Will the Jets target a veteran wide receiver this offseason to assist in the offense’s overall development?
The New York Jets needed a new head coach.
They fixed that issue with the hire of Robert Saleh.
Some would say the Jets need a new quarterback.
They could find one via the draft or potentially the trade market if they construct an offer for Deshaun Watson the Texans cannot refuse.
Gang Green also needs offensive weapons though, and according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the team could be in the process of fixing that problem as well.
Fowler reports the Jets will “take a look” at Steelers wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster and Texans wideout Will Fuller this offseason. The free agency period doesn’t begin until the new league year commences on March 17, but teams/players can begin negotiations two days prior to that.
It’s unclear the price tag either will be requesting upon the aforementioned dates, and you could go back and forth on whether you want Smith-Schuster or Fuller to join an offense in need of improvement (last in total yards, points, and 31st in passing last year).
The bottom line, however, is the fact that the Jets need to jump on one of the available veteran receivers, given the desperate requirement of talent on that side of the ball. A consistent playmaker will be of need regardless of who’s playing quarterback in Florham Park next season.
If Sam Darnold is around for year four, snagging either Smith-Schuster, Fuller, or attempting to break the bank on Allen Robinson would be a beneficial move. The young quarterback needs more on-field assistance in order to effectively and efficiently develop in this league.
A significant reason for Darnold’s 2020 struggles was the lack of productivity surrounding him. Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman, and Denzel Mims, while all skilled in their own right, missed a combined 15 games. The rookie Mims sat for seven matchups due to hamstring injuries.
If the Jets are going to roll the dice and enter 2021 with Darnold under center, the organization will be banking on his development more than ever. Retaining Perriman on a cheap deal (to help provide Darnold with some familiarity) while inking a free-agent wide receiver to assist in spreading the field would be a crucial step towards Sam ultimately (and hopefully) improving.
The same concept would arise if the Jets were to part ways with Darnold in favor of a rookie quarterback, such as Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, or Trey Lance. Few quarterbacks are able to enter this league and succeed instantly without sheer talent around them — the Jets would need to keep that thought in mind if any of those soon-to-be rookies is the answer for 2021 and beyond.
Acquiring Watson via the trade market would mean the Jets gave up their two first-round picks from this year (No. 2 and 23 overall); there’s no way the Texans will do business with the Jets if the 2021 opening-round selections aren’t involved.
With that said, if New York was to still snag a highly talented receiver, it would need to do so via the market. The top choice in that regard could be Fuller.
He wouldn’t be as expensive as Robinson, an important tidbit considering the Jets would be taking on a Watson contract with cap hits of $15.9 million, $40.4 million, and $42.4 million over the next three seasons.
Fuller has also been productive alongside Watson the past few years in Houston. His reception-per-game averages, yards-per-game averages, and catch percentages from 2018-20 were much higher than they were in 2016 and 2017 before Watson was a healthy, every-game starter (as a rookie in 2017, Deshaun tore his ACL and missed nine games).
Teaming Watson and Fuller together while still fielding at least Crowder and Mims could do wonders for a Mike LaFleur-led Jets offense.