Saturday, August 13, 2022

Raiders’ Darren Waller says TEs becoming more fit to carry passing game, should be compensated for production

Ever since his breakout 2019 season, Darren Waller has been one of the best tight ends in the NFL. He’s put up receiving lines of 90 catches for 1,145 yards and three touchdowns, 1076 catches for 1,196 yards and nine touchdowns, and (in an injury-shortened 2021 season) 55 catches for 665 yards and two touchdowns. 

Waller looks around the league and sees more and more players at his position who are, like him, capable of being the top option in an offense. 

“I feel like it’s a position that’s becoming more and more fit to carry a team’s passing game,” Waller said on Chris Long’s podcast, according to an transcription. “You see it on a lot of different occasions with myself for a couple years, Travis [Kelce], for a long period of time, George [Kittle], Mark Andrews setting franchise records in Baltimore, Kyle Pitts, just guys that have all the abilities necessary to be the focal point of the passing game for teams and hopefully being compensated as such.”

While there are definitely more tight ends who appear capable of carrying their own team’s passing game, the share of leaguewide targets going to the tight end position overall has been relatively stable over the last five years. In fact, in four of those five seasons, it’s been within a narrow band of one-tenth of one percentage point. 

Year Total Tgt TE Tgt % TE Tgt
2017 17,176 1,766 10.3%
2018 17,173 1,628 9.5%
2019 17,143 1,767 10.3%
2020 17,309 1,793 10.4%
2021 18,060 1,874 10.4%

Of course, Waller was talking about tight ends capable of carrying the passing game in the context of how much those players get paid. He’s got two seasons left on his current contract, both of which carry a $6.25 million base salary, $500,000 worth of per-game roster bonuses, and a $250,000 roster bonus. Obviously, those numbers pale in comparison to the contracts wide receivers are currently receiving, especially after the explosion in receiver salaries this offseason. 

“I feel like it shouldn’t be that complicated. At the end of the day, you know the impact that a certain guy is having on your team, and he should be paid according to that impact,” Waller said. “I feel like it’s the most complex set of skills that you have to have on the field. You look at a certain craft, I mean, quarterback and corner are ridiculously hard to do, but at the same time, the wide range of skills that you have to have, I feel like it’s no more than a tight end, and I don’t think it’s close.”

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