The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got exactly what they deserved from tight end Dallas Clark during the 2012 season. By signing Clark to a one-year contract prior to the 2012 season, as I wrote after the signing, the Buccaneers were gaining the services of a player of advanced football age whose days of providing any sort of significant value in the passing game were well beyond him. Therefore, it is no surprise that after the 2012 season kicked off, Clark provided his new employers with below-average production with absolutely no hint that he could be a consistent contributor to the passing offense of the Buccaneers.
No matter which statistical category of Clark's 2012 season one looks at, one truth about the level of his play quickly becomes self-evident; in terms of value, Clark really provided none and instead was one of the least productive and least valuable receiving targets in the NFL, both relative to his own team and tight ends across the league. One could not call Clark's season disappointing, however, since no one should have been expecting much from the Clark of today.
According to statistics provided by Advanced NFL Stats, for the 16 games in which he played this season, Clark posted a win probability added of 0.02, 2.6 expected points added, 0.00 win probability added per game, and 0.03 expected points added per play. No one else on the team who received as many pass targets as did Clark (75) did quite so little with the opportunities afforded him in the Buccaneers passing offense. Additionally, Clark's statistics in the aforementioned categories placed him squarely among the worst tight ends in the NFL.
The DYAR and DVOA statistics, courtesy of Football Outsiders, tell an identical story regarding the incredible lack of positive value Clark provided the Buccaneers with this season. Clark's -32 DYAR and -13.8 percent DVOA were only good enough to rank 41st and 40th, respectively, among the 49 tight ends who were targeted for at least 25 passes during the 2012 season.
Given how feeble the value of Clark was all season, it should come as no surprise that Buccaneers quarterbacks were much better off not throwing in Clark's direction at all. Once Clark's receiving and pass target statistics, provided courtesy of NFL.com, were removed from his quarterbacks' receiving statistics, Buccaneers quarterbacks underwent a 2.0 percent decrease in completion percentage (from 54.9 percent to 53.8 percent), a 4.1 percent increase in yards per pass attempt (from 7.3. to 7.6), a 7.2 percent increase in adjusted yards per pass attempt (from 6.9 to 7.4), a 5.3 percent increase in yards per completion (from 13.3 to 14.0), a 2.1 percent decrease in touchdown percentage (from 4.8 percent to 4.7 percent), and a 20.0 percent decrease in interception percentage (from 3.0 percent to 2.4 percent).
In the most important statistical categories, having Clark on the field to throw to actually caused more damage to the Buccaneers passing attack than it did benefits. Fortunately for the Buccaneers, due to the fact the length of the contract with Clark expires after one season, the franchise will be able to quickly distance itself from his lack of productivity.
Still, there might come a day when the team wants to incorporate a tight end into the passing offense, and on that day, the Buccaneers will need to do a much better job of identifying a valuable tight end than was done prior to the 2012 season.