Should the Jets re-sign or decline Austin Seferian-Jenkins?
By Justin Fried
In this edition of “Re-sign or Decline,” we take a look at a player whose road to redemption was one of the feel-good stories of the 2017 season. Should the New York Jets bring back Austin Seferian-Jenkins?
There have been few comeback tales more compelling than that of Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
The skilled tight end was once looked at as a waste of talent with multiple DUI’s to his name. Seferian-Jenkins was waived by the team that decided to use a second-round pick on him, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, after only a couple seasons in the league and it appeared as if the former Washington Husky would be out of the league before long.
As the story goes, the New York Jets claimed Seferian-Jenkins off waivers giving the big-bodied athlete one final shot at redemption.
Redemption came calling and Austin Seferian-Jenkins answered.
The road to recovery truly began this past offseason when ASJ committed to cutting alcohol out of his life in an effort to lose weight and get in his best shape since his college days. Over a year of sobriety later and Seferian-Jenkins has lost over 30 pounds and certainly appears to be in better physical shape than he has been for quite some time.
The 2017 season was evidence of this as he quietly put together the best season by any Jets tight end since the days of Dustin Keller. While that may not be saying too much, it’s certainly a major turnaround for the once Tampa castoff who’s body shape looked more like that of a middle-aged father than a professional athlete.
The story is inspiring, yes. But football is a business, not a soap opera. There’s a legitimate argument to be made that the Jets shouldn’t, in fact, bring back the talented tight end.
However, let’s first take a look at why they might want to re-sign the 25-year-old Seferian-Jenkins.
The Case to Re-sign
The tight end position was, for all intents and purposes, reintroduced into the Jets offense this past season.
While some of that could be due to the new offensive scheme implemented by the since-departed John Morton, much of the credit should go to the new influx of talent that was brought upon by Seferian-Jenkins.
Put simply, if your best tight ends are named Kellen Davis and Brandon Bostick it shouldn’t be surprising to see a lack of offensive production from the position.
The much more talented Seferian-Jenkins hauled in a total of 50 receptions for a modest 357 receiving yards. Nothing spectacular, but respectable nonetheless. To put that in perspective, however, Seferian-Jenkins caught just short of double the number of catches from Jets tight ends over the past two years combined. During the course of those two hapless seasons, Jets tight ends averaged just over 0.8 receptions per game.
Seferian-Jenkins blew those numbers out of the water putting up career highs in receptions, receiving yard and falling one short of his high in touchdowns, although many would argue that this statistic is incomplete.
The former Buccaneer is a valuable asset, at only 25-years-old, whose large frame makes him an ideal red zone target. He has the ability to run crisp routes up the seam, although the Jets primarily used him in underneath patterns. Seferian-Jenkins practically lived in the flats in 2017.
With a new offensive system under promoted offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates and some stable quarterback play, the Washington product could be primed for yet another breakout season if used the correct way. Sure he could run an out-route with the best of them and his in-line blocking is slightly above average, but it would be nice to see the Jets use Seferian-Jenkins more downfield to spread the defenses out and allow him to go up and grab 50/50 balls.
Regardless, both parties would mutually benefit from a reunion, but will they be able to find common financial ground?
Next: The Case to Decline
The Case to Decline
As is with any major decision made in the sports world, money is a principal factor in determining a player’s status with a team at any given moment.
The case of the Jets and Austin Seferian-Jenkins is no different.
It was reported last month that the 25-year-old rejected a two-year, $8 million contract offered by the Jets. While this may just be preliminary discussions, it appears that the team and Seferian-Jenkins himself have different opinions on the true value he brings to the table.
Per Spotrac, Seferian-Jenkins’ market value is currently set at approximately $4.1 million over three years which makes the Jets offer a relatively fair deal, although the sum is a little low for just two years. Allegedly, the tight end turned down the offer because he felt the deal didn’t include enough guarantees and incentives.
If a middle ground cannot be reached, the Jets could opt to move on from Seferian-Jenkins in search of a more suitable replacement. This year’s free agent class has some notable names with Trey Burton and Luke Willson being the most intriguing, low-cost options. If the team wants to indulge they could look the way of veteran Jimmy Graham, although there are likely positions of higher importance the Jets will look to spend on in the offseason.
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If the team is really concerned about saving money, taking a shot in the dark with the current crop of tight ends currently on the roster is a cheap, but risky option. Last year’s fifth-round pick Jordan Leggett missed all of last season with a knee injury but he showed plenty of promise during his time in Clemson. The athletic Neal Sterling showed some potential as a receiver while fan-favorite Eric Tomlinson impressed as a blocker but neither seems to be starting caliber players.
The 2018 NFL Draft is always an approach the team could consider taking with Dallas Goedert, Mike Gesicki, and Mark Andrews rounding out the top of this year’s class. This would be another cost-efficient way of potentially upgrading at the position but it makes little sense to ignore other significant holes on the team to address a position where the team has a solid option.
Ultimately, if the Jets and Seferian-Jenkins fail to work out a deal that favors both parties, a player like Burton or Willson would make the most sense. The team would be getting a quality, versatile player with either option and they wouldn’t have to break the bank in order to do so.
A Seferian-Jenkins return seems likely, but sometimes teams and players just don’t see each other in the same light.
At the very least, it’s good to know the Jets have options.
Next: The Consensus
While it may take longer to get this deal done than the Jets other major free agents, it would be surprising if the team let Seferian-Jenkins test the market given his production last season coupled with the fact that he’s still only 25 years of age.
Even though his level of play did drop off in the second half of the season, some of that could likely be attributed to the change at quarterback in the final three games of the year.
The only scenario that would lead to Seferian-Jenkins and the Jets parting ways would be a lack of cooperation by one party.
If the Jets are too hesitant to make any sort of semi-significant commitment to Seferian-Jenkins and refuse to budge on their initial offer, it’s likely the brawny tight end opts to test his value on the free agent market. Conversely, if Seferian-Jenkins overvalues himself in the eyes of the Jets and denies any reasonable offer the Jets may throw his way, it’s doubtful the team will overpay for his services.
But given the fact that Seferian-Jenkins has made it clear that he wants to continue playing for the Jets, the smart money is on the two reaching an agreement before long.
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A fair estimate would be somewhere between a 2-3 year deal for around $10-15 million with enough guaranteed money to entice Seferian-Jenkins into staying. While this may be slightly over market value, free agent contracts tend to trend that way and it would be worth it to re-sign a player with as much upside as him. Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ road to redemption has only just begun and Jets fans should look forward to watching the bulky tight end continue down said road for years to come.