The situation that the Jets face going into next season regarding our tight ends is pretty cut and dry. Of the five tight ends that dawned the green and white throughout the season, the three most prominent are set to become free agents, and the two remaining, both undrafted free agents, may not be ready to step up and take charge without new talent ahead of them. Thankfully, there are plenty of free agent and draft-eligible tight ends the Jets can sink their teeth into.
I believe its safe to say that the Jets will need at least two tight ends to replace the departing Kellen Winslow Jr. and Jeff Cumberland. In regards to the third departing tight end, Konrad Reuland, I personally think he will be brought back on a low salary to provide depth. I think it's pretty safe to say that the Jets 2014 tight end corp will include Reuland, Sudfield, and probably Pantale, but they will remain third, fourth, and fifth on the depth chart.
Now there are several ways the Jets can pursue a top of the line tight end that could match or increase the production of the departing Winslow and Cumberland. The best option, in my opinion, would be to draft either Eric Ebron or Jace Amaro at 18 overall, and then sign a fundamentally sound free agent who can block like former Jet, Ben Hartsock currently of the Carolina Panthers. I personally like this move the best because it allows Sudfield and Pantale to continue their growth while cutting loose ties with Cumberland's poor blocking and Winslow's storied past, and sufficiently improving the protection game. I also like the prospect of drafting the best available tight end at 18 because the Patriots will no doubt be looking for a tight end of their own at 29 overall, and selecting the best or last first round tight end talent before the division rival will only make the Jets a better team. I do have to point out, however, this move is not all that likely because it puts a lot of faith in Hartsock should the Jets not be able to draft Ebron or Amaro, and may require trading up.
Another famous option is to sign a top market tight end with the abundance of cap space, most likely the Ravens' Dennis Pitta or the Red Skins' Fred Davis, and then either draft a late round low risk-high reward prospect like Colt Lyeria, or bring back Cumberland on a prove-it caliber one year deal. While I would not hate this option, I feel as though Pitta and Davis would require far too much money and bringing back Cumberland only leaves the Jets with the same protection problems of 2013, plus Lyeria, for all his talent, is a problem off the field. While this option appears nice and conservative, fitting into Idzik's approach, it may be far too risky for the Jets. *Note, I do not consider Jimmy Graham a free agency option.
There is also the possibility that all first round talent is gone by pick number 18, and there are no more legitimate tight end options in free agency, thus forcing the Jets to resolve to using a late round pick on a tight end. Thankfully the draft is deep enough to accommodate as the Jets can use one of their 3(+) second and third round picks on the likes of CJ Fedorowich, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, and Troy Niklas. If the situation gets really hairy, I think Georgia's Arthur Lynch might be Idzik's ace in the hole for a third round or later pick. To prepare for the possibility of not being able to draft an elite tight end, Idzik should probably sign a capable free agent before the draft; names like Brandon Pettigrew, Ed Dickson, and Garrett Graham come to mind, oh and also, Cumberland remains an option here as well. While this situation may not produce the most dynamic advantage at the tight end position, I personally believe it is the most likely approach that the conservative Idzik will take. Other conservative free agent options include Dustin Keller, Scott Chandler, and Jermichel Finley, two of which are coming off of devastating injuries.