Among several team needs for the New York Jets, the wide receiver position is definitely high on the list. The Jets have lacked a dominant number 1 receiver for quite some time, and finding one is pivotal for the success of Geno Smith.
Geno Smith is coming off a mediocre season at best, although at times he showed us all some flashes of what he is capable of. However, in order for him to consistently excel in the NFL, he needs to be surrounded with weapons who can help make plays for Geno before and after the catch.
With a good amount of cap room at their expense, the New York Jets can make a lot of big moves at the wide receiver position this offseason, all of which will be done within the team, during free agency, or in the draft. Now to break down some possibilities for each realm of improvement.
Improvements from Within:
Currently, the Jets’ wide receiving core consists of Santonio Holmes, Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill, and a number of sub-par receivers (David Nelson, Greg Salas, etc.). However, does it still make sense to keep all three of the roster’s best on the team?
Santonio Holmes is coming off another disappointing season, which basically sums up his career as a Jet. Holmes has only started more than 11 games once in four years with the team, and has scored a total of two touchdowns in the last two seasons. The former Super Bowl MVP has only amassed 2,128 yards in four years with the team, which accounts for less than 50 yards a game.
If the Jets were to cut Santonio Holmes this offseason, they would save a total $8.25 million in cap, further allowing them to spend in free agency. When one combines Holmes’ lack of production with his history of off the field issues, it simply makes sense for the betterment of the team to release him and add $8.25 million to the cap.
Improvements from Free Agency
With a desperate need for a wide receiver and enough cap room to make a move, do not be surprised to see New York Jets make a big splash in free agency. With a decent amount of talented receivers on the market, the Jets should find a receiver to step into the number 1 or number 2 role.
The best case scenario would be to sign FA Eric Decker, although there are both pros and cons to this situation. Eric Decker will be expecting a lot of money in any contract he signs, prospectively in the $8-9 million per year range. Decker is extremely pricey, and for a high-risk high-reward player he might not be worth it. However, people often forget that he succeeded in 2011 as a number 1 receiver with Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow playing under center. As a matter of fact, in the past three years only Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant have scored more touchdowns then Decker (32). Although Decker may not be ‘elite,’ he is definitely worth looking at and possibly signing.
Another potential signing the Jets could make in free agency is WR James Jones from the Green Bay Packers. Jones made $2.95 million last year, and although he has played well enough in recent years to make big money his PCL strain this year and the fact that he only accounted for 3 TDs in 2013 compared to the 14 in 2012 will definitely lower his market value. However, Jones is definitely one of the best available wide outs and has some spectacular hands. His consistency and red-zone ability will aid Geno Smith greatly.
Finally, another signing that makes logistic sense for the Jets is WR Emmanuel Sanders. Sanders is extremely underrated and is coming off a career season, in which he racked up 740 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns. Last year, Emmanuel Sanders made $2.5 million and will probably look for a contract within the $3.5-5.5 million per year range. Sanders has the abilities to extend plays with the ball in his hands, which will help Geno Smith’s 3-yard passes turn into first downs.
Other available receivers would make sense for the Jets to sign (Sidney Rice, Andre Roberts, Kenny Britt, etc.), although these three would be the best for the Jets as far as talent and cap room go.
Improvements from the 2014 NFL Draft
The New York Jets possess the 18th overall and 49th overall pick of the draft, two picks in which a quality wide receiver should be available. However, with so many other needs the New York Jets have, would it make sense for them to draft a receiver in the first round, or would it make more sense to take a tight end or offensive lineman in the first round and select a wide out in the second round?
If the Jets do choose to select a wide receiver in the first round, Marqise Lee out of USC would be the best feasible option for them. Odds are that both Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans will be off the board, and that would leave Marqise Lee as the next best receiver. Lee has the potential to develop into a dominant pass-catcher in the NFL, and his soft hands and raw athleticism make him a can’t miss talent. If Lee is available when it is time for the Jets to pick, it will be hard to pass him up despite any minor injury concerns.
However, with the Baltimore Ravens drafting one pick before the Jets, it is very probable that they snag Marqise Lee from right under our nose. If that is the case, the Jets could select an Eric Ebron or Jace Amaro, or they could draft the next best receiver: Brandin Cooks. The former Oregon State wide out ran the fastest 40 among WRs (4.33 seconds), and ranked first in the 20 yard shuttle (3.81) and the 60 yard shuttle (10.72). Cooks speed and agility is unmatched, and when combined with good hands and quick feet, he is unstoppable in the open field. Although he is on the smaller side (5″10′, 189 lbs.) and his strength is not dominant (16 reps on 225 lb. bench press), his pros far outweigh his cons, definitely making him worth looking at.
If the Jets do end up drafting someone such as TE Eric Ebron in the first round, they can still find exceptional talent at the wide receiver position in the 2nd round. And if we can snag Jordan Matthews, WR from Vanderbilt, with the 49th pick the Jets management would be ecstatic. Matthews is an intimidating 6″3′ with superior strength and hands. Although he does not have the breakaway speed of Cooks or Lee, his quick feet in and out of his cuts help compensate for his lack of explosiveness. In the 2nd round, Matthews would be a steal.
Best Case Scenario:
The New York Jets would release Holmes, freeing up a lot of cap room. This would allow them to sign James Jones in free agency and still have money left to spare. In the draft, because they had signed Jones they could use their first round pick for a different position and then take Jordan Matthews in the second round. This would create a receiving core of James Jones, Jeremy Kerley, Jordan Matthews, and Stephen Hill. Not bad if you ask me.