Lawrence Cager has completed the first step of a transformation that few NFL players make, or even consider.
On Tuesday, the former wide receiver was told he made the Jets' 53-man roster as the team's fourth tight end. Once again ... Cager made the team as a tight end.
"I went into the meeting and a couple of people were saying congratulations," Cager, 25, said. "It kind of hit me. It was the big team meeting where Coach said that the guys here are here. That's when I found out."
Cager's tight end gig comes a little more than two years after the Jets signed him as an undrafted free-agent wide receiver who played a season at Georgia (8 games, 33 receptions, 476 yards, 4 TDs) after three seasons at Miami (25 games, 45 receptions, 681 yards, 10 TDs). He spent most of his time on the Jets' practice squad in 2020 and played in two games. Cager was waived by the Jets last August and spent the 2021 season with the Browns, mostly on the practice squad. The Jets signed him to a reserve/futures contract in January.
In his two NFL seasons, Cager was listed at 6-5, 220. Now though, he's still 6-5, but has bulked up to more than 240.
"I was joking with him the other day, he went from being a slow receiver to a fast tight end," head coach Robert Saleh said with a laugh. "He is a willing blocker. He'll play at the point of attack, you can still run the ball plenty with him. He's not a liability in the run game. He's earned his way because he is a problem when it comes to receivers versus linebackers and safeties and all that. Big credit to creating a unique skill set that's different from what you see with C.J. [Uzomah], different than [Tyler] Conklin, different than [Jeremy] Ruckert. "
See the 53-man roster in photos leading up to the 2022 season.
Cager showed off the speed of a wide receiver with the bulk of a tight end during the recently completed preseason. Over the three games, he caught 7 passes for 129 yards. On several of those catches, he broke over the middle and was simply too fast, too athletic and too big for a linebacker or safety to track closely. Against the Falcons, he caught a pass for 34 yards, his long gain of the preseason.
"I still have that chip on my shoulder that I'm not a drafted player," Cager said. "And I still every day try to go out and prove that I could play in this league and last in this league, and I can help this team in any possible way."
Cager now finds himself in a competitive room that includes two guys signed in free agency -- Uzomah and Conklin -- and one drafted this past April in Ruckert. They have consistently played tight end, which in addition to running routes also means having the ability to block on run plays and on some passing downs.
"Coming into camp I wasn't really thinking about my chances, that's when you get down on yourself," he said. "Ruckert, Conk, C.J. they are the best guys I could ask for and they get me better every day, even Kenny [Yeboah] and [Trevon] Wesco, I watched them more than watch myself. [Wesco and Yeboah were cut on Tuesday.]
"I owe a lot to Coach Middleton [tight ends coach Rod Middleton] and [offensive coordinator Mike] LaFleur for believing in me and my talents. For Middleton staying on me, coaching me hard as I got acclimated to being a tight end. I couldn't ask for better coaches to be around, pushing me every single day."
In addition to perhaps getting some snaps at tight end, Cager is also likely to see a good amount of time on special teams. But he seems willing to do all that's asked of him.
"I'm kind of relieved, camp is a stressful time for anybody, but especially for undrafted guys on the bubble," he said. "It's a relief and now it's really time to show what type of player I am or the type of player I dream myself to be.
"Now it's time to win games. The whole team has that mindset. We've got to win and put the Jets on the map, ultimately, it's whatever I can do to help the team win any way possible, whatever they need me to do I will go out there and do my best."