With No Clear Starting Tight End, Jets Should Target Zach Ertz

Zach Ertz

Getty Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz catches a game-winning touchdown on December 9, 2019.

The New York Jets tight end production was downright pathetic in 2020.

There’s no sugarcoating it and no excuses. In fact, it wasn’t much better the season before, outside of a few Ryan Griffin standout performances.

Some will blame the coaching or the scheme. Others will blame general management for choosing not to make any upgrades. Some may even blame Sam Darnold, but that wouldn’t make much sense.

The fact of the matter is, these players have not been good enough.

Joe Douglas did attempt to strengthen this group in 2021, supplementing it with free-agent signing Tyler Kroft and undrafted rookie Kenny Yeboah, but that may not be enough.

The aforementioned Griffin, lackluster receiving tight end Daniel Brown, part-time fullback Trevon Wesco and fallen star Chris Herndon currently make up the rest of the group.

The Dramatic Fall of Chris Herndon

This was a Jets career with such promising beginnings. Herndon was a favorite target of Darnold’s during the pair’s rookie campaign in 2018. He finished with 502 receiving yards off 56 targets, with a career-high catch percentage of 69.6.

After being awarded a spot on the NFL’s All-Rookie team, it all went downhill from there.

A previous DWI from June of 2018 caught up with Herndon, and the NFL decided to suspend him for the first four games of the 2019 season. Upon his return, the tight end was noticeably out of shape, which led to a hamstring strain. When he finally returned to action, he suffered a broken rib almost immediately and missed the remainder of the season.

Although much of it was self-inflicted, some might say it was a hard-luck year for Miami product. This narrative led to breakout predictions in 2020, but that never came to fruition either.

Herndon ended up with four drops and two fumbles (four career fumbles) off 45 targets and 287 receiving yards. He was non-existent in most games, and when he made headlines it was usually for his mistakes.

Now heading into 2021, some are looking towards Mike LaFleur to unleash the former playmaker, but nothing from OTAs has proven that will happen. Here is the latest Herndon drop from June 10, 2021.

Stop me if this sounds familiar Jets fans.

Is a Herndon resurgence possible this season? Of course, anything is possible, but excuse me if I wait on something concrete this time.

Yeboah Hype Unfulfilled, Kroft Carries OTAs

For all the Yeboah hype that came after the draft, the UDFA has barely earned snaps in OTAs, and that was with Herndon out a couple of days.

Here is probably his most notable play at Florham Park so far, and it’s more of a Michael Carter II highlight.

I won’t write Yeboah off, it’s still really early, but these are not encouraging signs.

The more reliable tight end for Zach Wilson has been the Bengals and Bills veteran, Kroft. The stalwart is known for his exceptional blocking ability, and could even claim the starting role on rushing downs if things continue the way they’re headed.

Even so, Kroft has never been a number one guy throughout his career. He’s perfect as a TE2 that can come in on dual-TE run formations and bootleg-out off play-action. In other words, a better version of Griffin, who may be fighting for his Jets’ life in training camp.

Kroft has also been a red zone threat at OTAs.

As for the rest, Wesco is a pure blocker that should make the team as a hybrid fullback and Brown is merely a camp body at this stage.

Go out & Get Wilson a Safety Net

As outlined above, this group hasn’t shown enough to gain confidence. It is paramount for a rookie quarterback to have a reliable safety net at the tight end position.

It just so happens, an ultra-consistent veteran tight end is currently available, and his name is Zach Ertz.

Rumors have been swirling around Ertz to the Buffalo Bills, Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars among others all offseason, but Douglas should be in on the eight-year pro as well. For starters, the Jets general manager has a connection to the tight end from their days together in Philadelphia.

The Jets can also afford Ertz, unlike many NFL teams. He’s set to make $12.721 million in 2021, but his guaranteed salary has been voided after this season.

The Eagles want nothing more than to unload the tight end for cap relief after re-signing Richard Rodgers alongside Dallas Goedert. The built-in relationship between Philly GM Howie Roseman and Douglas could get this done for the Jets on a team-friendly deal.

Ertz only played 11 games in 2020, so there is a risk of injury and age catching up to the former top-tier target, but looking at this Jets group he’s definitely worth the gamble. At the very least, Ertz can free up space for a player like Herndon or Kroft that is better suited for a complementary role.

In 2018, the Eagles tight end had a career-high 1,163 receiving yards off 116 receptions. That yielded eight touchdowns. The following season, he had 88 catches for 916 yards and six scores.

Ertz is turning 31. If you throw the 2020 campaign out for a minute, it’s plausible that he could still have a solid year or two left in the tank. His experience alone makes him an asset for Wilson’s development.

Should the Jets go after Zach Ertz? Let us know on Facebook @HeavyOnJets, or Twitter @obermuller_nyj and @BoyGreen25.

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