The New York Jets are focused on upgrading their wide receiver and tight end positions this offseason, and they have been linked to just about every top free agent at each position. However, the Jets lost two of those options before free agency even began. Tight end Dennis Pitta re-signed with the Baltimore Ravens for 5 years and $32 million, while wide receiver Jeremy Maclin returned to the Philadelphia Eagles on a one year deal that could be worth as much as $6 million.
Pitta missed most of this season with a hip injury, but he emerged as a big time player for the Ravens during their Super Bowl winning 2012 season, and he is Joe Flacco’s favorite target. It was always questionable as to whether or not Pitta would reach the open market, but the Jets were expected to give him careful consideration if he did. Geno Smith has an affinity for targeting the tight end, as many young quarterbacks do, and the Jets would like to give him some help at the position.
With Pitta unavailable, the Jets will be looking at options like Brandon Pettigrew in free agency as well as Eric Ebron, Jace Amaro and the rest of a solid group of tight ends in the first two rounds of the draft. The Jets also remain interested in re-signed Jeff Cumberland, but it is unknown if they view him as a starter or a No. 2 tight end.
Maclin was someone who the Jets were much more likely to pursue. Maclin missed the entire year after tearing his ACL, but Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is very familiar with Maclin from their time together with the Eagles. The Jets were likely to offer Maclin a one year “prove it” deal, much like the Eagles did. Maclin would have been a huge upgrade for the Jets’ wide receiving corps and a perfect fit in their offense, but now they must look elsewhere.
The Jets will continue to be linked with every big name receiver in both free agency and the draft until they do something to fix the position, but they have to be disappointed to have never had a chance at Maclin. Unfortunately that’s the way things go in free agency, and the Jets are now forced to go in a different direction after never having a shot at two of their biggest offseason targets.