Bills Sign Charles Clay
Former Dolphins tight end Charles Clay joined the Bills when Miami declined to match the five-year, $38 million offer sheet submitted by their division rival. Clay, who had received Miami’s transition tag, will earn $20 million guaranteed from his new team. That ranks as the third-highest guaranteed amount among tight ends.
The 26-year-old Clay caught 58 passes on 84 targets, for 605 yards and three touchdowns last season. He was limited to 14 games due to knee and hamstring injuries, and registered a 76.3 snap percentage in those contests. He played a full season in 2013 (83.3 snap percentage), and piled up 69 catches on 102 targets, for 759 yards and six touchdowns.
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Clay was the seventh-highest scoring tight end in 2013, before sliding to 15th last year. Not coincidentally, he saw the seventh-most targets among tight ends in 2013, before getting the 14th-most last season. He posted identical 7.6-yard average depth of target marks in each of the last two seasons, after registering a 7.7 aDOT in 2012.
The versatile Clay is known for lining up all over, and ran 47.5-percent of his routes from the slot in 2014, one year after logging a 50.9-slot-percentage. His drop rate of 3.33 ranked fifth out of 39 qualifying tight ends last season, and was a marked improvement on the 9.21 rate from 2013, which ranked 32nd out of 41 fellow tight ends.
In Buffalo, Clay will be vying for targets with a crowded receiving corps that includes the newly-signed Percy Harvin, and catching passes from either Matt Cassel or E.J. Manuel. The offense will be run by former 49ers coordinator Greg Roman, and his new head coach is Rex Ryan. Both Roman’s and Ryan’s offenses have regularly inhabited the bottom of the NFL standings in snaps and pass attempts.
Working in Clay’s favor is a wide open tight end depth chart, which became even more barren when Scott Chandler was cut and then signed by the Patriots to a two-year, $5.3 million contract. Another glimmer of hope is how often Ryan’s tight ends were targeted on a per-route basis during his six seasons with the Jets (0.21). As a frame of reference, of last season’s top-10 fantasy tight ends, only Jimmy Graham was targeted at a higher rate (0.22). Roman also oversaw strong tight end seasons during his years running the 49ers offense.
Clay’s departure from Miami doesn’t exactly leave their pass-catching cupboard bare, and he would have had plenty of competition for targets had he stayed. They signed Jordan Cameron last week to go along with Dion Sims on the tight end depth chart. They also upgraded their wide receiving corps by trading Mike Wallace to the Vikings, and acquiring Kenny Stills from the Saints. The Dolphins have had Michael Crabtree in for a free agent visit, and still have 2014 rookie-year standout Jarvis Landry. That’s in addition to playing in Bill Lazor’s run-heavy scheme.
Despite the steep price the Bills paid for Clay, this appears to be yet another roster addition that rates better in real football than for fantasy. With a defense that’s likely to be stout, a run-heavy scheme, quarterback issues, and many mouths to feed in the passing game, the volume-dependent Clay’s numbers will suffer. He projects as no more than a mid-range fantasy TE2.
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