New York Jets can still attack tight end in free agency after franchise tag onslaught
When the 2022 NFL free agency period starts on Monday, the New York Jets will likely be involved in the tight end market. It is their biggest weakness offensively and it is a position that must provide better support for Zach Wilson as he attempts to take a second-year leap.
To no surprise, Dalton Schultz (Dallas Cowboys) and Mike Gesicki (Miami Dolphins) were both assigned the franchise tag prior to the deadline Tuesday. In somewhat shocking fashion, David Njoku was also franchise tagged by the Cleveland Browns.
This means the top three players on the prospective tight end market are already off the board.
With these three players no longer options for New York, let’s assess some of the best remaining tight ends the Jets could sign.
Tyler Conklin, Minnesota Vikings
Out of the six players listed here, Tyler Conklin had the best receiving production in 2021. In 17 games, he caught 61 of his 87 targets for 593 yards and three touchdowns. It was his first year as a featured target in the passing game. Conklin had 43 total targets in his first three years.
Conklin will turn 27 in July. He is an ideal fit with the Jets because of the recent proven success in the passing game which will be critical for Zach Wilson to have.
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Hayden Hurst, Atlanta Falcons
Hayden Hurst is an intriguing free agent. The former first-round pick has the talent to be a successful tight end.
Similar to Conklin, Hurst has only had one season in his four-year career as a featured tight end in the passing game. That was in 2020, and Hurst showed potential as he recorded 56 catches on 88 targets for 571 yards and six touchdowns.
Hurst will turn 29 years old in August. With consistent opportunities, Hurst could break out.
C.J. Uzomah, Cincinnati Bengals
C.J. Uzomah has spent all seven years of his career with the Bengals. After playing missing 14 games in 2020 due to a torn Achilles injury, he came back and had a good 2021 season.
Uzomah had 49 receptions on 63 targets for 493 yards and five touchdowns. In four playoff games, he added 15 catches on 18 targets for 146 yards and a touchdown.
This will be Uzomah’s age-29 season. He would bring a consistent veteran presence at tight end for the Jets.
Maxx Williams, Arizona Cardinals
When it comes to blocking tight ends, Maxx Williams is the best one listed here. In the offense Mike LaFleur runs, tight ends who can block are needed.
In the passing game, the most productive year Williams had of his career was his rookie season in 2015 (32 catches for 268 yards and one touchdown), but he was off to a hot start in 2021 until his season ended due to a knee injury in Week 5.
On 17 targets, Williams caught 16 passes for 193 yards and one touchdown, making the most of his opportunities.
Related Article: Why free agent TE Maxx Williams makes sense for NY Jets
Gerald Everett, Seattle Seahawks
Gerald Everett just had his best season as a receiver in every major category. Everett had 63 targets, 48 catches, 478 yards, and four touchdowns, all career highs.
A good athlete and blocker, Everett is a big-play threat thanks to his speed (4.62 forty-yard dash). In each year of his career, Everett has had a reception of at least 33 yards. Since 2017, Everett is ninth among tight ends with 10 catches for 30+ yards.
Everett will turn 28 years old in June.
Durham Smythe, Miami Dolphins
Durham Smythe is a great blocking tight end who just had his best season as a pass-catcher. Over his first three years, Smythe only got 54 targets. In 2021, he got 41 targets and showed potential with 34 catches for 357 yards.
Smythe has only missed two games throughout his career and is a good fit for the Jets offense with what he can do as a blocker. He will turn 27 in August.