It’s no secret that the tight end position is one of the weakest areas on the New York Jets roster.
The franchise has not seen the position surpass 600 receiving yards in a single season since Dustin Keller went 65 for 815 yards in 2011, a near-decade ago.
The closest was Chris Herndon, who totaled 502 receiving yards during his rookie campaign in 2018. As we know, Herndon’s career has derailed significantly since then.
Veterans Tyler Kroft and Ryan Griffin have led the lackluster tight end group throughout spring, but this is still an area where Joe Douglas could still look to add some talent.
One option that I’ve suggested in the past is a trade for Philadelphia Eagles star Zach Ertz. That might cost the Jets draft capital though, even if it’s only a low-round pick.
A cheaper move would be a play for a former Ertz teammate during that 2017 Eagles Super Bowl run, free-agent tight end, Trey Burton.
Scheme Fit, Douglas Ties, Burton Makes Sense
This is a veteran player that Douglas has a ton of familiarity with. The Jets GM joined the Eagles front office in 2016, so he wasn’t there when Burton first started with the franchise as an undrafted free agent in 2014, but Douglas was involved with the decision to place a second-round tender on the tight end before the 2017 season.
During that championship campaign, Burton was a role player in the offense and a “great leader” on special teams according to head coach Doug Pederson. He had five touchdowns during the regular season and even threw the famous “Philly Special” touchdown pass on a fourth-down trick play during the Super Bowl.
Heading into his age-30 season, Burton isn’t going to be the star of an offense but he’s a versatile piece that doesn’t do anything poorly.
The tight end is a decent run blocker, especially when he’s out wide in space. He should fit perfectly in Mike LaFleur’s wide-zone run scheme and could even compete with Trevon Wesco at the hybrid fullback position.
Burton is also known to be a polished route-runner with decent receiving numbers in the seasons that he received 50-plus targets. His best campaign was in 2018 with the Chicago Bears. After being brought in to be the starting tight end, Burton put up a respectable 569 yards with six touchdowns.
Here is Burton on a touchdown with the Indianapolis Colts in 2020.
Cheap Insurance Policy
Kroft has also had bad luck with the injury bug in the past, breaking his foot once with Cincinnati and then again with Buffalo.
Can the Jets really afford to be two injuries away from a starting tight end core that would consist of Griffin, Daniel Brown and undrafted free agent Kenny Yeboah?
Burton hasn’t seemed to garner all too much interest on the free-agent market after an average season with the Colts, so he should be cheap. The only mentions of the tight end have involved a return to Indy or a chance at a starting gig with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jets can afford the insurance policy, and Burton might even surprise in training camp. Either way, he’s an immediate depth upgrade on Brown and an experienced body on special teams, something coordinator Brant Boyer admitted the Jets don’t have a lot of right now.
Burton Checks Boxes
Let’s recap, what do we know about Douglas’ free-agent acquisitions of the past?
Generally, the Jets GM only wants high-character players that will provide a positive influence on the locker room. Burton has received exemplary praise in this regard.
This is also a clear area of need for the Jets. Yes, Douglas already brought in Kroft at tight end but this positional group has been a disaster for Gang Green in recent years. Burton’s reliable play helps shore up the tight end core.
Douglas also loves versatility and maximizing his roster spots. Burton is a receiving threat, a blocker that could work in at fullback, a special teams star, and a team leader. Check, check and check.
He’s also inexpensive and could prove to be a bargain as a flier with upside potential.
The one area that doesn’t quite jive with Douglas’ past is Burton’s age. The Jets GM usually likes to add players that are approaching their prime and Burton is most likely past his, but that strategy usually applies more with Douglas’ long-term deals. New York could probably get Burton on a one-year contract.