FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Sam Darnold hasn't had many weapons to work with in the Jets' offense, but he did have one receiver he relied on in big spots. When Quincy Enunwa was healthy, he was the 21-year-old's go-to guy when he needed a play to be made.
That's why it was so smart for the Jets to keep Enunwa away from free agency and sign him to a four-year, $36 million deal.
The 26-year-old may not be the kind of game-breaking, No. 1 receiver that all teams need in this pass-happy era, but he's the kind of solid, sure-handed target that all quarterbacks need. And the price isn't all that high, considering the money being tossed at receivers these days.
Given that this is a very underwhelming free agent market for receivers, Enunwa might have done much better than $20 million guaranteed, and a $9 million per year average if he had hit the market in March.
But the Jets had been trying to re-sign him since early October, according to a source. They had been interested in a long-term extension with him since he caught 58 passes for 857 yards and four touchdowns in 2016. It certainly helped the team's bargaining position that Enunwa had a down year - 38 catches for 449 yards and a touchdown in 11 games before a sprained ankle ended his season in Week 14.
Enunwa, though, saw enough of what he can do in tandem with Darnold to convince him this was the right place for him to be.
"I have a young quarterback that I can mold," Enunwa joked. "Seriously, though, Sam is an amazing player. As a receiver, that's who you want to play with. I want to continue growing with this team."
And that's another reason why retaining Enunwa was important. He's not afraid of the growing pains that Darnold might endure. He's already built a chemistry with him. He's already became his favorite third-down target. Darnold clearly trusts him, and that's an important thing for young quarterbacks to have.
The Jets still need a more traditional No. 1 receiver, but there's no guarantee they can find one in free agency or even the draft. Even if they do, or if they trade for someone like Cincinnati's A.J. Green, Enunwa still has plenty of value. He's a tough, possession receiver who has battled through injuries, and knows how to pick up tough yards.
He can be a featured part of the Jets' offense. He can be a decent No. 1 if necessary, or an even better No. 2 - presumably with restricted free agent Robby Anderson back as the third receiver, and the deep threat.
Enunwa can be a weapon, and that's what Darnold needs so desperately. They won't be easy to find this offseason. So it was smart for the Jets to get a jump on the offseason, and lock up one they already had.