Top 3 realistic free agent tight end options for the Jets

Dec 18, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans tight end Ryan Griffin (84) reacts after a play during the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 18, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans tight end Ryan Griffin (84) reacts after a play during the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /
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Dec 18, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans tight end Ryan Griffin (84) reacts after a play during the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets didn’t use the tight end under offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. With John Morton now calling the plays, here are three tight ends who could realistically come in and make a difference in 2017.

Let’s face it, the New York Jets have no identity at the tight end position and they haven’t since 2012. Dustin Keller was the last guy who showed up week after week and gave Gang Green consistent production. Kellen Winslow Jr., Jace Amaro, Zach Sudfeld and every other tight end who rolled through Florham Park in the past four years contributed next to nothing. All they were good for was an extra body on the line.

Jeff Cumberland proved to be a decent security blanket for Geno Smith in his rookie campaign, but his career as a whole is unimpressive. He has a mere 86 receptions in 65 games. Chan Gailey’s anti-tight end approach didn’t exactly help his cause in 2015, although it didn’t hurt New York’s offense one bit. Ryan Fitzpatrick had a miraculous year and Cumberland’s non-existence was meaningless. However, this past season showed it’s time to finally care for the position.

Whether the Jets bring in another veteran quarterback or go with a youngster, they’ll need a tight end to throw to. It’ll take time for them to learn offensive coordinator John Morton’s system and a safety valve/massive target in the red zone is of high importance. Fans who hope Austin Seferian-Jenkins can make the leap have to be realistic. He has character issues and he’s injury prone which makes him a TE2.

New York finally has a chance to break the mold given the position’s stacked free agent class. They’re just a few cap casualties away from getting under the cap and putting themselves in a spot to make splashes. General manager Mike Maccagnan knows tight end is a hole to fill on the roster. Now is the best time to address it. Without further ado, here are three realistic tight end options for the Jets this spring.

Next: 3. Dion Sims

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Dec 11, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins tight end Dion Sims (80) runs the ball for a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

3. Dion Sims

Gang Green is very familiar with Dion Sims. The 2013 fourth-round pick stepped up big time in back to back seasons for the Dolphins as Jordan Cameron showed he was nothing but a waste of money. If it weren’t for Sims, Miami’s tight end situation could’ve somehow been worse than New York’s. Dominique Jones and MarQueis Gray combined for only 21 receptions alongside him.

Sims, on the other hand, finished 2016 with 31 catches on 40 targets for 290 yards and four touchdowns in 15 games. Fifteen of those 31 catches went for first downs. When you factor in the Dolphins’ quarterback situation towards the end of the year, these totals become even more impressive. Ryan Tannehill, of course, went down with what was believed to be a torn ACL in Week 14 and Matt Moore was forced to take over.

If you slot Sims in as the Jets’ starter, he’d have the chance to put up similar stats. Red zone possessions would become a lot easier as the defense puts most of their focus on Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, and Quincy Enunwa. Sims is projected to make $4.9M on a new deal according to Spotrac. This number is one New York can afford and if the length is what Maccagnan is looking for, they could without a doubt pull the trigger.

Next: 2. Ryan Griffin

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Dec 4, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Houston Texans tight end Ryan Griffin (84) during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Green Bay won 21-13. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

2. Ryan Griffin

Ryan Griffin is one of the most underrated tight ends in the league. Everyone gushes over C.J. Fiedorowicz‘s impact while the 27-year-old Griffin is doing a lot of the dirty work. The 2016 season happened to be one of his more productive years. He racked up 53 receptions on 81 targets for 471 yards and two touchdowns. You have to like that stat line especially with the erratic Brock Osweiler delivering passes.

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In 2015, he finished with 23 catches on 42 targets for 280 yards and two touchdowns in only 10 contests. Keep in mind the quarterback play was just as bad if not worse in Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden. What Griffin has accomplished would be appreciated in any offense and you have to wonder what he can do under a full workload.

If the Jets were to grant him that opportunity, he could cash in significantly. He could peak under a workload of 700-800 snaps in what should be a pass heavy offense. Seferian-Jenkins wouldn’t bite into his snap count too much. With Sims projected to earn $4.9M, you would have to think Griffin will earn slightly north of that. New York can afford it, but it all comes down to the length of the contract and guaranteed money.

Next: 1. Jack Doyle

1. Jack Doyle

Jack Doyle showed an eye-opening progression from 2015 to 2016. He went from 12 receptions on 14 targets for 72 yards and a touchdown to 59 catches on 74 targets for 584 yards and five touchdowns. Not to mention 32 of those 59 catches resulted in first downs. Obviously Andrew Luck had plenty to do with this, however, Dwayne Allen and Erik Swoope are the two other tight ends used frequently in the offense.

On Pro Football Focus, Doyle was given an overall grade of 76 which ranks 16th out of the 63 tight ends who received at least 270 snaps. He was additionally given a receiving grade of 74.2 and a run blocking grade of 69.4. His durability is also remarkable. In four seasons, he has played in all but one game (Week 1, 2013). The only thing you can knock him for is his pass blocking grade (47.1) which ranked 44th out of the 48 tight ends who received at least 30 pass blocking snaps.

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Spotrac projects him to make $6.2M per year on his new contract. Allen was retained on a four-year deal worth $29.4M, so it’d be surprising to see the Colts bring back Doyle as well. That’d be a pretty expensive two tight end system. Gang Green will be able to afford this, although they could be a bit restricted after the signing. Don’t count on the Jets pulling this off because $6.2M can fill multiple holes, but whoever plays quarterback would have a new best friend if this happened.