A major opportunity for the Jets awaits on the tight end market
New York Jets tight ends:
- Players under contract: Ryan Griffin, Trevon Wesco, Kenny Yeboah
- Free agents: Tyler Kroft (UFA)
- Reserve/future: Lawrence Cager, Brandon Dillon
— NFL (@NFL) November 5, 2021
The Position on the Position
Not long ago, it seemed like the New York Jets would be set in the tight end slot thanks to the 2019 emergence of Chris Herndon. But the embattled tight end and the last remnant of the fashion show contingent that introduced the team’s new look in the following spring was dealt to Minnesota for a fourth-round choice in the coming spring’s draft shortly before the 2022 season kicked off.
With Herndon done for, the Jets’ production from the tight end spot didn’t get much better. New York’s tight ends accumulated only 534 yards last season, the second-worst tally in the league ahead of only Carolina.
Tyler Kroft was brought in to be a red-zone target for new quarterback Zach Wilson but played only nine games due to a chest injury. Since inking a three-year extension worth $10.8 million ($4 million guaranteed) in November 2019, Ryan Griffin has tallied only 355 yards but has developed a reputation as a decent blocker.
The Jets finally appeared to pull the plug on Wesco’s fullback endeavors after bringing in Nick Bawden while Yeboah was an undrafted preseason darling who will probably get another chance to make the roster this summer.
Brown was traded to Kansas City in a deal that netted Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and later rejoined the organization after the Chiefs quickly dismissed him, but no longer appears on the New York roster.
In the reserve/future department, Lawrence Cager could be worth keeping an eye on. Tight end is a new endeavor for the 220-pound undrafted Miami/Georgia alum, who has spent each of the last two preseasons in the Jets’ system as a receiver.
Zach Wilson hits Tyler Kroft for his first NFL touchdown 🔥
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) August 21, 2021
Kroft lived up to his reputation as a reliable red-zone target… in the preseason.
Alas, the summer chemistry he developed with Wilson (notably nabbing two touchdowns from the rookie’s arm in an August win in Green Bay) never translated to the games that mattered.
Kroft earned 173 yards on 16 receptions in his limited time and scored the winning touchdown in the Jets’ cult classic win over Cincinnati on Halloween. He’s a solid blocker and a veteran voice and mind, but if the Jets need someone like that while maintaining a similar, if not greater, level of production, they might as well stick with the contracted Griffin.
Will They Draft?
Tight end will undoubtedly be high on the Jets’ spring wishlist, and that search should only intensify with a deep class entering through the coming draft.
With his equally strengthed blocking and catching expertise, not to mention a sense of leadership gained through captaincy honors, Colorado State’s Trey McBride has been a popular pick amongst Jets fans, a feeling that has only intensified he played for the National squad under the coaching staff’s watch at the Senior Bowl.
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Other statistical studs include Isaiah Likely from Coastal Carolina, Iowa State’s Charlie Kolar, and Jalen Wydermyer of Texas A&M.
If the Jets are looking to bolster blocking from the tight end department, Big Ten reps Jake Ferguson (Wisconsin) and Jeremy Ruckert (Ohio State) should be around in the latter days, as will Florida’s Kemore Gamble.
Veteran Names to Watch
Gerald Everett channeling BeastMode. #Seahawks
— NFL (@NFL) October 18, 2021
Gerald Everett, Seattle
Gerald Everett became a bit of a viral sensation amongst Jets fans when he made several mistakes in his first year in Seattle (supposedly contributing to the Jets’ shift up the draft board, which, of course, improved with each Seahawks loss after the Jamal Adams trade) but he recovered afterward to earn 212 yards from scrimmage over his final five games.
Such a stretch helped create new career-bests in nearly every major receiving category, while Everett has also displayed strong athleticism in avoiding tackles.
If the Jets are able to add Everett on an affordable deal (Seattle got him for $4 million after four years with the divisional rival Rams), they could perhaps pair him with a rookie obtained in Las Vegas.
Baker Mayfield ➡️ David Njoku
FOR 71 YARDS 🔥
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 10, 2021
David Njoku, Cleveland
As a North Jersey native and Cedar Grove High School alum, David Njoku was born to make a gridiron impact in the Garden State.
That could come to professional fruition this offseason, as the former (CGHS) Panther could be looking for a fresh start after the Browns brought in Austin Hooper on an expensive contract during the 2020 offseason.
Though he’s struggled to live up to his first-round billing, Njoku’s run blocking skills and ability to earn yards after the catch (career-best 13.2 yards per reception last season) make him an attractive free agency option, especially for a developing group like the Jets, a team desperate for any sort of offensive traction.
Dalton Schultz with his second TD of the game!
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) September 28, 2021
Dalton Schultz, Dallas
Over the past two seasons, Dalton Schultz has developed into a strong contributor in both the blocking game and on the statsheet, filling in the Jason Witten-sized hole left behind in Arlington (1,423 yards, 12 touchdowns).
Schultz seems like an ideal candidate for the Cowboys’ franchise tag, but the team needs to get back under the cap before they start worrying about that. The Jets needs to invest in as many multi-talented weapons as possible on offense, which makes names like Schultz and Cordarrelle Patterson so attractive.
Related Article: Why Dalton Schultz is a top-priority NY Jets free agent target
Similar to their problems and road ahead at receiver, Joe Douglas may have to assemble some playmakers to ensure his reign as general manager continues.
As if their lack of a four-digit yardage receiver since the Brandon Marshall/Eric Decker pairing in 2015 wasn’t bad enough, the Jets have never had a tight reach 1,000 yards. With the exception of Herndon’s freshman year flash, they haven’t had anyone reach half that since Dustin Keller’s four-year reign (2008-11).
The fact that each of their divisional brethren has each found a productive man in the spot (Mike Gesicki, Hunter Henry, Dawson Knox) has only made the absence of an impactful New York tight end even more glaring.
The Jets have set themselves up well, however, in terms of offseason assets, to the point where they can potentially address such a vital need in both free agency and the draft, finding names that mesh well with incumbent representatives like Griffin.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags