With approximately $30-40 million in cap space, the New York Jets are pegged to be players when the new league year begins on March 3rd, 2014. Today, we look at free agent Tight Ends. Check out our look at wide receivers from last week here.
The New York Jets signed Kellen Winslow, Jr. to be the safety blanket for Geno Smith during his rookie year. However, it was Jeff Cumberland that was utilized down the stretch in the passing game. Now, both tight ends are set to hit the open market. It is very possible that both are let go as the Jets choose to use one of their draft picks to draft a TE and use free agency to sign another. As of right now, I’d bank on only Zach Sudfeld being on the Jets roster out of their current tight ends. Who will be available at TE this offseason? Let’s take a look.
1. Jimmy Graham
2013 Stats: 86 receptions, 1215 yards, 14.1 yards/catch, 16 TDs
Analysis: Jimmy Graham put together his third straight 80+ catch, 900+ yards, 9+ TD season and cemented his spot as the best Tight End in the NFL. He had a subpar postseason, as the Seahawks appeared to get in his head, but that shouldn’t take away from the monster season Graham put together. He is the best offensive player set to hit the market in quite some time (non-QB). Graham is a matchup nightmare in the red zone, can stretch the field vertically, has sure hands, and is still improving as a blocker. He was lined up in the slot, as a flanker, and from a traditional TE position by Sean Payton, so his versatility adds to his value.
Likelihood While it’s nice to dream about a Graham “83″ Jersey in Green and White, this is going to be a 0. Jimmy Graham is the Saints’s best offensive weapon outside of Drew Brees, and the Saints have already stated that they will place the franchise tag on Graham. He’s not going anywhere.
2. Dennis Pitta
2013 Stats: 20 receptions, 169 yards, 8.5 yards/catch, 1 TD
Analysis: As instrumental as Anquan Boldin during Joe Flacco’s Super Bowl run, Dennis Pitta bounced back from a fractured hip and played in just four games this past season. During those four games, he averaged 5 receptions for 40 yards. Pitta did appear rusty, but demonstrated good hands and a willingness to work in the middle of the field that Flacco didn’t have all season.
Likelihood: New Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak said during his introductory press conference that Dennis Pitta was going to be a big part of the Ravens offense. It’s possible the Ravens look to resign Pitta before he hits free agency. However, i’m going to put this at a 6, and adding a player like Pitta would be a huge coup for the Jets. Before the hip injury, Pitta put together back to back seasons of at least 40 catches and at least 400 yards, and at least 3 TDs. Pitta may not be viewed as a game changer, but he moves the chains and could come at a price much lower than a Jimmy Graham would.
3. Ed Dickson
2013 Stats: 25 receptions, 273 yards, 10.9 yards/catch, 1 TD
Analysis: Dickson got the opportunity to start while Dennis Pitta was recovering from his hip injury, and Dickson was subsequently replaced by Dallas Clark for long periods of time. Dickson did display sure hands when he was targeted, but it’s possible he was a victim of a poor season by former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco. His 10.9 yards per catch were the 2nd highest of his career, but he struggled to get open in the middle of the field. His blocking was, also, subpar.
Likelihood: If the Jets do not sign Dennis Pitta, they could do ALOT worse than signing his teammate Ed Dickson. Dickson’s ability to work the seams and be lined up all over the formations is versatility that Marty seems to like from his TEs, so i’ll put this as a 5.
4. Brandon Pettigrew
2013 Stats: 41 receptions, 416 yards, 10.1 yards/catch, 2 TDs
Analysis: Brandon Pettigrew just finished putting together his fourth straight season with at least 40 receptions, 400 yards, and 2 TDs. He’s played in 71 out of a possible 80 games, so those “injury prone” labels aren’t accurate. Pettigrew is 28 and has shown that he can produce in an offense where he’s clearly not the #1 or #2 target. During his second and third seasons, Pettigrew had 154 receptions on 237 targets, good for a catch rate of 65 percent. Pettigrew is, also, a solid blocker.
Likelihood: The Lions are most likely letting the former first round pick walk, due to the emergence of Joseph Fauria. Because of this, and because of what he would cost, i’d put this as a 9. Pettigrew, like Pitta and Olsen, operates primarily in the middle of the field with the ability to go vertical. The Jets will run the ball with Chris Ivory next season, and Pettigrew is a good enough blocker that he doesn’t have to come out when the Jets run. He’d be a good signing by John Idzik at a reasonable price.
5. Fred Davis
2013 Stats: 7 receptions, 70 yards, 10.0 yards/catch, 1 TD
Analysis: Very similar to how Fred Davis emerged on the scene after Chris Cooley was lost to injury, Jordan Reed took advantage of Fred Davis’s recurring knee problems and became a viable TE in the NFL. Davis had his best season as a pro in 2011, as he’s continued to battle injuries. This past season was no different as he only started three games.
Likelihood: A 3 for now, but Davis would be an Idzik-like signing because he’s battling a similar situation to Kellen Winslow last year. Davis isn’t as good a blocker as the three TEs mentioned before him, but if healthy would be a great asset in the passing game.
TOJ will be working out of the MetLife Media Central this week. You can register here or contact Shane Arman at Shane.Arman@BM.com