New York Jets Free Agency Primer (Tight Ends)

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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

TE Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 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

TE Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  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

TE Ed Dickson, Baltimore Ravens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

TE Brandon Pettigrew, Lions

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

TE Fred Davis, Washington Redskins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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  • Harold

    No to all these guys especially Dickson and Pettigrew. Not natural pas catchers who drop too many easy passes.

    Dennis Pitta is one of the Ravens top priorities. He is more like a 2 than a 6.

    Fred Davis is a more likely option because of injuries to be signed.

    However, I don’t believe in signing TE’s in F/A. The breakdown to quickly. It is similar to paying money to RB. Not a good investment.

    Kash if you read this I responded to your comments about Harris on the prior thread.

  • Lidman

    Fred Davis might also receive 6 game suspension:http://goo.gl/deJMqj

    Jermichael Finley is also a FA.

    Celek has good chance of being cap casualty too.

  • Dave2220

    Based on this list, i’d keep Cumberland

  • MHous

    Hope they sign 1 in FA and draft another in early rounds…keep Sudfield and go from there. Get rid of Winslow and Cumberland as soon as they can.

  • KAsh

    Resign Cumberland. Get Pettigrew. Draft a TE only if you like one (stay away from Ebron and Amaro).

    Have a competition.

  • John X

    This is a good summary of the TE FA class as it’s getting bleaker with every day. The only hope for getting help there is through a couple of cap casualties. Keep an eye on the Eagles as they have two TE’s due to be overpaid the same amount of 4M – James Casey and Brent Celek. Celek would be the prize here as he’s a reliable veteran that played in Marty’s offense and still caught 32 passes as the primary blocking TE. Casey would be a slight to moderate upgrade over anything we have for the move TE position. I’m not a big Cumberland supporter.

    IMO, this FA class only accentuates the likelihood of the Jets selecting a TE with their 1st round pick.

  • John X

    Kash, why do I find myself shaking my head at so many things you post?
    Who knows? You could be right. Not many options. I can’t agree with staying away from the two most productive TE’s in this year’s draft. That’s a head-scratcher. It’s everything the Jets need and can’t address in FA.

  • KAsh

    @JX

    Is it really versatility if the only question is whether the guy runs a route five yards right or five yards left of the seam? Why are pass-catching college TEs the only players in all of football who are applauded for not being good at two positions?

  • John X

    I don’t know what you are referring to, Kash. I wasn’t harping about versatility. If you’re claiming that move TE’s are one-dimensional in that they don’t have rigorous blocking assignments, so what? They are actually a big target for releases, red-zone mismatch, seam routes…I don’t even know what you’re talking about here.
    Maybe you don’t believe that the 1st round is worth their value. To that I’d say good luck with being satisfied with Niklas or Fiederowicz as your feature “move” TE.

  • Lidman

    John X

    My issue with first round TEs is they never seem to work out. It’s an ‘odd position’. I don’t doubt Ebron’s gifs/abilities. However, my only question is why isn’t he a WR? Is it because he was a converted DE, and his size/athletic ability made him a great candidate to swith to offense. Or, is it because he couldn’t consistently beat CBs, so they moved him to TE where he would be matched against college LBs, most of the time? He never blocks…ever. Go back and read Dustin Keller’s draft report, he sounds a lot like Ebron. I think what makes Gronk so great, and what I believe will make Dwayne Allen great, is the ability to be on the field (when healthy, in Gronk’s case) all the time. When you have a ‘flex’ TE, their presence on the field, it gives the opposing D a better probability of guessing right, and having the best personnel on the field.

    In the past 10-15 years, I think you can say Gonzalez,Gates, Gronk and Graham have proven to be ‘game changers’, and guys the defense had to account for at all times, because they were the primary option (if Ebron’s name began with ‘G’, I might be higher on him). That’s 4 TEs. How many others have played the game? Conversely, there have been other, lower round picks, who have been very productive. How many TEs are referred to as the ‘security blanket’?

    I’ll continue to say this: sure, if one of these TEs is the best player on your board, at 18, go get him. When I look at the NFL, I just don’t see many 1st round TEs giving their teams a performane worthy of that draft slot. On top of that, there are numerous examples of later round guys, with size and athletic ability, that can be very good, productive players.

  • Dan in RI

    Cumberland and Winslow had their moments last year, but Winslow will not be back (his off the field problems sealed that fate). Cumberland is worth keeping at the right price–and I trust Idzik to set a realistic ceiling on what that price might be. The scouting department will watch a ton of film on every possible TE and WR–a hell of a lot more than I will. My guess is that we go with a TE in the 2nd or more likely the third round, unless Idzik & Co. absolutely fall in love with Ebron or Amaro. We are likely to have a bunch of 3rd round picks (Tampa’s, our own, and compensatory picks)–so I would expect that is where we will address this particular need. The first round choice, as much as we would like to see a WR or TE will almost certainly be based on BPA. If a WR happens to be #1 or #2 BPA, they’ll go that way, most likely.

  • Nikolas

    I have no problem with a TE be drafted in the first (Ebron or Amaro) but I think Kash has a point.
    What if, in the first round, at (18th) there is a Zack Martin available? I would draft Zack Martin over any receiver or TE in this draft because he would solidify our OL. Zack can play OG, LOT and ROT. His value to our team is tremendous! His impact will be instant and great (Games are won in the trenches).
    So if I draft a Zack Martin then drafting a TE in the later rounds is an option, but do we really believe that the “draft” will be better than Pettigrew? I want Cumberland resigned too.

  • Dan in RI

    As for early round vs late round TE’s–some of the greatest have been 1st rounders–John Mackey, Tony Gonzalez, Mike Ditka, Ozzie Newsome, Dallas Clark and Vernon Davis, for example. Some have been second rounders–Gronkowski, for example. The third round has produced Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten and Jermichael Finley. Of course, there have also been some late round or UDFA gems–Shannon Sharpe and Jermichael Finley, for example.

    This little history lesson points out what perhaps should be obvious–the first round has produced some of the best TE’s of all time. It is easy to forget that as a Jets fans, since we have a pretty poor history of picking 1st round TE’s–Kyle Brady and Johnny Mitchell preceded Dustin Keller (who has had a nice career, but is no Jimmy Graham).

  • Dan in RI

    If Celek is available (remains to be seen), I’d snatch him up in a heartbeat. 2013 was one of his worst year, as far as yards and receptions, so Philly might have second thoughts about his price tag.

  • Lidman

    Dan, you gave me 5 1st round TEs, over a 50yr span. Mackey was a 2nd round pick (19th overall, but league was smaller then). Newsome would have flourished in today’s NFL, he was ahead of his time. Dallas Clark is exactly what I’m talking about: good NFL player, made some Pro-Bowls, but not a star, not the guy who keeps DCs up at night.

    Someone mentioned this earlier, I think TE, like RB, is a place where you can find a very good player, later in the draft. I think your second list proves that theory a bit.

  • Lidman

    Agree on Celek..good player..knows Marty’s system. I’d prefer him to Pitta. I think he offers more as an in-line blocker. Think Philly moves on from his as they have some cap issues/extensions to deal with, and Ertz has proven to be a very solid TE.

  • John X

    Lidman,
    You’re losing me with your thoughts…Celek is not nearly the TE Pitta is and this will be quickly demonstrated through contracts dealt this season. Celek was #2 to rookie Zach Ertz. Pitta is about to command a very large contract.

    As for your theory about getting “very good” TE’s, who and where in the draft do you suggest? I maintain that there are only three “move” TE’s worth drafting as a #1 target for Geno and they all reside in the 1st round to early 2nd. But maybe there are some sleepers. And maybe you don’t value the intermediate target a #1 TE provides for a young franchise QB as much as I do. I’d be leery of targeting that #1 TE on the 3rd day, that’s for certain. Has it been done? Yes. Does that mean the likelihood is high that one can be found that doesn’t need years of development? Therein lies the rub. And we all know Brady was a 6th rounder – this doesn’t mean you can expect to find a HOF’er in the 6th round…this is essentially the flawed logic you use here.

    Do you really think the team can afford to wait on offensive players to develop thereby stunting Geno’s development? I think it’s quite a serious thing to consider. Grab a 3rd TE, and you’ll have to develop him, most likely.

    Let me know who you have in mind. Thanks.

  • GC

    Im surprised there was no mention of Garret Graham. He is an excellent up and coming player, 6’3 240 lbs, who had 40+ catches last year in a limited role with case keenum as his QB. He can also block enough to be a HUGE upgrade over any player we put out at TE in 2013.

  • John X

    Good point, GC. Graham’s a viable option and you’re right, he’s better than anyone we have as well as Fred Davis, Dickson, and probably Pettigrew. I’d personally be thrilled to address this position without burning a high pick. Maybe this gives me hope.

  • KAsh

    @JX

    I mean what Lidman said: Ebron and Amaro cannot play TE and they cannot make it as WR, but they do great in college where inferior defenses have a hard time matching up to them.

    Ebron seems to have too much ego; when you look at his strengths and weaknesses, he is good at all the glamorous things that will get him on a highlight reel, and then he struggles with everything that will not get highlighted in the news. He can make a one-armed catch fifteen yards down the field on third down, but he will drop a perfect pass dumped off into the flat with nobody covering him. When he wants to, he can get a solid block. When he does not feel like it (and when he simply does not know his own blocking assignment) he will whiff. He rounds routes, relying on athletic displays to get him open. When you list all his problems, the guy is Cumberland.

    The Red Raiders destroyed whatever preference I could have had for Amaro. I do not remember one instance where he blocked on the line. He is a slot receiver (and an average college slot receiver, by his numbers) whose only advantage over guys you can get in the third or fourth round is his run blocking. For a huge body (6’6″, 260 lbs.), Amaro struggles with physicality: gets jammed at the LoS when he does line up there and generally avoids getting physical with guys that can beat him. Both Ebron and Amaro, I should mention, have mostly blocked DBs and on occasion LBs, Ebron by choice and Amaro by scheme. They are very good at blocking guys 80% their own weight.

    This will greatly depend on their interviews, but I suspect Ebron has a very vague idea of football and a very good understanding of his own athleticism. Amaro is a mystery to me; he seems like a guy who could have been great (maybe is great?) had he gone to a different school that taught him how to be more like a TE.

    I think ASJ is a late-first round pick, and these two are inferior to him. ASJ showed off his receiving skills last year, and this year, he improved as a blocking TE. This year, ASJ failed to catch some easy passes, and he is not as athletic as the other two (he looks more like Tony Gonzales) but he is a much more rounded prospect than Ebron or Amaro.

  • John X

    Wow, Niklas. I think you might be holding on to Pettigrew’s hype coming out of college because he’s produced very little and considering his playing in a pass-first offense is more telling. He’s been very average and struggles to separate. A decent blocker but already 29 and a belief that he should command a big contract all tell me to stay away. Quite frankly, he’s not very good.
    And to claim that he’s better than the top rookies in this class? No way. I can’t agree with that.
    Just for comparison’s sake, Ebron surpassed Vernon Davis’ ACC TE receiving record. He’s no chump. He’s every bit as fast and athletic as Davis but not as strong physically of course…but he’s a junior in college. Amaro had 98 catches for 1,240 yards. He catches everything thrown at him. You can’t envision either of these guys developing with Geno for years to come? I can.

    I think a lot of you that are looking for shortcuts at TE could very likely go into the season with a position that won’t be capable of bailing out your young franchise QB and team that’s desperate for targets. And Cumberland has proven to disappear when Geno needed him most. I believe Sudfeld will beat him out.

    As for OG in the 1st, yikes. That’s a tough pill to swallow. If the Jets have addressed attaining weapons adequate to foster Geno’s growth, sure, that would be nice but that’s a far-fetched luxury idea at this juncture. Skimping on playmakers later in the draft is dicey.

  • John X

    Kash,

    I deleted everything I was going to say.

    I see that you think Ebron’s overrated as well as Amaro.

    I see you want Cumberland and Pettigrew. We differ greatly. Nothing more to say.

  • Steve Windeler

    Graham was lined up over 50% of the time as a WR. He’s going to fight the franchise tag, and he will win. I don’t think the cap strapped Saints can afford to pay him WR money so there is still a chance. I’d give it a 3.

    Please let Cumberland go, and find me a TE that can block, or one that’s special, or both. Thank you Id.

  • KAsh

    I am not under the illusion that Pettigrew and Cumberland will carry our offense for years to come. I am just not under the illusion that Ebron or Amaro will be any good, especially as the main TEs. (I do not know how people make the leap in logic from Ebron and Amaro being good pass catchers to Ebron and Amaro being good in-line TEs, especially when their college coaches did everything humanly possible to not line them up there.)

    The players Ebron and Amaro remind me of are guys like Keller: good pass catchers that never bothered to get good at blocking. Keller is a free agent and will be over a year removed from surgery by the start of the regular season. And yet, I have not heard one Jet fan pine for him. This “new breed” of pass-catching TEs can be picked up by the handful in FA for millions less than you would sign the 18th pick, and the only difference is that everyone already knows the FAs suck while the college players are a yet unknown commodity.

  • KAsh

    This draft is not that good at TE, with no solid first-round prospects or much depth later in the draft. With limited resources in both FA and the draft, it is important to take the least amount of input and get the most out of it. Solidify what we do have: consistent needs to be valued more than good and it is better to shore up the position than to try to manufacture a fit. Cheap, second-tier FAs and development of young talent behind them is the way to go.

  • Anthony

    If you’re going to spend a first round pick on a TE, why not just spend two and get jimmy graham?

    If we agree that graham is the single greatest mismatch in football, and that 1st round TEs can take forever to develop into solid producers, just pay the money to get the best in the league.

    Are we a Jimmy Graham/Golden Tate offseason away from a productive offense?
    That’s the question I want to see answered.

  • Lidman

    John X

    I don’t see how Pitta is greatly superior to Celek. Their really isn’t much support for that. They both average around 3 rec per game, Celek has been the better YPR guy, but 3yd and he’s been the better RZ target, see TD production. Don’t take this as I’m in love with Celek, I’m not. He’ll be cut, because Ertz is a very good looking player, and they need his $4mm cap hit. You may well be right, on Pitta receiving a big contract. I wouldn’t pay up for Pitta, when Celek is at worst, his equal.

    It’s not that I don’t value TE, or think it’s easy to find one later. However, I think the recent success of NE TE attack and Graham’s emergence is causing the position to be a bit overvalued, IMO. Look at the NYG, who’ve let their TE walk, and generally had success finding adequate replacements.
    It’s like that old adage: “when the cab driver starts giving you tips on the stock market, it’s likely overvalued and time to get out”.

  • Mike Z

    I would be very happy if we jumped on one of the available free agent Tight Ends, (most interesting seems Celek if he becomes available because he knows MM’s system). Celek, Pettigrew, Pitta, Dickson or Finley would all be an upgrade on Cumberland and Winslow. I agree that Tight End is a tough 1st round pick. With one of those FA’s signed, I would be content drafting a second TE using one of our 3rd round picks. My hope is that one of the big three receivers, (Watkins, Lee or Evans) drops into our laps at 18. Lets face it folks we need a game breaking Receiver. The FA Receiver class is thin. Hoping we pick up Tate who could be a solid #2 or #3 Look no furter than this year’s Super Bowl, in order to compete in today’s NFL you need at least 3 GOOD receivers. Nelson is a solid 4 and Hill, (who knows)
    We still need a Safety and OLB which we should be able to pick up in rounds 2 and 3 and still get a quality TE with one of those #3′s to compete with FA signee as starter.

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  • David

    @Anthony, agree 100% with you on Jimmy Graham. If the Jets are good next year, you would be giving up #18 overall and a pick likely in the 20′s next year for the best TE in the game. The two 1st rounders would not scare me one bit at making a monster offer to this guy.

  • Bacon

    Pettigrew would be a solid depth signing. The Jets will need a guy who can block, especially if Jace Amaro ends up being the 1st round pick.