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If Jets want to revive dormant tight end position, it's time to spend

Jace Amaro missed the entire 2015 season after shoulder surgery and is a wild card for the Jets at tight end in 2016. AP Photo/Julio Cortez

With free agency approaching (March 9), we're analyzing the biggest needs on the New York Jets' roster, examining possible upgrades:

Position: Tight end

2016 cap hits of top returnees (position rank/average per year):

Pending free agents: Kellen Davis, Zach Sudfeld (restricted).

Key stat: New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski had more catches (11) in the first meeting against the Jets last season than the Jets' tight-end corps produced for the entire season (eight).

Money matters: Cumberland, entering the final year of his contract, is a prime candidate to be released -- a move that would clear his entire $1.9 million from the cap. The Jets haven't paid significant money to a tight end since Dustin Keller in 2012. Maybe it's time to open the checkbook.

Big picture: Jets head coach Todd Bowles downplayed the lack of productivity from the tight ends, saying at the scouting combine they were "a big part" of the offense because of their blocking. "We didn't assess the spot as a weakness in the passing game because we had the guys on the outside getting open and scored a bunch of touchdowns," Bowles said. That said, the Jets still need to upgrade the personnel. Statistically, they were one of the least efficient passing teams in the middle of the field, in part because they didn't have a threat at tight end. Amaro, coming off shoulder surgery, is a wild card. Drafted by the previous regime, Amaro was a record-setting receiver in college, but he has yet to impress the current administration. This will be a critical offseason for him.

Free-agent market watch: Antonio Gates, Jared Cook, Vernon Davis, Jermaine Gresham, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Benjamin Watson, Ladarius Green, Zach Miller.

The game plan: The Jets could try to squeeze by with the current personnel, relying on a Cumberland-Amaro combo, but general manager Mike Maccagnan has indicated there could be some value in the free-agent pool. Allen, who disappeared from the Indianapolis Colts' passing attack after a promising start to his career, is a two-way tight end who would upgrade the position. If the Jets want to bet on potential over past performance, they should look at Green. He never emerged from Gates' shadow in San Diego, but he's fast and has an intriguing skill set. The Jets are on a budget, but they will look to add a veteran to the mix.