Free Agency

Inside the Addition of Jeff Cumberland


The Chargers signed former Jets TE Jeff Cumberland to a one-year deal on Monday, giving the team some much needed depth at tight end. The signing was not about replacing Ladarius Green — something Cumberland is not capable of doing — but about giving Tom Telesco some options in this month’s NFL Draft.

General managers always want to draft the best player available. Unfortunately, sometimes they are forced to reach for players when a specific position cries out for attention. The Chargers already have several positions they will be forced to fortify in the draft, including defensive end, offensive guard and inside linebacker.

Prior to Cumberland’s signing, tight end was on that list, too.

The Chargers will still likely draft another tight end, but Telesco should no longer feel pressured to reach for one on Day Two.

Cumberland (6’4”, 260 lbs.) is a solid if unspectacular option. He signed with the Jets as an undrafted free agent out of Illinois in 2010 and carved out a significant spot in the rotation in 2012. Over the four seasons that followed, he caught 83 passes for 1,081 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Cumberland’s role was marginalized last season under new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, as he was used primarily as a blocker while New York deployed more four-receiver sets. He caught only five passes last season, none after Week 9.

Cumberland, 28, is not equipped to replace Green, a pass-catching tight end with the blazing speed to stretch the seams. If anything, he’ll replace John Phillips, a two-way tight end whose job was to block first and catch passes second.

The advanced numbers support that notion. Last season, according to Pro Football Focus, Cumberland earned a grade of 52.2 for his run blocking and 64.5 for his pass protection. Phillips, by contrast, earned grades of 47.4 and 63.9, respectively.

As for draft prospects to watch as the Chargers look to round out this group, keep an eye on the following players …

-If South Carolina TE Jerell Adams is on the board at the top of the fourth round, he will be tough to pass up. Adams has already spoken with us about his admiration for Antonio Gates, which is a plus.

-Iowa’s Henry Krieger-Coble is not a candidate to replace Green, either. However, he could replace David Johnson as San Diego’s H-back.

-In our last Draft Debate, Trenton Villanueva made a strong case for ECU TE Bryce Williams.

-Two other names to watch if the Chargers wait until the later rounds to select a tight end: Tyler Higbee, who was a part of Western Kentucky’s unstoppable offense, and Billy Freeman, a pass-catching tight end from San Jose State who could shine with consistent quarterback play.

About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has covered the San Diego Chargers since 2003. He spent 12 years covering the team for and has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports, Football Insiders and MySpace Sports.

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