The New York Jets got an early start to free agency, late on Friday night.
Just hours before the "legal-tampering" window opened, the Jets re-signed tight end Jeff Cumberland, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News.
Mehta later reported that the three-year deal is worth $3.7 million with $1 million guaranteed.
Cumberland had an opportunity to find out his value on the open market starting March 8, when teams can legally begin talking to other free agents. Instead, he chose to sign a deal to remain in familiar territory with the team that picked him up as an undrafted free agent in 2010 and has given him a place to hone his craft for the past four years.
This isn't his first time re-signing with the Jets. He entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2010 on a three-year deal worth $1.217 million. He made more than that in one year after the Jets hit him with a restricted free-agent tender worth $1.323 million in 2013.
His role has grown dramatically over the years as the Jets have lost their other tight ends. With Matthew Mulligan the first to go and Dustin Keller making his departure last season, Cumberland has earned more opportunities.
Those opportunities figure to come his way a lot over the next three years.
|Jets TE Jeff Cumberland|
|Year||Games||Total snaps||Pass route||Run block||Pass block||Snap %|
|Source: Pro Football Focus|
Keller missed eight games in 2012, opening the door for Cumberland to receive more snaps in the passing game. With Kellen Winslow in the fold in 2013, Cumberland lined up mainly as a true "F" tight end but moved around to split out wide, even lining up in the backfield on occasion.
At 6'4" and 260 pounds, he provides a big target over the middle and in the red zone. He knows how to use his frame to box out defenders and make contested catches, as we saw on his touchdown catch against the Atlanta Falcons.
He located the ball in flight, went up to grab it at its highest point and came down with it despite a defender draped on him.
He has a good feel for the soft spots in zone coverage, but he doesn't have the speed to create separation from defenders when running vertically downfield.
There is a place for Cumberland in the Jets offense, but the team could still be in the market for a receiving tight end to balance out Cumberland's two-way presence, especially if Winslow does not return to the Jets.
Some other options include Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley and Houston Texans tight end Garrett Graham. If neither of those work out, there's always the possibility of a reunion with Keller, who is also a free agent this offseason.
For now, Cumberland may not be a dominant tight end, but he is valuable for his versatility and knowledge of the offense.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.