Robby Anderson
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

Robby Anderson is heading to the Carolina Panthers. His decision will impact the rest of the New York Jets’ offseason plans.

While the New York Jets have made several important additions to their offense throughout the early stages of free agency, they have still yet to address one key position of need — wide receiver.

General manager Joe Douglas hoped to tackle this problem by bringing back Robby Anderson. Unfortunately, he failed, as Anderson reportedly agreed to a two-year, $20 million contract with the Carolina Panthers on Tuesday.

Dating back to last season, Gang Green consistently expressed interest in retaining their top wideout. Nevertheless, unlike his predecessor, Douglas has clearly shown that he won’t overpay for players. The first-time general manager establishes his price and sticks to it.

This ultimately caused Anderson, coming off of a campaign in which he caught 52 balls for 779 yards and four scores, to try and take advantage of this year’s weak crop of available pass-catchers by testing the open market.

Looking for a deal that would have paid him somewhere around $13 million annually, the market for the 26-year-old never materialized. That was due in large part to the talented and deep group of wideouts in this year’s draft class. While this didn’t bode well for Anderson’s salary, it seemed to benefit the Jets, as it looked like Anderson was destined to sign a one-year “prove-it” deal with Gang Green.

Instead, the Jets’ former undrafted signee will reunite with his college head coach, Matt Rhule.

For Douglas, the top priority all along was overhauling and revamping his team’s abysmal offensive line. Although he missed out on big-names such as Jack Conklin and Graham Glasgow, Gang Green’s new general manager has succeeded in improving this area of need.

With the additions of Connor McGovern, Greg Van Roten, and George Fant, the Jets hope to provide Sam Darnold with a formidable offensive line that can keep him upright and give him enough time to make plays in 2020-21.

The question is, who will be connecting with New York’s franchise quarterback to make these aforementioned plays?

This remains unanswered. And there aren’t any answers in sight.

Looking at the current roster, the Jets have a quality slot-receiver in Jamison Crowder. But outside of Darnold’s security-blanket, there isn’t much to get excited about. The only other somewhat notable name is Quincy Enunwa, but his status for the upcoming season is unclear. The oft-injured 27-year-old remains on the squad as he tries to work his way back from a career-threatening neck injury.

Rounding out Gang Green’s group of pass-catchers are special-teamers Josh Bellamy and Braxton Berrios, a reclamation project in Josh Doctson, and speedster Vyncint Smith. Following the Anderson to Carolina news, the Jets inked Breshad Perriman to a one-year deal. He is relatively unproven and isn’t much more than a pure vertical-threat.

While the Jets’ talent at the running back and tight-end positions, along with improved pass-protection, should go a long way in helping Darnold take the next step, he won’t find any further success with this makeshift group of wide receivers.

The Jets, who are still desperately in need of protectors for their franchise quarterback, have long been penciled in as a team slated to draft an offensive lineman with their first-round pick. If Robby Anderson was back in Gotham Green, this would have made sense.

However, with the departure of New York’s lead wideout from the past two seasons, Joe Douglas must shift his plans and draft a wide receiver with the 11th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

This belief stems from the fact that when it comes to free agency, there doesn’t seem to be much of a contingency plan in place.

Douglas could hypothetically look elsewhere to fill the void at wideout. Would he look into acquiring a disgruntled star like Cleveland’s Odell Beckham Jr.? Maybe. Would he consider trading for Brandin Cooks, or checking in on the status of Antonio Brown? Sure, all of these things are possible, but it seems highly unlikely at this point due to the fact that draft capital is truly invaluable to this rebuilding squad.

By losing Anderson and not drafting a receiver in the first round of the upcoming draft, New York would be simply wasting another year of Darnold’s rookie contract and setting him up for failure. The Jets can’t afford to let that happen.

It’s time for Gang Green to finally surround their franchise quarterback with some weapons.

For this reason, it is imperative that Douglas uses his first-round pick on either Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb if this scenario occurs. This would give Darnold the true No. 1 wideout he has coveted. A receiving corps of CeeDee Lamb, Jamison Crowder, and Breshad Perriman would be a major upgrade for Darnold and the Jets. Throw in Le’Veon Bell, Chris Herndon, and Ryan Griffin, and all of the sudden this offense begins to look somewhat promising.

If the Jets do go this route though, they will likely have to make a couple of other moves to account for this change in their plans.

Douglas would likely look to add a veteran offensive tackle such as Jason Peters or Kelvin Beachum to serve as insurance in case George Fant or Chuma Edoga is not ready to take over the reins as a full-time starter. Additionally, management would presumably look to add an interior offensive lineman, a cornerback, and an edge rusher with their three draft picks spanning the second and third rounds.

Furthermore, the Jets could even consider moving some of their funds previously allocated toward Robby Anderson and use them to up their offer to Jadeveon Clowney, the top edge rusher on the market.

Or perhaps they could try to pry Trent Williams away from the Washington Redskins and use the funds to offer him the contract he desires. I wouldn’t expect either of these to happen, but it would make some sense given the team’s dire need for a bonafide pass rusher and some added help on the offensive line.

At the end of the day, Robby Anderson leaves the Jets with a major void to fill for the 2020-21 campaign. In order to fill this void, Gang Green must alter their plans and use the 11th overall pick to scoop up one of the elite wide receivers, while continuing to solidify their offensive line through creative avenues.

Because if not, Sam Darnold will be doomed for failure.

And the last thing the Jets need is another franchise-quarterback-search.

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