When listing the Jets needs tight end isn’t near the top of the list. It’s not that they are so set at the position that you don’t think they need anymore help, because that’s certainly not the case. Of course a healthy Julius Thomas would help this offense but he’s going to make an awful lot of money this offseason, and comes with injury concerns, and the Jets have much more important needs to fill with their money.
With Jace Amaro entering his second season the Jets will hope he can turn into a big time weapon in the passing game and while Jeff Cumberland and Zach Sudfeld aren’t superstars they both have some value in the passing game as second and third receiving options at tight end.
One of the problems last year was Rex Ryan and Marty Mornhinweg used Cumberland as the number one tight end. In fact not only did Cumberland see almost two-and-a-half times more snaps than Amaro, granted Amaro missed three games due to injury, but only four players on the entire offense had more snaps than Cumberland and those four were all offensive linemen, Breno Giacomini, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Willie Colon and Nick Mangold.
If Chan Gailey reverses those roles and has Amaro as the first tight end then Cumberland would be an adequate second tight end. You could certainly do better than Cumberland but you could just as easily do worse and the same could be said for Sudfeld.
What this group of tight ends is missing is the ability to block. Amaro was actually the best blocker of the group last year and while Amaro blocked better than expected, considering he lined up as a wide receiver for the majority of his college snaps, it says more about the lack of blocking from Cumberland.
ProFootballFocus.com graded Cumberland at -26.3 overall, -4.7 in pass blocking and an atrocious -14.3 as a run blocker last season. Sudfeld only played 142 snaps and his blocking was just below average, -0.7 in both run and pass blocking. Amaro received a +0.6 run blocking grade and a -0.2 in pass blocking.
What the Jets really need is an in-line blocking tight end. This draft class is extremely weak at tight end, although I’m sure there are a few capable blocking tight ends to be found in the later rounds, and the free agent class has a one great receiving tight end, Julius Thomas, albeit with some injury concerns, another really good receiving tight end, Jordan Cameron, with more injury concerns and a bunch of JAGS.
Available free agent tight ends include; Julius Thomas, Jordan Cameron, Charles Clay, Jermaine Gresham, Niles Paul, Rob Housler, Virgil Green, Owen Daniels, Lance Kendricks, Tony Moeaki, Lee Smith, Matt Spaeth, Dante Rosario, Jacob Tamme, Daniel Fells, Ed Dickson, David Ausberry, Luke Stocker, Brandon Bostick.
Outside of Thomas and Cameron there a few adequate second tight end options as receivers and about five tight ends who could improve the Jets offense as blockers. I wouldn’t bother with any of the receiving tight ends, except Thomas or Cameron at the right price, but I would definitely try and sign at least one of these five players (in order); Daniel Fells, Lee Smith, Virgil Green, Matt Spaeth and Luke Stocker.
All these players can block better than any tight end currently on the Jets roster and while they don’t offer much as receivers I don’t care because I’d be signing them to block.
Fells is the most intriguing name for me. Fells was signed as an undrafted free agent by the St. Louis Rams in 2008 and struggled during his three years there. He had a mediocre season with the Denver Broncos in 2011 before going to the New England Patriots in 2012.
ProFootballFocus.com graded Fells at +12.1 overall with a +2.4 pass blocking grade and a +10.8 run blocking grade during his season with the Patriots. For some reason Fells couldn’t find a job in 2013, I guess no one was interested in a blocking tight end, but last season the New York Giants signed him to a one-year deal where he graded out at +6.3 overall, +3.9 run blocking and +0.1 pass blocking.
Smith has been with the Buffalo Bills since 2011, his playing time decreased last year from the 2013 season but he has always been a good blocking tight end especially in run blocking. Green, Spaeth and Stocker haven’t graded out nearly as high as Fells or Smith at their best but they have been consistently just above average.
If the Jets would just sign one of these five options they could use Amaro mostly as a receiving tight end, and even split him out wide at times, sprinkle in some Cumberland (but mostly save him for the Patriots because he plays best against them for some reason) and either move on from Sudfeld after training camp or just use him as a rotational player/injury insurance.
This, by extension, would improve the offensive line which, of course, will help the running game and whoever the quarterback is. For too long the Jets ignored the need for a true blocking tight end, that needs to end this offseason.