The NY Jets are in the midst of what could prove to be their most pivotal offseason in recent history. The franchise finished the 2020 campaign with a disappointing 2-14 record that left the team near the basement of the league standings.
Even more frustrating was the fact that their abysmal season was slightly too good to earn their No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. That right, which comes with the privilege of selecting generational quarterback prospect Trevor Lawrence, is owned by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
However, there is a glimmer of hope for faithful fans of Gang Green. The team currently boasts the second overall pick in the draft. They also own the Seahawks’ first and third-round picks from the Jamal Adams trade.
Additionally, New York also carries the second-most cap flexibility of any team in the league. They sit behind only Jacksonville with a whopping $77+ million in available funds.
This leaves the franchise in a position to address several key roster needs. Obviously, a 2-14 team has plenty of holes to fill. Thankfully, the Jets have the resources to reshape their depth chart.
The most glaring concern is the quarterback position. Will the team stick with Sam Darnold? Will they consider a blockbuster for a superstar like Deshaun Watson? Or will they look to the draft? They also need help at cornerback, pass-rusher, and at their skill positions.
However, there is one additional positional need that would be wise for New York to prioritize — tight end.
After years of trotting out marginal talent at the position, the Jets (and whoever their quarterback is) would benefit tremendously from a consistent and skilled pass catcher in the middle of the field.
Here are three free-agent tight ends the Jets should target.
Next: 1. Hunter Henry
1. The NY Jets could target Hunter Henry
The former Los Angeles Chargers tight end is arguably the best free agent at his position. Unfortunately for potential suitors, he is also projected to be the most expensive with a projected $10.9 million annual market value.
At just 27-years-old, Hunter Henry would be a great fit with a younger Jets offense. He would provide an immediate safety net and red zone option for whoever suits up at quarterback in 2021. He is also young enough to grow with the rebuilding team for several seasons.
Henry has been solid over his five seasons played with the Chargers organization. While he has never established himself as an upper-tier player with Pro Bowl talent, he has been super consistent.
The former Arkansas star has recorded at least 475 yards and four touchdowns in each NFL campaign. He has also surpassed 600 receiving yards in each of the past two seasons.
While this track record may seem unspectacular, it would be an obvious upgrade for recent Jets teams. The recent iterations of the franchise have started fringe talents like Ryan Griffin, Chris Herndon, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and Jeff Cumberland.
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None moved the needle in any considerable way. Herndon might still have untapped potential, but the Jets could still look for an upgrade. In addition to the high floor Henry would bring to the table, there is also the potential for a high ceiling.
The Jets have a great opportunity to land their first game-breaking tight end in recent memory. He would be an excellent option to help Sam Darnold correct his career path should New York elect to stick with their incumbent starter.
Henry would also be a major asset to a new QB, should the team pivot in that direction. He would be a great option in New York in 2021 and beyond.
Next: 2. Kyle Rudolph
2. The NY Jets could target Kyle Rudolph
Should the Jets prefer a shorter-term option, longtime Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph would be a great backup plan. The 10-year NFL veteran would be a great safety net for the offense.
While he lacks the big-play potential of a player like Henry, he is still a consistent threat in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
The 31-year-old would be an excellent complement to Herndon as a stop-gap tight end. While he does not profile as a future option, Rudolph will help fill an immediate need.
The former Fighting Irish standout has recorded an impressive 4,488 receiving yards and 48 touchdowns in his NFL career. Most recently, he posted 634 yards and four touchdowns in 2018, 367 yards and six touchdowns in 2019, and 334 yards and one score last season.
Rudolph is a two-time Pro-Bowl selection (2012 and 2017) who still appears to have more solid production left in the tank.
Of course, a more exciting option like the aforementioned Henry or Tennessee Titans standout Jonnu Smith could be more appealing. But if the Jets still have some faith in Chris Herndon turning things around, Rudolph would be a solid add.
A one-two-punch of Herndon and Rudolph would be an acceptable tight-end duo to roll into 2021 with. At the very least, he’d provide a significant improvement over Ryan Griffin.
Next: 3. Tyler Eifert
NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
3. The NY Jets could target Tyler Eifert
Tyler Eifert would be a worthwhile option should New York elect to take a less expensive route, similar to Rudolph.
While the veteran lacks the upside and youthfulness of a player like Henry or the career consistency of someone like Rudolph, there are several reasons to consider the former Notre Dame pass catcher.
Eifert appeared to be on a path to stardom after a breakout 615-yard, 13-touchdown performance with Cincinnati in 2015. He was named as a Pro Bowler and appeared to be one of the league’s premier red-zone threats.
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However, since that time, Eifert has struggled with inconsistency and injury concerns. His second-best year with the Bengals was to the tune of just 436 yards and five touchdowns.
The pass-catcher has come on stronger in recent years with 436 yards in 2019 and 349 in 2020. He also served as the secondary tight end during both of these seasons.
Should Eifert be allowed to start consistently, he could recapture some of this earlier dominance. and much like Rudolph, Eifert could serve as a capable complement to Chris Herndon on offense.
At 30-years-old and given his injury history, Eifert could likely provide a cheap upgrade over Ryan Griffin and give the Jets a solid tight end duo heading into the new season.
Not a bad player to target at all.
Which tight end do you think the Jets would be wise to target this offseason?