Cardinals season review: Tight end

Cardinals have multiple decisions to make with free agents

The Cardinals' Jim Dray celebrates his touchdown with fellow tight end Rob Housler against the Eagles on Dec. 1.

John Geliebter / USA TODAY Sports

Over the next several weeks, FOX Sports Arizona will conduct a position-by-position analysis of the Arizona Cardinals, examining their personnel's strengths and weaknesses, the team's free agents at that position and the team's draft or free-agent needs.

STARTERS

Rob Housler, Jim Dray

Housler continued to tantalize and torture. He made some terrific catches this season, had some big games and his speed is lethal at a position where it is difficult for defenses to match up. When he is on, the Cardinals are a very difficult passing offense to defend with receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd also creating problems.

But Housler still is inconsistent. He drops too many passes; he's still not a dependable blocker; and there are games where you wonder where he is. A 2011 third-round pick, he is entering the final year of his rookie contract and will be given every chance to prove he warrants another deal in Arizona.

Dray had his best season as a pro, adding to his resume as a good blocker while becoming a more reliable receiver. He earned praise from the coaching staff for his work ethic and consistency, too. He would like to return and it makes sense for the Cards to re-sign him, given the importance of tight ends in coach Bruce Arians' no-fullback offense and Dray's versatility.

BACKUPS

Jake Ballard, Jeff King, Kory Sperry, Darren Fells, Brett Brackett, Andre Hardy

Ballard was another one of the Cardinals' many in-season additions who panned out. He joined the roster in November and played his first game since the 2012 Super Bowl, then a member of the New York Giants. Despite coming off a knee injury, he was a capable blocker and receiver. The Cards are likely to tender the restricted free agent an offer.

King never played a game this season due to a knee injury that landed him on injured reserve. He likely won't be back, given the other, cheaper personnel available.

Fells is an intriguing prospect for the Cardinals. At 6-7, 281 pounds, the former basketball player presents a big target but is still raw.

Brackett and Hardy were signed to futures contracts while Sperry is an unrestricted free agent.

FREE AGENTS

Jim Dray (unrestricted), Jeff King (unrestricted), Kory Sperry (unrestricted), Jake Ballard (restricted).

FREE-AGENT NEEDS

It depends on what happens with Dray and Ballard. The Cards would like both back but if someone more intriguing crops up on the free-agent market -- at the right price -- the Cards have shown they are willing to move in another direction.

DRAFT NEEDS

It's hard to envision the Cardinals drafting a tight end with one of their high picks unless someone too attractive is still available. On the flip side, Housler is entering a critical year so a little push from competition wouldn't hurt either.

TOP POTENTIAL DRAFT PICKS

Eric Ebron, North Carolina; Jace Amaro, Texas Tech; Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington; Troy Niklas, Notre Dame; C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa; Arthur Lynch, Georgia; Marcel Jensen, Fresno State; Joe Don Duncan, Dixie State; Rob Blanchflower, Massachusetts; Crockett Gilmore, Colorado State; Richard Rodgers, Cal; Jacob Pedersen, Wisconsin; Xavier Grimble, USC; Jake Murphy, Utah.

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