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Last week, the Jets announced that tight end Chris Herndon would be suspended for the first four games of the 2019 regular season. This will obviously be a blow for the team, as they look to establish their new-look offense under Adam Gase. Herndon caught 39 passes last year to lead all rookie tight ends, including 32 over the last 10 games.
However, if the Jets intend to make a move to improve their tight end depth and give themselves further cover at the position, the options are somewhat unappealing.
Last month, even before the Herndon suspension was announced, Bucky Brooks wrote on NFL.com that the Jets should consider trading for veteran Jimmy Graham. However, adding a veteran who is past his prime and still on a high salary would be an overreaction at this point, especially if they had to give up anything of value to acquire him from the Packers.
Another name which might be floated is AJ Derby, who is still a free agent having played for Gase's Dolphins in 2017 and 2018. Derby was only the fourth-string tight end last year though and, although he scored a key touchdown against the Jets, didn't contribute enough to suggest he'd provide New York any kind of upgrade.
General manager Joe Douglas might have his eye on Richard Rodgers, who is listed as the third-string tight end in Philadelphia. The Eagles signed Rodgers last April, while Douglas was still with the organization and, if he doesn't make the team or becomes available via trade, perhaps this would be of interest. However, since catching 58 passes with the Packers in 2015, Rodgers hasn't been much of an impact player either.
The Jets could also consider bringing back a player who was with the team recently. However, Neal Sterling, Jordan Leggett and Clive Walford are all under contract with other teams. Austin Seferian-Jenkins is available again, following his release by New England, but the Jets might be reluctant to reunite with him as he was unimpressive last season in Jacksonville.
Unfortunately, this is the caliber of options currently available to the Jets, who might be better off just making do with what they have for now, and seeing if a more attractive solution presents itself later on.
While the four-game suspension might be longer than the Jets expected, they don't necessarily have to make a move right now. With limited options available on the open market, they can always address the position during preseason or perhaps after final cuts. There's also a chance the suspension could be reduced on appeal, making the need less urgent.
Herndon will be available throughout training camp and preseason, so the Jets won't necessarily find themselves a man down in the build-up to the season. However, based on the current roster, the only other tight ends currently on the roster are Eric Tomlinson, Daniel Brown and Trevon Wesco.
Of the three, Brown is more of a pass-catching threat, while Wesco and Tomlinson are better at blocking. The Jets are hoping the rookie Wesco can develop into a solid receiver as well, though. While Brown didn't play on offense last season, he caught 29 passes in the previous two years with current Jets offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains running the Bears offense.
In addition to leaning on their other tight ends more, the Jets could also opt to change their gameplans to offset Herndon's loss. They could opt to run more two-back and four-wide formations, which would see them using tight ends less than usual. Employing Quincy Enunwa in an H-back role for some snaps, as Chan Gailey's offense did back in 2015, could also be an option.
The Jets found themselves in a similar situation back in 2017, when their top tight end - Seferian-Jenkins - was suspended at the start of the year, albeit for just two games. On that occasion, they signed a tight end off the street - Will Tye - who played a significant amount of snaps and performed well in that role. Although they lost both games, the tight end position didn't really suffer, so the Jets may feel confident they can replace Herndon's production in the short term.
In some respects, Herndon's absence might benefit the Jets as they will be seeking to get their running game going once the season gets underway. Herndon improved his run blocking as the season went along, but it isn't as competent as Tomlinson or Wesco are likely to be. The Jets could also run some jumbo packages with a sixth offensive lineman.
It could end up being a silver lining if the Jets can establish their running threat before Herndon returns to the lineup to add another dimension to it.