Delanie Walker said months ago that he wanted to play in 2021 after sitting out last season. However, outside of a workout with the 49ers in June, Walker hasn’t garnered any attention as no team has added the veteran tight end to their roster. Over the 2018 and 2019 seasons, ankle injuries limited him to just eight games, but Walker wants to play this year, which he revealed during a podcast appearance with Turron Davenport of ESPN.
“My goal is just to try and get in the best shape I can possibly get in because I know that opportunity is going to come where someone is going to need a tight end for training camp, and that’s where my opportunity is going to come,” Walker said. “But for right now, I couldn’t tell you who I will be playing for or what teams are looking at me. They talk to me, but at the end of the day, I feel like they think that the ankle is a problem, and my age, so teams are really not trying to give me a good deal, I feel like. We’ll see what happens in a time of need when they really need a tight end.”
Walker’s ankle injuries at his age are surely the cause of the hesitancy, but could a reunion with Arthur Smith be in the cards? Smith was the tight ends coach in Tennessee during a three-year span where Walker was named to the Pro Bowl each year, averaging 78 receptions, 898 yards, and over five touchdowns. If anyone in the league knows what they can get out of Walker, it is Smith, but does it make sense?
Walker said he wants to play and would ideally sign with a contender in order to pursue a Super Bowl ring. This obviously doesn’t line up with the Falcons timeline at all. The fact that Atlanta is a few years away from truly competing for a Super Bowl and Walker’s career is nearing an end, a reunion doesn’t make much sense.
Also, the tight end group is one of the stronger position groups on the team with Kyle Pitts, Hayden Hurst, and Lee Smith — an incredibly robust top-three. Terry Fontenot has around $8 million in cap space after signing the 2021 draft class, but it would be much better allocated elsewhere, even if Walker’s services will be relatively cheap.
Walker told Davenport that he has not had any recent complications with his health while acknowledging that he hasn’t been able to test himself in-game. I believe he’ll get a chance on a veteran minimum to play on a contender, but it won’t be with the Falcons and Arthur Smith.
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