New York Jets’ surprise departures send an intriguing message

The New York Jets may have nothing to lose in 2021, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not going to hold their players accountable.

The start of September is a time to confront some uncomfortable truths, many often centered around regrets from the dying summer.

That’s hasn’t been the problem for the New York Jets; they have accomplished a lot over the past three months, as they’ve won the faith of their long-suffering fanbase back through a busy offseason and respectable preseason showings. But a harsh reality lingers: the only reason the Jets will be playing deeper into January is the mere extension of the NFL’s regular season to 17 games.

Gang Green’s dire immediate forecast isn’t an indictment of general manager Joe Douglas’ time at the helm (even if his first draft looks a little iffy with Jabari Zuniga and James Morgan already gone). It’s rather living proof of just how far the last days of Mike Maccagnan’s oversight and Adam Gase’s doomed two-year tenure set the team back in an AFC landscape packed with worthy, established contenders…one of whom resides in their own division and the state represented in the New York Jets moniker.

But that shouldn’t preclude the Jets from embarking on a year of maturation, 18 weeks of de facto field research and development of its current roster. Barring a winless disaster, this season is going to be an improvement over last year’s two-win horror show. There are opportunities to grow and evolve on the football field. If they manage to shock the football world and pick up an upset win or two along the way (i.e. the matchups against the indirectly aforementioned Buffalo Bills), even better.

Frankly, it’s not much different from the Jets’ 2020 outlook. But Douglas and his front office compatriots have set them up in a far more desireable situation. The hire of head Robert Saleh has been unanimously appreciated in both domestic and abroad circles, in contrast to Gase’s arrival cheered only by the hot take artists. In the best-case scenario, Sam Darnold’s eventual final season as the Jets’ franchise quarterback was equipped with first-round washouts (Breshad Perriman), New England antiques (Chris Hogan), and undrafted journeymen with rushing relics of football past behind him (Le’Veon Bell, Frank Gore). Douglas’ offseason negotiations have situated Zach Wilson with valuable weaponry that doubled as playoff staples in recent postseasons (Corey Davis, Tevin Coleman, Tyler Kroft). Each team was/is macabrely blessed with a sense of having nothing to lose in the immediate future, but there’s a clear difference between the Jets’ two most preseason auras.

jets, bless austin

But that doesn’t mean that the Jets are going to sit idly by while this season plays out. The team’s most recent departures serve as a warning that just because there’s nothing to lose, it doesn’t mean that players won’t be held accountable for their on-field output…or lack thereof.

This week’s initial reveal of 53-man rosters has been no roadblock for the Jets’ continued insistence on tinkering their lineup as the countdown to Sept. 12’s opener in Carolina (1 p.m. ET, CBS) enters single digits. New York has continued to try and fill the Carl Lawson-sized hole created by the injury bug, signing waiver wire defenders Tim Ward and Quincy Williams (ex-Cleveland safety Sheldrick Redwine doesn’t appear to be far behind). They’re replacing some familiar faces, rare remnants of the Maccagnan era. Those leftovers are vanishing from the Jets’ ledgers faster and in higher volume than Thanos and his army after Tony Stark’s sacrifice.

The most prominent of the departures have been two recent staples at the top of the Jets’ depth chart: tight end Chris Herndon was dealt to Minnesota during the purge down to 53 men while cornerback Bless Austin was outright released. Austin had been penciled in as the Jets’ starting cornerback for months while Herndon was one of the closest things the Jets had to a staple: only two players (Marcus Maye and Thomas Hennessy) had longer green metropolitan tenures than Herndon, who was set to enter his fourth year with the team.

New York Jets, Chris Herndon
Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

At first glance, the 2021 Jets provided the perfect environment for Herndon and Austin to work through. A team with nothing to lose could’ve granted the young veterans a chance to gain some football clarity and reclaim the narrative on their professional careers. Each had shown flashes of NFL brilliance before: Herndon is just three years removed from being one of the NFL’s most illustrious rookie receivers (11th overall with 502 yards and leading all freshman tight ends with 39 receptions) and Austin developed a reputation as a strong hitter, fighting his way back from injuries at Rutgers into a starting opportunity in an NFL lineup.

But the Jets have once again made it clear that, in writing their own story of redemption, they don’t have the time or effort to co-author anyone else’s. There are some low-profile exceptions (i.e. late arrival Shaq Lawson) but the team is making it clear that if a player isn’t contributing toward the pavement of the path back to gridiron redemption, they don’t have a place in New York.

Herndon’s previous heroics, overshadowed by injuries, a suspension, and general inconsistency, held no value in the Jets’ current plans. Austin seemed born to succeed as a metropolitan difference-maker as a Queens native and Rutgers alum. Such a cinematic set-up went by the wayside.

It’s also not like the Jets have replacement readily available in Herndon and Austin’s respective roles. Kroft has been a reliable red zone prescience (which the Jets learned the easy way this preseason) but hasn’t TE1 duties since 2017. The Jets’ official cornerback depth chart, as of press time, literally has a blank space where Austin’s name once stood. Draft weekend Saturday arrivals Brandin Echols (6th round) and Isaiah Dunn (undrafted) sit behind it.

Both Douglas and Saleh expressed gratitude toward Herndon and Austin. Per notes from the Jets, Douglas said Minnesota aggressively sought a tight end after losing Irv Smith for the year while each concurred that they wanted some of their younger defenders to take on bigger responsibilities. But these departures offering a lingering sense that no New York veteran is safe. Sure, there might be some exceptions…it’s highly unlikely that they’ll give up on, say, Corey Davis, after a single season. But letting go of two key pieces less than two weeks before kickoff weekend is an interesting, if not necessary, method of starting a new era.

The 2021 New York Jets serve as a football laboratory whose experiments could change the pigskin world. They’re in a classic spot where they don’t have anything, so there’s nothing to lose. But the farewells of Herndon and Austin prove, for the betterment of the team, that that’s only going to apply from an organizational standpoint.

They’ve tried everything else. What’s one more trip to the drawing board?

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Faith lingers in tight end Chris Herndon

It’s likely no returning New York Jets has a hotter seat than tight end Chris Herndon, but the new staff has faith in him.

Spring cleaning took on a whole new meaning for the New York Jets’ lauded offseason. For example, half of the starting lineup that they put out for last year’s opening weekend contest in Buffalo isn’t partaking in this summer’s training camp activities in Florham Park.

Tight end Chris Herndon is part of the other, Jersey-active half. By Jets standards, he’s practically a relic, set to enter his fourth season in green. Speaking of those jerseys, Herndon is the sole leftover from the Jets’ J.B. Smoove-hosted fashion show that unveiled the new look, marketed as one of the future faces of the franchise alongside departures like Sam Darnold, Robby Anderson, and Leonard Williams.

It’s understandable as to why the Jets have bid most of their models farewell: the team’s perpetual rebuild has hit drastic new depths, including a two-win valley that triggered an in-season fire sale. Any reminder of that past few seasons is better off miles away from One Jets Drive, especially with a new quarterback and head coach set to forge a new path back to NFL respectability.

Yet, Herndon remains and is currently engaged in one of the most intriguing battles of camp. The current staff didn’t move on from Herndon as they did from three of his 2018 draft classmates (including Darnold, the first-round choice and Herndon’s training camp roommate), but they did raise the heat on Herndon through the addition of reliable red zone option Tyler Kroft. Spring’s minicamp was an ordeal for Herndon, who lost his premier team reps to Kroft and Ryan Griffin.

The status of Herndon, a rare survivor of the Robert Saleh-induced rapture, was a hot topic as the Jets embarked on their first full week of training camp practices. Saleh, whose energy and attention to detail has been one of the early highlights of camp, believes Herndon simply needs some consistency to get his NFL career back on track.

“(We want) him to just be consistent and try to find ways to get better every day,” Sahle said earlier this week, per notes from the Jets. “I’m not going to put any expectations with regards to result.”

Herndon is best known for his rookie year output, where he was among the top ten rookies in receptions (39) and yardage (502). But the past two seasons have been riddled with inconsistency and absences of both the medical and disciplinary sort. Injuries and a suspension limited him to 18 sophomore snaps in 2019. He partook in all 16 games last season (13 starts) but earned only 287 yards on 31 catches.

For his part, Herndon knows about the challenges that lie ahead and won’t sugarcoat how tough things got in 2020.

“Those types of years, they humble you,” Herndon said of last season in a report from Brian Costello of the New York Post. “They remind you no matter how hard things get for you or the team to just keep your head down and keep working and never give up on yourself, never lose confidence.”

Despite the brutality of 2020, Herndon did manage to somewhat resemble his rookie form over the Jets’ final three games, earning 145 yards on 14 receptions, two of which went for scores.

“He’s had moments where he’s looked very good in his career. He’s had moments where he’s kind of disappeared and he’s had injuries. But at the same time, (we want to) let him get into a rhythm,” Saleh said in looking back on Herndon’s career to date. “Let’s get some consistency going and just play with the effort, the technique, and the violence that we look for. If he can do that day in and day out, we think Herndon can have a pretty darn good year.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: A training camp battle at every position (Offense)

As the New York Jets inch closer to training camp, ESM looks at the offensive roster battles to watch at every position.

Competition has always been a staple at summer camp. But if you’re headed to Florham Park, leave the archery materials at home.

The New York Jets are eight days away from descending upon One Jets Drive for their training camp activities. Once camp commences, they’ll have several positional struggles to solve before Week 1 kicks off in Carolina. ESM takes a look at each spot on the depth chart, sizing up a major battle that should be solved over camp practices and the coming trio of preseason games.

Our primer begins on offense…

 Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Backup QB: James Morgan vs. Mike White

Barring an epic disaster, the Jets will go into Week 1 with second overall pick Zach Wilson as their quarterback. Sitting the star rookie behind a veteran for a year has become a lost art in the modern NFL, even if Kansas City’s Alex Smith-to-Patrick Mahomes transition kept the concept alive for a few more years.

The Jets, though, are apparently planning to go in the completely opposite direction: no one in their quarterback cabinet has thrown a pass in an NFL regular season game. Immediately thrusting Wilson into the starter’s role is one thing, but backing him up with two veteran questions marks is another entirely. But head coach Robert Saleh apparently doesn’t see an issue.

“If you just bring in a veteran who doesn’t know anything about your scheme, he’s learning just like the rookie is,” Saleh told Max Goodman of Sports Illustrated. “There’s a match that has to happen. There’s a scheme familiarity that has to happen.”

That, of course, begs the question why the Jets didn’t go after someone like fellow former 49ers Nick Mullens, but it’s probably redundant at this point. Until further notice, the backup job comes to Morgan and White.

Morgan probably has the inside edge, if only due to his status as a Joe Douglas draft pick. Chosen in the fourth round of 2020’s virtual draft, the Florida International hasn’t even worn a game jersey yet due to the cancellation of last summer’s preseason. White entered the NFL as a fifth-round pick of the Cowboys in 2018 and has been on and off the Jets’ practice squad over the last three years. By going with someone inexperienced, it’s clear the Jets aren’t going with the “mentor” route for their backup quarterback. The winner will be judged on late summer showings and their performance in preseason games could be particularly intriguing.

 Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Spell RB: Ty Johnson vs. La’Mical Perine vs. Josh Adams

The primary rushing duties could become a battle as the season goes on. Veteran newcomer Tevin Coleman will probably at least start as the top option before giving way to rookie arrival Michael Carter. It’s fair to assume that Coleman, who worked with new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur in San Francisco, has the early edge though Carter has reportedly impressed New York brass during his first spring sessions.

In training camp, however, there are more immediate, desperate matters to attend to, namely answering the question of who will be the third back.

Behind the Coleman and Carter tandem lies a trio of young projects that could’ve gained more clarity had Adam Gase not become obsessed with a Frank Gore farewell tour. Though injuries and a late placement on the COVID-19 list turned Perine’s rookie season into a wash but Johnson and Adams, spare parts from Detroit and Philadelphia respectively, impressed when called upon, uniting for 411 yards on 83 carries, good for an average of nearly five yards an attempt.

The battle between this trio isn’t a matter of playing time, but will determine roster spots. Even though he’s a Douglas draft pick (also chosen in the fourth round), Perine could be in the wrong place at the wrong time. His north/south style may not fit in  LaFleur’s preferred systems that value agility and athleticism, creating a wrong place at the wrong time situation. Meanwhile, the re-signed Adams has worked with Douglas before, sharing a single season with the Eagles.

Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Top Slot WR: Jamison Crowder vs. Elijah Moore

Over the past two seasons, Jamison Crowder has been far and away the Jets’ most consistent offensive weapon. Through that endeavor, he has become one of the NFL’s most reliable slot options. But does the fact he’s been a reliable weapon in woebegone New York say more about Crowder or just how dire the Jets’ situation has become?

Douglas and Co. spent the offseason upgrading their receiving corps and that included the slot depth chart. Drafting Moore with the second pick of the draft’s second day was seen as a steal by many and he seemingly arrived at the perfect time. The Jets were due some sizable cap savings upon Crowder’s release or trade and they could’ve easily had Moore take over. Instead, they restructured the final year of Crowder’s deal to focus on guaranteed money and will keep both of them in tow for Wilson’s first deal.

Crowder faces a bit of an uphill battle to get his snaps back, as he missed almost all spring activities during his contract dispute. There should still be an opportunity for him amongst the Jets’ revamped receiving corps but it’ll be tough to hold off the rise of a touted rookie.

. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Starting TE: Chris Herndon vs. Tyler Kroft 

Entering his fourth year in New York, Herndon is a rare relic in green. Nothing, however, has lived up to the production of his rookie season (502 yards on 39 receptions) as the more recent stages of his career have been beset by a suspension, injuries, and inconsistency.

Though Herndon somewhat began to resemble his rookie self in the latter stages of last season, the Jets sent him a message this offseason. While they avoided the pricier options on the free agent market (i.e. Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry), they added goal line option Tyler Kroft from Buffalo and re-upped with Daniel Brown. During minicamp, Herndon saw his first team reps go to Kroft and Ryan Griffin. Connor Hughes of The Athletic claimed that Herndon “struggled” to adjust to the new offensive playbook, playing a role in his demotion.

It’s been a while since Kroft was the primary option at tight end, last doing so in Cincinnati during the 2017 campaign. The Rutgers alum re-established himself as a reliable short-yardage and red zone target last season in Buffalo. Time will tell if the Jets turn over the full-time tight end reins to Kroft, or even give Griffin, Brown, or undrafted rookie Kenny Yeboah (11 touchdowns over the last two seasons at Temple and Ole Miss). But If Kroft’s signing even merely lights a fire under Herndon, it will have been well worth it.

 Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Line: RG Greg Van Roten vs. Newcomers

A Long Island native (Rockville Centre, to be precise), Van Roten was destined to make a difference in New York. While he endured a bit of an up-and-down season in terms of production, he partook in literally every snap over the Jets’ first 11 games and emerged as a leader and voice of reason when the team’s 2020 affairs became particularly dire.

With the Jets’ left side fortified with Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker, the focus turns to the right. Morgan Moses is a reliable one-year solution on the outside, while Van Roten appears to have a good grip on the interior. But the Jets brought in some interesting depth options, including the New York Islanders’ most celebrated new fan, Dan Feeney. Incumbent top left guard Alex Lewis is also set to move over to the right side, while one also can’t forget Cameron Clark, a 2020 fourth-rounder who spent last season preparing to make the transition from tackle to guard.

But Van Roten, who has shockingly tallied only a single accepted penalty in his NFL career, believes that the arrival of Saleh and LaFleur should help provide stability.

“They hire Saleh and it just feels like a weight has been lifted and hope has come back into the building,” Van Roten said, per team reporter Jack Bell. “All we ask for is a fresh start in this league and no one is happier than the Jets. Now we’re on page one, so let’s write this year’s chapter.”

Which offensive training camp battles will you keep an eye on? Follow @GeoffJMags on Twitter and continue the conversation.

New York Jets 2021 offseason recap: Tight ends

New York Jets, Chris Herndon

The New York Jets added a goal-line target, but will they regret their failure to add competition for Chris Herndon?

Following the conclusion of minicamp activities, the NFL offseason is officially over. The next time the New York Jets convene in Florham Park, they’ll be getting ready for preseason and regular season action for the 2021 campaign. 

With the offseason in the rearview mirror, ESM looks back on the green offseason that was, position-by-position. In part four, we analyze the Jets’ tight ends…

Sep 20, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA;New York Jets tight end Chris Herndon (89) is tackled by San Francisco 49ers cornerback K’Waun Williams (24) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

How It Started

The 2020 season marked Chris Herndon’s third official year on an NFL roster. It was, technically speaking, only his second professional campaign as injuries and a suspension limited him to 18 snaps the year before, robbing him of a true sophomore season.

Yet, Herndon was a New York antique by Sam Darnold’s service standards: the 2018 fourth-round pick out of Miami was the only player on the Jets’ most recent opening day roster that caught passes during the departed franchise quarterback’s rookie season.

One could wax poetic about what that fact says about New York management in the new decade, but looking back toward that rookie season shows what Herndon is capable of. Despite working with a rookie Darnold and aging backup Josh McCown, Herndon led all rookie tight ends with 39 receptions and was second in the same group in yardage (502, 50 behind Baltimore’s Mark Andrews).

Alas, a suspension for a substance abuse policy violation and hamstring woes made his 2019 season a wash, and he failed to recapture the glory upon his reinsertion into the lineup last year, earning only 287 yards on 31 receptions. The early stages of his season were defined by a series of brutal drops, but things got better once things got truly dire for the Jets. Over the final three games (during which the Jets amassed a 2-1 mark), Herndon put up 145 yards on 14 receptions (17 targets). He also scored in each of the Jets’ final two games.

To his credit, Herndon blamed no one but himself for his struggles, even as some tried to pin his issues on his usage in Adam Gase’s systems.

“I feel like I’ve been used fairly,” Herndon said in October, per ESPN’s Rich Cimini. “It’s a team game. I can’t sit after every game and be upset and mad and try to point fingers. This time last year I wasn’t even on the field, so at this point, I’m honestly just thankful to be out there.”

The tight end group as a whole failed to make much of a dent in the Jets’ offensive woes. Veterans Ryan Griffin and Daniel Brown united for 117 yards on 11 receptions. Meanwhile, injury issues prematurely ended the Trevon Wesco experiment at fullback.

Nov 24, 2019; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills tight end Tyler Kroft (81) warms up prior to a game against the Denver Broncos at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

How It’s Going

The Jets apparently have enough trust in Herndon to pocket their wallet, especially when looking at the foreign market. New England, for example, spent over $56 million combined in guaranteed money on Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry. The Jets mostly kept things small, re-signing Brown to another year at just over $1 million and adding rookie free agent Kenny Yeboah after the draft.

Their big arrival in the tight end room is former divisional rival Tyler Kroft, as the former Buffalo Bill was added on an affordable one-year deal ($2 million). The Rutgers alum has developed a sizable NFL career as a goal-line option, which will undoubtedly help an offense that earned touchdowns on a league-worst 42 percent of its red-zone possessions last season. But is Kroft suitable competition for the primary role? He hasn’t been the starting tight end since 2017 in Cincinnati.

But minicamp offered an interesting twist: according to Connor Hughes of The Athletic, Herndon worked primarily with the second-team group during the spring sessions. Kroft and Griffin earned the top reps, and even Yeboah reportedly took some snaps. Herndon has indirectly responded by, per Jordy Fee-Pratt of SI.com, voluntarily partaking in Tight End University, a Nashville-based tight end summit hosted by George Kittle, Travis Kelce, and Greg Olsen.

It’s interesting to see the Jets work in non-Herndon names at the tight end spot. But are they working in the right names? One would probably feel more comfortable with such experimentation if they added a veteran name like newly minted Seahawk Gerald Everett.

Nov 17, 2019; Landover, MD, USA; New York Jets tight end Daniel Brown (87) celebrates with Jets tight end Ryan Griffin (84) after catching a touchdown pass against the Washington Redskins in the first quarter at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Are They Better Off?

Again, the Jets’ unwillingness to shell out the big bucks for a tight end probably says more about deep of a hole they dug themselves in other spots (i.e. wide receivers) than it does about their full trust in Herndon. New York, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, made an attempt to add Smith but dropped out of the bidding for financial reasons (Smith later earned a four-year, $50 million deal from the Patriots).

But the new staff has made it clear that they have plans for Herndon…he just has to earn his opportunity to partake.

As training camp ended, new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur (who previously worked with the elite Kittle in San Francisco) was asked about Herndon’s prospects going into the 2021 campaign. LaFleur offered sympathy for Herndon, as his system will be the third in three seasons for the fourth-round pick (who is a rare leftover from Todd Bowles’ final season). A summer of opportunity awaits.

“It was documented last year just how he came on towards the back half and had a good rookie year that put him on the scene,” LaFleur said, per notes from the Jets. “He’s a talented dude…He missed a little bit of time with some things but it’ll be huge for him when he gets back and rehears this system, talk to him again, and gets in there with pads and we’re out there in those unscripted periods where he has a chance to go out there and make those plays.”

Elsewhere, the signing of Kroft should improve the goal-line situation while Yeboah (11 touchdown receptions over his last two college seasons) could prove to be a diamond in the rough. But since the uncertainty that lingered in the form of Herndon has only amplified, it’s hard to give the Jets a truly strong grade for this offseason’s adjustments, at least for the time being.

Final Offseason Grade: C

Should the Jets have added more competition for Herndon? Continue the conversation on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: The best point to draft each offensive position

The New York Jets will definitely take a quarterback second overall, but where could they take some other offensive roles? 

The New York Jets know what they have to do when it comes to the NFL Draft, which begins on Thursday night (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN/NFL Network). Questions, however, still linger. Who will they pick? When will they address each position and need?

ESM attempts to answer the latter question, starting with the offensive end…

Quarterback

It’s more or less a foregone conclusion that the Jets are taking a quarterback with the second overall pick, and John Beck has all but confirmed that it’s going to be his pupil and fellow BYU legend Zach Wilson. Whether it’s Wilson or a non-Provo surprise, the Jets have no other choice. The Deshaun Watson sweepstakes are over and their current options are James Morgan and Mike White, they of a combined zero NFL passes. Everything they’ve done this offseason has led to this: it’s quarterback or bust with their highest choice since 1996.

The Jets are in desperate need of a backup, but the draft is definitely not the place to get that, a la the Washington draft in 2012 (Robert Griffin III at No. 2, Kirk Cousins in the fourth round). Besides, they’re already burdened with one unnecessary quarterback, inexplicably draft Morgan in the fourth round before instant contributors like Gabriel Davis and DeeJay Dallas. There’s no need to add another after Wilson.

The Perfect Spot: No. 2 pick

Running Back

No matter who the Jets draft at second overall, his job can be made a whole lot easier if they have a serviceable run game to help him out. They had a trio of young projects (La’Mical Perine, Ty Johnson, Josh Adams) but enjoyed a sizable veteran upgrade capable of making an impact through the addition of Tevin Coleman. While Coleman is only in town on a one-year deal, the addition allows the Jets to bide their time in finding a long-term solution at running back. Adding another young rusher to the mix sounds fair, but Coleman and a deep rushing class allow the Jets to address other needs with their early picks.

The Perfect Spots: Day 3

Wide Receiver

The receiver spot was one of the most drastically upgraded areas on the Jets’ roster through free agency. While the Jets might still lack a true No. 1 target, they now have four guys who can realistically fill and compete for that role (newcomers Corey Davis and Keelan Cole join incumbents Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder). Much like Coleman, the free agency haul allows them to be patient, though they could still be inspired to take a receiver after they fulfill their early needs.

The Perfect Spots: Round 3 and beyond

Tight End

The last survivor from their ill-fated fashion show, Chris Herndon is perhaps the most prominent face left over from the Todd Bowles era. Though he has struggled to maintain his rookie year production thanks to a suspension and injuries, last season ended on a promising note (11 receptions, 97 yards, 2 touchdowns over the last couple of games). That might be enough for them to wait a little bit before they add a potential replacement.

Beyond the brief Herndon resurgence, there’s a drastic talent drop in this position class after the highly coveted Kyle Pitts, who will likely be long gone by the time the Jets make their second pick in the 23rd slot. The addition of Tyler Kroft and re-signing of Daniel Brown also ensures that the Jets can wait to add another tight end. It’s not an elite group on the current roster by any stretch, but there’s enough solid personnel here that the Jets can worry about more desperate areas come Thursday and Friday.

The Perfect Spots: Day 3

Offensive Line

When it comes to their blocking, the Jets should draft early and draft often.

Had the Jets kept Sam Darnold, the second overall pick could’ve well been used on a blocker (i.e. Penei Sewell). While the Jets made some improvements throughout the roster, the blocking went mostly unaddressed as they added only Dan Feeney and Corey Levin, who likely won’t provide the blocking revolution the Jets need when making the transition to a new franchise quarterback. They have the capital to make up for lost time in the draft to put some heat on the incumbent blocking group and give the thrower, Wilson or otherwise, a solid foundation to work with.

Drafting Mekhi Becton and passing on elite receiving talent with the 11th overall pick was last season was a necessary move that paid big dividends. But more work is needed. Any pick used on a blocker after the inevitable quarterback at No. 2 can be a wise investment that continues Joe Douglas’ quest to make amends for the blocking negligence of the Mike Maccagnan era.

The Perfect Spots: Any pick beyond No. 2

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets bring back veteran TE Daniel Brown

The New York Jets announced the return of the veteran tight end Brown, who will embark on his third year in green.

The New York Jets announced the re-signing of tight end Daniel Brown on Monday morning. Terms and figures of the deal have yet to be disclosed.

Brown, set to turn 29 in May, will return for a third metropolitan season, having signed with the team as a free agent in March 2019. His previous NFL endeavors came in Baltimore and Chicago after going undrafted out of James Madison. He is mostly known for his special teams efforts, partaking in a career-high 76 percent of such snaps last season.

In his listed position of tight end, Brown has been used as a blocker but has earned 103 yards on 13 receptions over his first two years in New York as well. His most notable box score contribution came in a November 2019 visit to Washington, when Brown opened scoring in a 34-17 Jets win with a 20-yard touchdown reception from Sam Darnold. It was his first NFL touchdown in nearly three full calendar years.

Last season, Brown was part of the Jets’ final roster cuts but was brought back to the active roster shortly after. He earned a pair of receptions, one each in the final two games of the season, for 31 yards.

Back in the New York fold, Brown will reunite with special teams coordinator Brant Boyer, a rare holdover from Adam Gase’s staff, as well as a tight end room that also welcomes back Chris Herndon, Ryan Griffin, and Trevon Wesco. The Jets also signed former Buffalo Bill Tyler Kroft earlier this offseason.

With the signing of Brown, the Jets still have several free agents from the 2020 roster that remain up for grabs. Among the notables still available are secondary defenders Brian Poole and Bradley McDougald, as well as linebacker Neville Hewitt.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets positional preview 2021: Tight ends

If Chris Herndon has truly rediscovered his rookie form, the New York Jets’ tight end situation could be one of their smaller concerns.

The Position: Tight End
On the Roster: Chris Herndon, Ryan Griffin, Trevon Wesco
Free Agents: Daniel Brown, Ross Travis
Reserve/Future: Connor Davis

Chris Herndon is set to enter his fourth season on the New York Jets’ roster, which might as well make him a relic in green.

To put things in perspective: of the 17 men to catch a pass during the 2018 season…Sam Darnold’s debut campaign…the tight end is the only one still on the active green roster. He was second on the team in most major receiving categories, picking up 502 yards on 56 receptions, four of which went for scores. Since then, however, Herndon has struggled to maintain that kind of consistency. A four-game suspension and a subsequent injury limited him to 18 snaps in his sophomore year. He struggled to find his footing for the majority of the 2020 campaign, but the final stages started to bring out the Herndon of old, as he tallied 145 yards on 14 receptions, a couple going for scores.

At a crossroads on offense, the Jets could use a veteran playmaker to help stabilize things ever-so-slightly. He’s entering the final year of his original rookie deal and is clearly the best of what the Jets’ tight ends have to offer.

Chris has a lot of ability and it’s just like everybody else, you’re fighting the battle with yourself to go out there and be able to do it,” veteran quarterback Joe Flacco said of Herndon, per Max Goodman of SI, after the Jets’ November loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Herndon had a pair of receptions in that game, including a highlight-reel touchdown, his first score since December 2018. “He’s a young player with a ton of ability.”

Elsewhere on the Jets’ roster, Ryan Griffin failed to live up to the $10 million contract extension afforded to him in the midst of 2019. Second-year man Trevon Wesco dealt with injuries and inconsistency and the Jets more or less ended a plan to use him as a fullback in the early stages of the season.

Free Agents-to-be

Daniel Brown

Used primarily as a blocker and a special teamer, Brown has earned nine receptions over two years in New York, though one went for a touchdown in the Jets’ November 2019 visit to Washington. He was part of the team’s final training camp cuts last year but reinstated shortly after.

Ross Travis

Travis played 10 snaps with the Jets last season, mostly on special teams, after shuttling on and off the practice squad (as well as the reserve/COVID-19 list).

Will They Draft?

Depends on their faith in Herndon, but, even if it’s strong, no one would fault the Jets for using one of their excess draft picks on a tight end. Florida’s Kyle Pitts is the consensus top choice and likely won’t be on the table for the Jets (who have far greater needs to fill), but the latter days are rife with possibilities. Herndon’s fellow former Miami Hurricane, Brevin Jordan, may be the next best option and someone to potentially target with the extra third-round choice yielded from Seattle. Hunter Long (Boston College) and Matt Bushman (BYU) could be worth keeping an eye on, while small school choice Quintin Morris (Bowling Green) upped his stock at the Senior Bowl over the weekend (3 receptions, 52 yards in Saturday’s exhibition).

Veteran Possibilities

Jared Cook, New Orleans

Set to turn 34 in April, Cook can be a Frank Gore-like addition to the Jets’ tight ends…but he would contribute far more on the field. Over the past two seasons with the Saints, Cook has scored 16 touchdowns and earned a Pro Bowl berth in 2019. He can serve as a calming influence for Herndon, whom the Jets apparently still envision as the long term option, and help him maintain consistency. If the Jets can get him on a short-term deal, this would be a strong match.

Gerald Everett, LA Rams

Everyone knew about Everett’s catching prowess coming out of South Alabama, and he’s lived up to that hype so far by catching 74 percent of his targets to date. But Everett’s improved blocking, particularly in the run game. Everett figures to be one of the top tight end free agency targets after the Rams re-upped with Tyler Higbee. If he’s willing to face a training camp competition for more snaps, this could be an intriguing match. Head coach Robert Saleh has no doubt studied Everett extensively during his time as San Francisco’s defensive coordinator.

Ross Dwelley, San Francisco

Constantly overshadowed by George Kittle in San Francisco, Dwelley got a bit of an extended opportunity over veteran Jordan Reed when Kittle’s injury woes forced the Niners to turn to their bench. Dwelley is a restricted free agent, but a reunion with former Niners overseer Mike LeFleur, as well as an extended opportunity to contribute in New York, could serve as a selling point.

Outlook

For the time being, Herndon is going into the future as the Jets starting tight end, but he will likely have one of the hottest seats in Florham Park. Expect the Jets to add some help from outside at tight end, especially with the current backup help struggling and extensive cap space.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags