Over the next month, we're taking a brief and early look at some of the potential solutions that could provide offseason upgrades for the Jets in each position. Today, we continue with a look at the tight end position:
The Jets only actually have one tight end under contract right now and he's never caught an NFL pass. The Jets had high hopes for Jordan Leggett after drafting him in the fifth round and he showed some flashes in preseason, but was unable to stay healthy, so the Jets probably can't afford to rely on him having a big role.
Eric Tomlinson - an exclusive-rights free agent - should also be back, having established himself as a valuable cog in the running game.
However, what the Jets decide to do will depend on whether they bring back Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Seferian-Jenkins has already turned down a $4 million per year deal, but has stated a desire to return. After a good start, his production was a little disappointing down the stretch. In fact, Neal Sterling's yardage total in the last game of the year were better than Seferian-Jenkins posted in any game, so perhaps they'll look to bring Sterling back too.
If the Jets are going to look for a free agent, there aren't really many better options than Seferian-Jenkins.
There's a few older stop-gap type options such as Ben Watson, Jimmy Graham and Antonio Gates that would be more likely to interest a team looking for a stop-gap to get over the hump than a rebuilding team like the Jets. Graham is considerably younger than the other two, but with recent durability concerns he seems to be past his prime.
You're otherwise looking at guys like Trey Burton, Tyler Eifert and Cameron Brate. Burton has good upside, but has been less productive than Seferian-Jenkins so far. Eifert and Brate have been good, but Eifert has durability issues and Brate is only a restricted free agent.
Virgil Green is probably the best blocking tight end available but Tomlinson can play the same role for the minimum. Maybe Niles Paul could be a low-cost bargain, if the versatile 29-year old can realize his as-yet untapped potential.
It probably depends how high they are on Leggett as to whether the tight end position is a draft priority for the Jets. However, if they don't bring back or replace Seferian-Jenkins, then suddenly it becomes a big need.
This year's class has a bunch of guys with good size and athleticism, although it's a bit light on players who can be pass catchers and also hold their own as blockers.
South Dakota State's Dallas Goedert has been compared to Rob Gronkowski, but comes from a smaller school so there will be questions about his ability to produce against top-level competition.
Mark Andrews, on the other hand, did have big production at a top-rated school at Oklahoma. However, he's a little one-dimensional as he plays more in the slot than at the tight end position and isn't a very experienced blocker.
Wisconsin's Troy Fumagalli represents the best prospect in the draft that can handle both blocking and pass catching assignments, while Penn State's Mike Gesicki might be the best athlete in this year's class.
South Carolina's Hayden Hurst is another prospect who some scouts rate highly, as is Adam Breneman from UMass, although he has durability concerns of his own.
With the recent success of players like David Morgan and George Kittle who were mostly viewed as blockers when they entered the NFL, perhaps NFL teams will look for a similar bargain. 6'9" Nate Wozniak from Minnesota could draw interest in the later rounds.
How would you approach this position? Is there anyone out there you'd target who we didn't mention? Let's have your thoughts in the comments.
BONUS LINK: Tight end draft prospects breakdown