Much of the discussion around the New York Jets this offseason has focused on their need at wide receiver. However, they have just as big a hole at tight end, where Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Winslow are both free agents. There is no chance that Winslow will be back (and rightfully so), but the Jets are considering re-signing Cumberland. Cumberland had 26 catches for 398 yards and 4 TDs this season, and in truth he seems like a better fit as a No. 2 tight end.
The Jets have been linked to Brandon Pettigrew quite a bit, and he is arguably the top tight end available. However, Pettigrew’s receiving numbers have declined each of the last two years, and he was pushed out of the Detroit Lions’ offense by undrafted free agent Joseph Fauria this season. Pettigrew is known for his blocking, though some advanced metrics indicate he is overrated in that category as well. More importantly, Pettigrew is not the receiving threat the Jets need at tight end.
Jermichael Finley could be an option, but he is coming off a scary spine injury that still casts major doubt on his future in the NFL. Finley is the most talented tight end available and is certainly the receiver the Jets need, but going into the season with him as your top option is very risky until more is known about his health. After Finley, Garrett Graham, Brandon Myers and former Jet Dustin Keller are the top options.
None of those players exactly inspire confidence in upgrading the position, so the Jets could be forced to target a tight end in the draft. The wide receiver class in both free agency and the draft is deep, and the Jets should be able to find plenty of talent there. However, the weak free agent class at tight end could be what pushes Eric Ebron to the top of the Jets’ draft board.
Ebron is a fantastic prospect, and the Jets would in no way be settling if they took him in the first round. However, if Ebron is off the board, it will be interesting to see if the Jets consider Jace Amaro or even Austin Seferian-Jenkins over players like Marqise Lee and Jordan Matthews. Given that they have equal need at both wide receiver and tight end, the scarcity of quality tight ends this offseason may force the Jets’ hand in the draft.