Jets Analyst Identifies Best 2022 Free-Agent Option at Tight End

Dalton Schultz

Getty Dallas Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz (#86) celebrates a touchdown on September 27, 2021.

Everyone seemed to know it this summer besides Joe Douglas and this New York Jets coaching staff, but the tight ends on the roster to start 2021 were not good enough.

If you look at how a franchise like the New England Patriots has surrounded rookie Mac Jones with veteran two-way tight ends that can block and catch, it should be apparent that the Jets front office has failed Zach Wilson in this regard.

Instead of Hunter Henry, Douglas signed Tyler Kroft. Rather than adding Jonnu Smith, he felt secure with Ryan Griffin. The lack of tight end talent has been unacceptable and this is an area that the Jets GM must focus on in 2022.

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Jets Target Signs Extension, Expert Eyes Replacement

The number one option on the market at the position was probably Philadelphia Eagles star Dallas Goedert. Unfortunately, Mike Garafolo announced his extension on November 19.

Philadelphia gave their starting tight end a four-year extension through 2025 and “the deal ranks top three amongst tight ends on an average-per-year basis,” per Garafolo. With Goedert officially off the market, Jets expert Michael Nania broke down some potential targets at the position.

“Would’ve been a great Jets target,” Nania tweeted, “Dalton Schultz is probably the best 2-way [tight end] left on the 2022 [free agent] TE market. [Mike] Gesicki is tops if you’re looking for a pass catcher but he can’t block at all.”

Schultz has made a name for himself with the Dallas Cowboys since Jason Witten retired. The 2018 fourth-round pick registered 615 yards off 63 receptions in 2020 and he’s on pace to top that output in 2021. He currently has 438 receiving yards this season with three touchdowns.

At the end of the day though, Nania outlined Schultz because of the scheme fit. The Jets are looking for in-line tight ends like Kroft and Griffin that can assist the rushing attack and act as a safety net in the passing game.

The Jets X-Factor analyst highlighted Gesicki as a free-agent option that would not fit. “Gesicki isn’t even a TE,” Nania added in a separate tweet, “he’s lined up in-line on only 5% of his snaps this year. Not a Jets fit honestly. Schultz is the guy. Good run and pass blocker, low drop totals, elusive after the catch.”

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Other Available Tight Ends That Fit the Mold

Douglas is expected to draft a tight end in 2022, but with Kroft set to hit free agency too, this position might need an overhaul. Outside of rookie Kenny Yeboah — who is more of a space blocker that would line up outside — this could be a totally new room next season.

That means even if the Jets draft a tight end, they should also consider signing a veteran that can start out of the gates. Follow that Patriots model and set yourself up with two viable options for Wilson and this offense.

Having said that, here are some free agents that could fit the Mike LaFleur mold.

  • Tyler Conklin: The 2018 fifth-rounder is enjoying a minor breakout this year similar to Schultz in 2020. If the Minnesota Vikings let him test free agency, the Jets could snag Conklin heading into his prime (currently 26). Pro Football Focus logged him as an in-line TE on 446 snaps out of 513 on offense. His blocking could use some work though with 56.9 (run) and 49.6 (pass) on the year.
  • Hayden Hurst: The former first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens never developed into the tight end he was supposed to be, as a receiver or a blocker. At the same time, Gang Green got a taste of his potential first-hand in London after the combination of Hurst and Kyle Pitts torched the Jets along with an Atlanta Falcons power run game. He’d be a perfect fit for this offense but he’d probably work best as a secondary piece.
  • C.J. Uzomah: Approaching 30 at age 29 next year but also in the midst of a resurgent campaign with Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals. Uzomah has lined up as an in-line TE 287 snaps this season out of 425 offensive snaps according to PFF. Schultz is probably the better blocker and receiving threat, however, and is also younger.
  • O.J. Howard: An in-line tight end predominantly but a poor blocker according to PFF. Howard could be an option if the Jets decide to look for a big-name receiving threat that can line up inside.
  • Zach Ertz: Fans wanted the Jets to trade for the veteran this year but the franchise could always sign him in 2022. He’s definitely past his prime and he’s never been much of a run blocker but Ertz can play in-line and act as an adequate safety net.

There are also a few backup options out there that could replace underperforming players like Trevon Wesco and Griffin.

  • Maxx Williams: Top-tier blocking tight end with Baltimore and Arizona, not much of a receiving threat.
  • Gerald Everett: Solid pass-blocker but terrible in the run game. Reliable receiver with experience as an in-line tight end.
  • Ross Dwelley: Experience in LaFleur’s system in San Francisco, hybrid TE-fullback that could replace Wesco.
  • Lee Smith: Veteran blocking tight end with a consistent track record.

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