In the run-up to free agency, there’s been a lot of attention given to which big-name free agents the Jets should sign. However, we wanted to give some thought to a couple of lower-profile signings that could benefit the team.
Before the tampering window opens, we decided to suggest one affordable defensive player and one on offense that could be a solid addition to next year’s roster. Having talked about Desmond King earlier this week, we now look at an offensive option.
Cincinnati Bengals tight end CJ Uzomah is out of contract so could he be a potential target for the Jets? The 29-year old is listed at 6’6” and 260 pounds and is a former fifth round pick out of Auburn.
Uzomah is coming off a season where he set career highs in catches (49), receptions (493) and touchdowns (five). Although he’s widely regarded as a safety valve, he does show some ability to be a vertical or big play threat as four of those touchdowns came from outside the red zone. He also had by far his best year in terms of creating yards after the catch.
He should in theory be a good scheme fit too, based on the fact that the Jets signed his former Bengals teammate Tyler Kroft last season. In addition, his role in the running game is probably similar based on the fact that Frank Pollack has been the Bengals’ offensive line coach both before and after his stint with Adam Gase’s Jets.
Uzomah offers value as a blocker, both in the running game and pass protection. He’s also - unlike some of the tight ends hitting the market - primarily lined up in-line rather than out wide or in the slot. He can contribute when split out wide or from the slot when needed though.
The Jets tend to use their tight ends on special teams, primarily to block on the return units, and Uzomah has experience of doing this, although he’s played less on special teams in recent years as his offensive role increased. He was previously also productive in kick coverage.
Uzomah’s cap number in 2021 was just over $6 million and OverTheCap and Spotrac both calculate his current market value based on his 2021 season at around $8 million. However, there are a lot of high profile tight ends available this year, which has led to him being somewhat overlooked and could keep his price down on the secondary market.
It’s probably helpful in terms of his price-point that Uzomah suffered a minor knee injury during the postseason. Had he made any big-time plays in the AFC title game or Super Bowl, that added exposure could have added a few million to his price tag.
Last year, the Jets added Kroft and his cap number was less than $2 million. The difference here was that Kroft had some injury concerns - which of course proved to be well-founded. Also, while he had posted numbers almost as good as Uzomah’s 2021 output once in his career, that had been back in 2017, so the Jets will be more prepared to pay a premium for someone who is obviously closer to his peak.
The Jets have a need at the tight end position and Uzomah would provide them with an immediate upgrade. However, signing him doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be the only thing they do to address this position.
Take New England for example. In 2020, they lacked depth at the tight end position and they addressed this in the offseason by double-dipping in the tight end market. They added both Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith on big money deals.
If the Jets were to sign Uzomah to shore up this position, they might then decide to take a different approach and use a high pick - perhaps 35 or 38 - on one of the top draft prospects.
Uzomah doesn’t need to be George Kittle to be a useful signing for the 2022 Jets, but adding him would provide the Jets with a reliable contributor that could be a valuable safety valve for Zach Wilson as he develops over the next few seasons.
Do you think this would be a good move? Who would be an affordable option you might target instead of - or even in addition to - this move?