A quick glance around the AFC East shows just how pivotal the tight end position is to a team's offense. The New England Patriots struggled in the early part of 2013 but became a much different team once Rob Gronkowski came back from surgery. Down in Miami, the emergence of Charles Clay provided the safety blanket that Ryan Tannehill needed to contend for the Wild Card round.
If the New York Jets want to come back to AFC prominence, they are going to have to upgrade at the tight end position. While Jeff Cumberland was serviceable at the position in 2013, he is best suited in a change of pace role behind a more established pass blocker and pass catcher. There is a plethora of talent at the position in the upcoming free agent class and Gang Green would be best suited to aggressively pursue one of the top names.
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints - While it is highly unlikely that the New Orleans Saints will let one of the best players in the NFL walk this offseason, Jimmy Graham is without a doubt one of the top two players at his position. The 27-year-old North Carolina native finished the year with over 1,200 yards receiving and came within one touchdown of tying Rob Gronkowski's single season record of 17. Graham stands to become the best paid tight end in the NFL come season's end, but expect New Orleans to be the one writing the check.
- THE LIKELY TARGETS -
The emergence of Joseph Fauria has made Pettigrew a likely departure for the Lions in the offseason. Pettigrew enjoyed a productive 2011 season in which he caught 80-plus passes. Sadly, the tight end has done little to add to the stand-out year on his resume. Perhaps a change of scenery would bring Pettigrew back into the role he enjoyed. A workhorse, he fits right into the work ethic demanded by Rex Ryan and the coaching staff.
Like Pettigrew, Davis is another candidate who could do with a change of scenery. 2013 proved to be the implosion of several teams, including the Skins who at times seemed to lack leadership both on the field and off. While Davis started the year at No. 1 on the depth chart, it was Jordan Reed who eventually replaced him. Davis was eventually fazed out of the offense and could provide a significant boost for a bargain price.
- FAILSAFE -
Assuming that the Ravens elect to bring back Dennis Pitta as their starting tight end, Dickson would prove to be a solid option if all the available tight ends leave the bargaining table. While he may lack top talent in the receiving game, Dickson is worthy of a roster slot due to his sheer size which makes him bowl over defenders and make for a great support on the offensive line.