The Browns signed tight end Kellen Davis to a one-year deal on Friday.
Making another addition was necessary—the Browns lost Ben Watson to the New Orleans Saints in free agency and they aren't expected to bring back longtime veteran Alex Smith, leaving them with just Jordan Cameron and the newly signed Gary Barnidge, late of the Carolina Panthers.
However, was Davis the best choice? That wholly depends on how they use him.
By letting Watson go and bringing on Barnidge—a mostly-untested catching and blocking tight end who played behind Greg Olsen in Carolina and was under the tutelage of current Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski—the Browns are basically saying that they believe Cameron has shown enough development to be their No. 1 pass-catching tight end, because that job doesn't project to be Davis'.
Davis spent five years with the Chicago Bears, taking up marginal receiving duties in his second season. In four years of catching passes, he's been targeted 95 times, with just 47 receptions for 529 yards and 11 touchdowns. In 2012, he caught a mere 19 of the 44 passes thrown his way for 229 yards and two touchdowns. He also had eight drops last season, one less than current Browns receiver Greg Little, who was thrown to 87 times.
If the Browns brought Davis in to make quarterback Brandon Weeden look better, they'll need to think again. However, if he's simply going to be used as a replacement for Smith, whose primary duty in Cleveland was blocking—in 280 snaps in 2012, he was thrown to only 16 times—then the signing is a smart one.
In terms of all-around performance, Davis was Pro Football Focus' 58th-ranked (subscription required) tight end in 2012 out of 62. This low ranking had more to do with his struggles to catch what was thrown to him than anything else. In pass-blocking alone, however, Davis ranked 26th, better than Watson, Cameron or Smith.
He gave up just two sacks on the season, as well as one additional quarterback hit and three hurries, which made Davis one of the better pass protectors on the Bears offense, regardless of position. More protection for Weeden is certainly welcomed and an upgrade over Smith in that area is doubly so. In that sense, it was a good signing.
As long as Davis isn't expected to compete with Cameron and Barnidge for Weeden's passing attention this year, the Browns are in the clear. Davis is not a reliable receiving target, simply put. If the vast majority of his snaps are in protection only, then the Browns have certainly met a need with this signing. But to think of Davis as anything more is dangerous—and hopefully the Browns don't find themselves doing so once the season begins.