NFL Insider Connects Jets to ‘Much-Needed Upgrade’ at Tight End

Tyler Kroft, Robert Saleh

Getty New York Jets 2021 starting tight end Tyler Kroft (left) could be getting replaced in 2022.

It’s no secret — the New York Jets have a desperate need at the tight end position.

In 2021, general manager Joe Douglas virtually ignored this area outside of a bargain signing in veteran Tyler Kroft and a UDFA flier on Kenny Yeboah. In the end, this quick fix went up in flames as 2020 incumbent Ryan Griffin led the group with a measly 261 receiving yards.

The projected starter — Kroft — appeared in nine games (six starts) and totaled 173 yards through the air. As a whole, the entire unit wasn’t much better combining for 534 yards and three touchdowns between five tight ends. Trevon Wesco and Daniel Brown were the other two, along with Yeboah.

Two ESPN insiders had the perfect solution to this problem in a recent free agency piece, and it might sound familiar.

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Jets Land Schultz in Top-50 Roundup

NFL senior reporters Jeremy Fowler and Matt Bowen determined “best team fits” for each of ESPN’s top 50 free agents.

The Jets’ tight end match may entice fans, as it’s a name that has become very popular within Gang Green nation — Dallas Cowboys dual-threat Dalton Schultz. Fowler explained:

Expect the Jets to be in the market for a safety valve over the middle for Zach Wilson, either in the draft or free agency. Dallas wants to re-sign Schultz, perhaps the most complete tight end in the class, but it can’t keep everybody.

The last part of Fowler’s statement is key. Many around the league believe that the Cowboys won’t let Schultz hit free agency. They could either franchise tag or extend him before the week of the March 16, 2022 start date to do so.

To clarify, Fowler and Bowen linked plenty of the top-50 free agents to their former teams but they did not feel as confident in a Schultz return to Dallas. That’s huge news for the Jets as the full-package TE could be the missing piece in this offense.

Bowen followed up on Fowler, stating: “Schultz can operate as a middle-of-the-field target for Wilson on play-action throws, and he’s slippery after the catch. Schultz plays with good coverage recognition and is a much-needed upgrade at the position in Mike LaFleur’s offense. Plus, he is an adequate run blocker.”

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Unbelievable Steal for NYJ

If Douglas can pull this signing off, it would be a home-run addition for New York and a poach-job that may anger “America’s fans.”

The Jets have not had a tight end like Schultz in — let’s just say it’s been a long, long time. During a breakout campaign in 2021, the Cowboys’ free agent smashed through the 800-yard mark at 808. He added eight touchdowns to stick with the theme.

What’s more impressive is his career catch rate of 72.6% which also hit a career-high last year at 75.0%. It’s not like Schultz was a one-hit-wonder either, his 615 receiving yards in 2020 would raise banners at MetLife and his 76 first downs over the past two seasons would be invaluable for a younger QB like Wilson.

If all that isn’t enough, Schultz is an in-line tight end that fits Mike LaFleur’s run-heavy scheme. In other words, he is the premium version of what Kroft was supposed to be.

According to Pro Football Focus, the former fourth-round pick took 617 snaps from the “in-line” position in 2021 and 336 from the “slot.” He also took 80 out wide and 17 from the backfield.

That versatility transfers over to blocking as well. PFF graded Schultz a 69.4 as a run-blocker and a 67.3 in pass protection. He even adds long-term worth as an ascending talent who is only turning 26 next July.

If you’re looking for a flaw in Schultz’s game, good luck.

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