The New York Jets will not be alone in the tight end market
The New York Jets have a multitude of needs throughout their roster, but there is arguably none bigger than tight end. The position is integral in Mike LaFleur‘s offense and Zach Wilson‘s development as a young quarterback.
Since Dustin Keller’s time as a Jet (2008-12), New York has failed to get even average production from any tight end, let alone a player in their prime who can provide year-to-year consistency to the position.
New York is projected to have the fifth-most salary-cap space ($50.7 million) in the NFL this offseason, per Over The Cap. That number could increase with a few releases.
The Jets will have the necessary space to make a big addition at tight end.
Among the tight ends set to hit free agency, Dalton Schultz of the Dallas Cowboys stands out as the ideal big-ticket free agent target for the Jets to solve their long-standing tight end issue. Schultz is likely just entering his best years and would be a significant addition for New York.
With that being said, if the Cowboys allow Schultz to reach the market, he will likely have multiple suitors. There are a few teams in particular who could make it difficult for the Jets to acquire the productive tight end.
Let’s take a look at all of the teams who could give the Jets a competitive run for Schultz.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are in a comparable situation to the Jets. They selected Trevor Lawrence to be their potential franchise quarterback with the first overall selection last year, have the second-most projected cap space ($59.6 million), and have a glaring need at tight end. They got only two touchdowns out of the position in 2021.
The Jaguars could absolutely be the Jets’ top competitor in the tight end market.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers also have a young quarterback in superstar Justin Herbert. They are projected to have the fourth-most cap space ($58.6 million).
Getting Herbert a great tight end is a need for the Chargers. Their top tight end in 2021 was 34-year-old Jared Cook, who is set to become a free agent.
The difference with the Chargers in comparison to the Jaguars is that they have some important unrestricted free agents of their own.
Retaining wide receiver Mike Williams has to be a priority for Los Angeles. Defensive tackle Justin Jones is another key free agent. Two other noteworthy veterans slated to be available are linebackers Kyzir White and Uchenna Nwosu.
However, the Chargers have enough cap space to re-sign Williams along with any of the other three free agents mentioned above and still make a play for a tight end to help their already great young quarterback.
Other possible competitors
There are also a few questionable teams pertaining to how they may approach the free agent market at tight end.
The rest of the teams with a lot of salary cap space (over $40 million) are the Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals, Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos, and Indianapolis Colts.
The Dolphins, Bengals, and Broncos should not be a threat.
For the Dolphins, tight ends Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe are both set to be free agents, but Miami will likely bring back at least one of them. The Dolphins also drafted another tight end, Hunter Long, in the third round of last year’s draft.
The Bengals will likely use much of their cap space to place the franchise tag on star safety Jessie Bates. They also have a much bigger need on their offensive line that they will probably look to address. Retaining C.J. Uzomah (a free agent himself) may be the route they take at tight end.
In Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam, the Broncos have two talented young tight ends.
The Seahawks and Colts could make things intriguing.
It is unlike the Colts under Chris Ballard to be aggressive in free agency, but after a disappointing finish to the 2021 season, they may look to change their approach. They do have Jack Doyle at tight end but certainly need to add more receiving options to their offense.
The Seahawks have a need at tight end and could look to please Russell Wilson if he wants to remain with the team. They do have a few free agents of their own, though. D.J. Reed, Rasheem Green, Quandre Diggs, and Duane Brown are a few important free agents they will have to replace if lost.
Teams who have the need but lack cap space
There are a few teams with a huge need at tight end but not much cap space.
The Tennessee Titans and Carolina Panthers both have a need at the position. However, they are both tight against the cap.
Carolina is projected to have $19 million in cap space per Over The Cap and needs offensive line help first. Tennessee is projected to be over the cap and will likely not be a threat for an expensive option like Schultz.
The Jets will be challenged, but the competition may not be too overcrowded
Ultimately, the Jets are in a good spot.
The two biggest competitors they will likely face on the tight end market in free agency are the Jaguars and Chargers. The Seahawks and Colts could become threats if they choose to get involved.
Jets fans with their eyes on Schultz should hope that the Chargers focus on re-signing a few of their own free agents, which would make things easier on the Jets.
It should be an interesting process. For the Jets, it is a crucial one. Adding a viable presence to the tight end group is important for success in 2022.