Bent, theJetsBlog.com Follow on Twitter
With the offseason ahead, one position on which some people may be divided is the Jets' receiving corps. Do they need to upgrade, merely add some depth, or are they set at the position?
During the offseason last year, the Jets' receiving corps was ranked as the worst in the NFL - and this was before Eric Decker was released and Quincy Enunwa and Quinton Patton suffered season-ending injuries.
However, once the season got underway, the Jets fared better than expected in the passing game, making it difficult to know how they'll approach this position with so many other needs.
In large part, the Jets rebuilt their receiving corps on the fly. Jermaine Kearse and Jeremy Kerley were late additions that saw heavy playing time early, although Kerley was a non-factor after midseason due to a suspension and was eventually released. Robby Anderson stepped up to the challenge of being the primary option once Enunwa went down, but the Jets didn't get many contributions from anyone else.
In fact, only two of the nine receivers listed by Bleacher Report when they ranked the Jets receivers in last place in May caught any passes at all, with one of them being rookie ArDarius Stewart, who had just six receptions.
With Kerley gone, the Jets' lack of depth was exposed. Rookies Stewart and Chad Hansen saw more playing time, but didn't produce much other than some infrequent flashes. Enunwa's return will help in that regard, although the Jets might be reluctant to count their chickens after he was forced to miss the entire season with a neck injury that required surgery.
Kearse had a career year and should be back in 2018. Even though his salary will jump to $5 million, that still represents pretty good value for money if he can replicate the same kind of production. There are some who feel the Jets should release him and use that money to upgrade elsewhere, but they already have plenty of cap room, and it would only serve to create another hole.
Whether the Jets can be happy about the potential of the group they are currently projected to bring back next year depends on whether they feel they need a "number one receiver," and also whether they believe any of Kearse, Enunwa and Anderson could become that. Of course, this depends heavily on how you would define such a receiver.
Until Josh McCown's injury, Anderson was on course for a 1,000-yard season and the top 10 in the NFL for yards-per-catch and touchdown catches, but his numbers fell off with Bryce Petty at the helm. Ultimately, only 15 receivers had 1,000-yard seasons, and Anderson clearly has the potential to be on that level with better quarterback play.
So, if he's not a "number one receiver", then about half the teams in the NFL, including several playoff teams, don't have one.
Enunwa may not be a number one either, but he displayed the potential to perhaps be a 1a when he led the Jets with 857 yards in 2016. He also saw his numbers drop off once Petty became the starter, so he theoretically has the production to produce at that 1,000-yard level if he can get back to 100 percent coming off his injury.
The temptation to add an elite A.J. Green or Julio Jones-type receiver to this unit is strong and can be beneficial, as the Brandon Marshall signing showed back in 2015. However, it would also take touches away from these promising youngsters who may not have reached their full potential yet.
Would a free-agent such as Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry or Sammy Watkins provide enough of an upgrade to warrant the financial outlay? If not, the Jets might have to resort to a trade to bring in that kind of difference-maker. Alternatively, perhaps they will draft someone with the hopes that they will develop into an elite receiver. SMU's Courtland Sutton is currently viewed as the top receiver by most sources, but there are likely to be other receivers with a high upside available later on.
Thinking smaller, a lower-profile addition could certainly be brought in to compete for a roster spot with the likes of Stewart and Hansen. The Jets may have been hoping for Stewart and Hansen to step up and take starting roles, but their rookie seasons weren't encouraging. Perhaps they will show progress, but right now they probably haven't done enough to guarantee a roster spot for next year, so the Jets can't afford to count on either of them stepping up.