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Is Jeff Cumberland Dustin Keller insurance for Jets?

Given their precarious standing with the salary cap, it wasn't a surprise the New York Jets chose not to use the franchise tag before Monday's deadline.

The decision means tight end Dustin Keller is that much closer to ending his tenure with the team. Keller is expected to command some interest on the open market, which likely will take him out of New York's price range.

A backup plan already might be in the works. Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reported Monday that the Jets have had discussions about giving a restricted free agent tender to tight end Jeff Cumberland at a second-round level.

Hamstring and ankle injuries cost Keller eight games last season, giving Cumberland an opportunity to show his ability. He finished with 29 receptions for 359 yards and three touchdowns, with 18 of his catches going for first downs. Six plays of 20 or more yards showed the hint of big-play ability.

Cumberland is far from a perfect player. He's not a strong blocker and he made his share of mental mistakes last season. It's hard to imagine another team valuing Cumberland enough to give up a second-round pick, which would make the tender -- a one-year deal worth $ 2.023 million -- a smart play.

One other Jets tight end to watch is Hayden Smith. A 6-foot-7, 240-pound former Australian rugby star signed last April, Smith was a raw prospect who progressed last season. On Monday, former Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum discussed Smith on NFL Network.

"We could not cover this guy in practice," he said. "It would drive (Jets coach) Rex (Ryan) up a wall. We could not cover this guy. He got better and better. (He) wound up dressing for five games, and actually caught a pass against the Chargers."

Make no mistake: The Jets will be worse off without Keller on their depth chart. But the cupboard isn't totally bare.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.

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