According to Connor Orr of The Star-Ledger the Jets have reportedly “made a qualifying offer,” to Jeff Cumberland at a “low-level tender that will cost the team $1.32 million.” This type of low-level tender does not allow for the Jets to receive a draft pick if another team signs Cumberland, it would simply give the Jets the right to match any offer another team might make. If the Jets decided at that point to match the offer they can keep him and if someone simply out prices them they’ll let him walk and get nothing in return.
It’s unlikely another team will swoop in and offer Cumberland a substantial difference considering the amount of other options in free agency and the draft so it seems Cumberland will be with the Jets this oncoming season, now the question becomes will he be the starting tight end or the number two?
The Jets have been impressed enough with his progression from raw college receiver to NFL tight end and have enough faith/hope in his potential play-making ability that they felt comfortable giving him this offer and the offer probably has no direct impact on whether or not the team intends to re-sign Dustin Keller.
If they do re-sign Keller they’d be happy to continue grooming Cumberland and have him as the number two, however it’s doubtful the Jets will re-sign Keller either way, that decision was already made before this one. The Jets would welcome Keller back if the price was right, but chances are some team out there, in need to a receiving tight-end, is going to outbid them and he’ll move on.
It’s certainly possible the Jets look to sign a cheaper free agent tight-end, but they won’t be looking to swap out Keller for any of the Keller-like free agents. The most likely scenario would seem to be some combination of Cumberland, Hayden Smith (if he has progressed enough) and a draft pick (and of course a undrafted free agent or three and see if any of them can play), since this year’s draft class is filled with talent at tight end.
In the next couple of weeks we’ll get into scouting reports on these rookie tight ends and personal rankings (currently going over the running backs first, spoiler alert there’s a bunch of really good backs), but for now here’s a list of the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock’s top six tight ends (every other position rankings in that list as well).
- Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
- Zach Ertz, Stanford
- Gavin Escobar, San Diego State
- Travis Kelce, Cincinnati
- Vance McDonald, Rice
- Jordan Reed, Florida
Those top two guys won’t be options for the Jets as they’ll be gone before the Jets pick in the second round and if they Jets were to trade up into the late first/earlier second round it wouldn’t be for a tight end. The next four along with a few other options such as, Clemson’s Brandon Ford, Alabama’s Michael Williams, Arkansas’ Chris Gragg and more would offer good value in the draft and could possibly offer an early contribution to the 2013 Jets.