for Tennessee.
Troupe was not as productive as Gaines, but he may have the best raw talent. He could benefit from a change of scenery and by landing with a team that puts more of an emphasis on the passing game. However, Gaines could flourish as he gets out from behind the shadow of his team's starting tight end, Robert Royal. He offers a little more blocking presence and power than some of the other free-agent tight ends.
If anybody knows more about Michael Gaines, I am interested in hearing it. This is really the first spot I have seen his name mentioned in the same class as Troupe and Johnson. He doesn't appear to have the same track record, but who knows. Jeremy Green and Scouts Inc are usually pretty on point. Just some extra info cause I have noticed readers can't get enough info on tight ends.
Here is the scouting breakdown of Gaines...
Comment: Gaines is a backup tight end who gained valuable starting experience when replacing starter Mike Seidman. He aligns mainly as the "Y" in the Panthers' standard regular offense but also aligns as the "H" in certain personnel groupings. He is a good athlete with size and strength for the tight end position. He is a competitive player with long arms and toughness for the position. As a run blocker, he plays with good power angles with above-average initial quickness when getting into blocking patterns. He has a good power base with inside hand placement and lower-body strength. He is not real explosive at times on contact but has good play strength to lock on and sustain. He can block on the move with good control while adjusting his angles to his targets within the box. However, he will stop his feet on contact and lacks good the ability to sustain and finish. In the passing game, he displays above-average initial quickness to get up the field. He can plant and change direction well for a guy his size at the top of stems. He has deceptive speed when stretching the vertical seam. He shows good catching skills and can extend outside his frame, although, the tight end in Carolina is not featured well in the passing game. He is not real flashy in his run after catch ability in open space. Overall, Gaines is a young, solid tight end that still has an upside to start for some NFL teams. However, he doesn't have much value as a core special team's player.