Last season, the combined performance of the New York Jets’ tight ends was just plain bad. Employing a duo of Kellen Winslow Jr. and Jeff Cumberland, the Jets ranked close to last in their tight end play. The two combined for 57 receptions and 786 receptions, which do not seem like horrible statistics at first glance, but they were targeted often, and formed what was, put frankly, one of the worst tight end units in the league.
This offseason, the Jets elected not to improve their tight end corps. through free agency, but instead through the draft. In the second round, the Jets opted to take Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro, an athletic pass-catcher and above-average blocker in the running game. Amaro has been hailed as the Jets’ tight end for years to come before he has even played a snap, which illustrates his potential and the high expectation Jet fans have for him. At this point, given the dearth of options QB Geno Smith and last year, any offensive weapon the Jets acquire elicits unwarranted praise, and for now, Amaro still has to prove himself.
At the beginning of the offseason, the Jets re-signed Cumberland to a three-year, $5.7 million deal. With this move, the Jets indicated they were putting their full trust in Cumberland for the next couple of seasons, but thankfully, with the drafting of Amaro, that illusion was shattered. Don’t get me wrong, Cumberland himself is not horrible, but the Jets should not settle for a player of his caliber. In the passing game, Cumberland is mediocre at best, and he doesn’t seem to have a high ceiling. Cumberland is capable of blocking for the running back, but in the NFL today, tight ends are expected to be dependable receivers with able hands as well as worthy blockers and Cumberland doesn’t fit the bill.
Enter Jace Amaro. Amaro, a stellar standout with the Red Raiders, has the speed and agility to succeed in the NFL. At Texas Tech, he was used more as a receiver than as an extra offensive lineman, but there is enough evidence to prove that Amaro can hold his own in the running game. He definitely has the athleticism to compete against linebackers in the NFL (he also played on the Texas Tech basketball team), and at 6’5″, he will be a match-up nightmare. Of course, Amaro can still improve on his acceleration and separation from defenders, but for now, he is the Jets’ best option at tight end.
But is the Jets’ situation at tight end solved? Not entirely. Amaro still needs to learn the playbook and will not become the starter right away, and unless the Jets want Cumberland to be their starter come Week 1, they should snatch up a veteran tight end in free agency. Signing a veteran tight end would serve two purposes: Plug a gap in the Jets’ passing game until Amaro can play, and have a mentor for Amaro so he can learn the ropes in his rookie season. There is no better tight end for the Jets to sign than former Dallas Cowboy and Baltimore Raven, Dallas Clark, who is an unrestricted free agent. Clark, a productive veteran, would be a great fit in the Jets offense with Geno Smith or Michael Vick at QB, and he would be a more-than-suitable mentor for Amaro. Furthermore, the Jets only have to sign the future hall-of-famer to a one-year deal, which gives Amaro enough time to develop. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.
With the ideal build of a tight end and the tenacious nature and nastiness to play one of the NFL’s toughest positions (he was thrown out of a college game for throwing a punch), Amaro will surely be able to succeed at the NFL level, but the question is not if, but when. At this point, it is unclear who will be the starter when Week 1 rolls around, but as of right now, the Jets have not solved their tight end dilemma. It may be solved in the middle of the season, depending on the performances of Amaro and Cumberland, or it may be solved this offseason, wight he acquisition of a veteran. No one can say for sure, but one thing we can say for sure is that the Jets have not fully resolved their dilemma at tight end.