Jets tight end Ryan Griffin against the New Orleans Saints...

Jets tight end Ryan Griffin against the New Orleans Saints at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Tight end is an extremely important part of the system offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur runs. The Jets must make this position a priority this offseason.

No team targeted their tight ends less than the Jets did last season – 77 times total. Ryan Griffin’s targets (42) and receptions (27) ranked 34th and 35th respectively among tight ends. The Jets don’t have the players to run 12 personnel (two tight ends) as much as LaFleur would like.

The Jets want a tight end who can win one-on-one battles blocking in the run game and work the middle of the field as a pass catcher.

Colorado State’s Trey McBride is considered the best tight end in the draft, and the Jets likely would be interested if he’s there when they pick in the second round (35 and 38). Another possibility later in the draft would be Ohio State’s Jeremy Ruckert, who is from Lindenhurst.

The Jets’ staff worked the Senior Bowl with tight ends coach Ron Middleton serving as head coach. They got a good look at these players and will have a better feel for them had they just met for the first time at the Combine. That’s a benefit.

There are also a number of tight ends in free agency who would be upgrades and could alter the Jets’ draft plans if they acquire one.

Dalton Schultz, Mike Gesecki and Zach Ertz are three of the top tight ends headed for free agency. Any of them would be a huge addition for the offense and a security blanket for Zach Wilson.

C.J. Uzomah, David Njoku, O.J. Howard, and Hayden Hurt would be less expensive. San Francisco backup tight end Ross Dwelley could be a low-cost option since he knows the system.

Here’s a look at the Jets’ tight end position as free agency and the draft nears. (Salaries via overthecap.com):

Ryan Griffin

2022 Status: Under contract.

Cap Number: $3.194 million (Not guaranteed)

Griffin has had some good moments as a Jet, but he certainly is a candidate to be released to free up more money to help fill this team’s many needs. They could try to get him to take a pay cut and bring him back for depth. Either way, the Jets need an improvement here.

Trevon Wesco

2022 Status: Under contract.

Cap Number: 1.141 million (Not guaranteed)

He has just six catches for 87 yards since the Jets selected him in the fourth round in 2019. They hoped to use him in a fullback role. With his size, Wesco can be effective creating space. But Nick Bawden was the primary fullback the second half of the season. Wesco just hasn’t been enough of a threat on offense. He still has room to grow, though.

Tyler Kroft

2022 Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

He was a productive pass catcher earlier in his career. Kroft has caught just 38 passes the past four seasons, including 16 last year in an injury-plagued season after the Jets signed him away from Buffalo. The Jets likely will let him walk.

Kenny Yeboah

2022 Status: Under contract.

Cap Number: $825,000 (Not guaranteed)

He flashed in the preseason but didn’t get much of an opportunity in the regular season. Yeboah played more than twice as many snaps on special teams than on offense in nine games. It makes sense for the Jets to keep Yeboah and see how he develops.

Lawrence Cager

2022 Status: Under contract.

Cap Number: $825,000 (Not guaranteed)

The Jets initially signed Cager as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2020 to play wide receiver. After he spent last season with Cleveland, the Jets signed Cager in January to a reserve/futures deal as a tight end. He has good size (6-foot-5, 220 pounds), but he has to learn how to play this new position. Cager had some impressive days in Jets’ training camp two years ago, but he only appeared in two games.

Brandon Dillon

2022 Status: Under contract.

Cap Number: $825,000 (Not guaranteed)

The Jets signed him to the practice squad in late December and then a reserve/futures deal in January. The former Viking has only one catch in four NFL games.

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