When the New England Patriots signed tight end Scott Chandler during last year's free agency the expectation was that he would join Rob Gronkowski to form an unstoppable tight end duo, reminiscent of the team's two-headed attack of the early 2010s. The Patriots indeed had one of the best tight end duos in the NFL in 2015.
However, it was less because of Chandler's contributions and more because of Gronkowski being head and shoulders above every other player at the position and having yet another offensive player of the year-worthy season.
In the meantime, Scott Chandler was unable to emerge as a major receiving option in the Patriots' passing game and finished the year with 23 catches for 259 yards and four touchdowns. What is more problematic than Chandler's relatively unspectacular stat-line is the fact that he did not catch a single pass after week 12, while being mostly relegated to number three on the tight end depth chart behind Gronkowski and Michael Williams.
Some of this might be due to the fact that Williams offered more upside as a blocker, given the state of New England's offensive line, but some might also be because of the fact that he was unable to consistently put himself in a position to catch passes and, as a result, earn Tom Brady's trust.
Entering the preparations for the 2016 season, the question is whether or not Chandler will be able to bounce back – and whether or not the team is willing to give him the chance to do that, considering the financial framework of his contract.
As part of the deal the former Buffalo Bill signed in 2015, Chandler has a 2016 cap hit of $3.05 million, which consists of a salary of $2.0 million, a $1.0 million fully-guaranteed signing bonus proration and a $50,000 workout bonus. After Jerod Mayo announced his retirement yesterday, Chandler's cap hit is now the 15th highest on the team.
The question is if a back-up tight end is worth those type of numbers?
Based on Chandler's 2015 season and the fact that he saw inconsistent playing time and an inconsistent number of targets throughout the year the answer is "no". He never emerged as a reliable pass catcher and blocker, and paying a player of his caliber $3.0 million does not seem like good value; a major factor when it comes to the Patriots front office evaluating player contracts.
Instead, it seems like a safe bet to say that the 30-year old won't be back next year, at least at his current contract. Of course, the team and the player('s representatives) could try to work out a restructure to free up additional cap space – probably via cutting down Chandler's salary – but given the tight end's limited contributions last season, a release seems like the most realistic scenario. As a result, the Patriots would save $1.525 million but would need another tight end to offer depth behind Rob Gronkowski.
Putting all things into account, it seems as if Scott Chandler's tenure in New England is destined to come to an end after only one season. This outlook could definitely change in the upcoming weeks based on draft and free agency, but as of right now releasing the veteran tight end would hardly be considered a surprise.
Do you agree that Chandler is likely a goner? And who would you replace him with? Or would you rather try to re-work his contract to keep him in Foxboro another year?