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$15 Million for 21 Catches? Tennessee Titans Re-sign Backup TE Craig Stevens: Local Fan’s Take
What does an outstanding work ethic and 21 receptions in four seasons get you in the NFL? Like the grandpa in Rugrats would say, $15 million. The only difference is that it would've been closer to $15 during his time.
The Tennessee Titans and backup tight end Craig Stevens have reportedly come to an agreement that will keep him in Nashville for another four seasons. Stevens is expected to make $15 million if he plays throughout the life of the contract. He is the first of 18 players who are unrestricted free agents who need to be re-signed this offseason.
Stevens isn't exactly the prototypical tight end in today's passing game. He only had nine receptions for 166 yards in 2011. Stevens has 21 receptions for 297 yards in 58 career games, 29 of them being starts. What Stevens excels at is that he's a good blocker with an outstanding work ethic. He does everything that the organization asks of him.
Along with starting tight end Jared Cook, Stevens gives the Titans a pretty good combination at tight end. Cook was within nine yards of breaking the franchise's all-time regular-season receiving record for tight ends with 759 receiving yards. He had a 169-yard performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 16. Cook has the speed and athleticism that many teams want from their tight ends in an era where the rules favor the offenses with prolific passing attacks.
While lacking athleticism or playmaking ability, Stevens is a good player. But is a backup tight end really worth a four-year contract for $15 million?
Both players are four-year veterans. Both players have received contract extensions or new contracts. I don't think anybody who isn't the biggest Titans homer alive would say that Stevens means more to the Titans than Nelson means to the Packers. Therefore, let's compare the two players:
Jordy Nelson: 168 receptions for 2,531 yards and 21 touchdowns. Nelson had 68 receptions for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2011. He's also an emergency option as a kickoff returner and punt returner. Nelson's base salary is $13.89 million from 2011 through 2014.
Craig Stevens: 21 receptions for 297 yards and three touchdowns. Stevens had nine receptions for 166 yards and one touchdown in 2011. Stevens can play coverage units on special teams. Stevens' base salary is reportedly $15 million from 2012 through 2015.
Stevens is also older than Nelson.
There's a belief that players shouldn't be compensated based on their past performance. I hope that's the case for the Titans. I can understand that Stevens is a great person and that he's a good blocker. However, $15 million for a backup tight end when a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver just signed for less than that a few months ago? $15 million for 21 catches is over $700,000 per catch.
Either Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt got fleeced, Packers general manager Ted Thompson is a genius, or a little of both. Or maybe Titans head coach Mike Munchak has a master plan to beef him up and move him into the interior of the offensive line. Considering that the Titans had the NFL's second-worst run offense in 2011, I'd say they need some run-blockers in there.
Regardless, congratulations to Stevens and his agent on getting such a remarkable deal. Cortland Finnegan is probably hoping that you left some money remaining for him.
Joshua Huffman graduated from Middle Tennessee State University as a marketing major in 2009. He's been a Middle Tennessee resident from 1986-88 and 2001-present. He lived in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin from 1988-01 and for approximately eight months in 2009-10 while completing a 20-game volunteer position with the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers. His favorite sports organizations include the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Cubs and Nashville Predators. He also follows the Tennessee Titans, his favorite AFC team.
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