After drafting a tight end in back-to-back years, could one of the New York Jets’ veterans be on the trade block?
The speculation surrounding the New York Jets never seems to end.
Allen Lazard—check. But that’s not good enough: the Jaxon Smith-Njigba hype train, endless Corey Davis rumors, and Randall Cobb outrage had to move on.
Aaron Rodgers—check. Next up in the hysteria train: Quinnen Williams.
So it’s unsurprising that ESPN wanted to stir the pot a little more. This time, they chose another less-discussed position: tight end.
After the Jets signed Tyler Conklin and C.J. Uzomah and drafted Jeremy Ruckert last season, the position seemed pretty well settled for the foreseeable future. In fact, it was so set in many fans’ minds that they called out any mock drafts picking a tight end for the team early.
Still, the Jets did draft a tight end, albeit a final-round swing for athleticism and measurables rather than a positional priority. Zack Kuntz has two conflicting traits: freakish athleticism and not much else in the way of a true NFL tight end.
Still, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler wrote that the Jets could consider a tight-end trade before the season begins. Is there any rationale to that whatsoever?
The Jets selected Kuntz and won’t want to lose him. They also don’t have room for four tight ends. Therefore, one will have to go.
Or at least, that’s what Fowler is thinking.
However, I don’t subscribe to that theory at all. For one thing, who are they going to move? Tyler Conklin is their best TE and isn’t going anywhere. C.J. Uzomah is highly overpaid, but who will take an overpaid tight end?
Jeremy Ruckert? Ruckert is the guy they’re most likely to see as a part of their future. They wouldn’t have taken him in the third round otherwise. He essentially redshirted his first season because there’s a steep tight-end learning curve in the NFL. That means he likely has very little trade value, anyway.
The idea is that the Jets are going to trade one of those three to make room for Kuntz. But why does Kuntz deserve the roster spot more than any of the others?
On a team that employs a lot of 12 personnel (the ninth-highest rate in the NFL in 2022), having a backup tight end with no blocking skills and zero route-running refinement would be ill-advised. It’s hard to imagine the Jets doing so. Even if the Jets could trade Uzomah post-June 1 and save some cap space (which I can’t imagine they can), it would be very risky.
What will more likely happen is that Kuntz tries to make the roster as the fourth tight end. In my way-too-early roster projection, I did not have him making the team. Many, if not most seventh-rounders do not make the Week 1 roster with the team that drafted them.
Sure, the Jets like Kuntz’s athletic upside, but they’re also in win-now mode. They’re not going to hold a roster spot for a player whom they likely can’t throw out there for two years, at minimum.
Redshirting worked for a third-rounder. It’s unlikely to work for a seventh-rounder. More likely than not, Kuntz gets released and the Jets hope to sneak him onto their practice squad. If some other team claims him? Well, that happened with a lot of players the Jets liked last year, highlighted by Jason Pinnock. That’s just what happens sometimes.
Or, maybe the Jets do carry Kuntz—but only as the fourth tight end. Maybe they decide to carry one less linebacker or receiver or offensive lineman. But there’s no way Kuntz can be TE3 this year.
There’s enough drama surrounding the Jets. No need to drum up extra speculation in areas that make little sense.
I agree a trade is unlikely. I suspect the Jets will place the focus around weapons for Rodgers. Four tight ends may be part of that focus! This will mean cuts somewhere else on the roster, but if the Jets are in a win now mode they may just give Rodgers every weapon they can.
What about Yeboah?