After Jets general manager Joe Douglas spoke to Robby Anderson at the end of last season, he said "He knows how valued he is here."
But the problem for the Jets is Anderson likely knows how valued he might be everywhere else, too.
The 26-year-old Anderson is set to hit the free agent market in March as one of the top receivers available -- and possibly the top target, according to some NFL sources, depending on which receivers actually shake free. That could mean a huge contract for Anderson, who may already be priced out of the Jets' range.
There's no question that Dallas receiver Amari Cooper will top most charts of likely free agents, but he could get the transition tag from the Cowboys if he's not re-signed in the next few weeks. After that, though, Anderson's competition thins quickly. And while some teams might be more interested in veterans A.J. Green or Emmanuel Sanders, Anderson is expected to have a sizable market, according to multiple NFL sources, given his age, his size (6-foot-3, 190 pounds), speed, and his production the last few seasons.
"I don't know if he'll ever be a No. 1 receiver, but he's 6-3 and can fly," said one AFC scout, whose team has been doing some research on Anderson. "He's not really just a deep threat anymore. He's got the size and hands to do a lot more. He's shown he can. He's been about a 50-catch, 800-yard guy, but he's only 26 and there's a feeling that he can do a lot more in the right scheme."
Anderson has said he wants to see what he's worth on the open market, and at this point, it seems likely that he'll get that chance. The Jets do like him, according to a team source, but there's a limit to how much they're willing to spend to keep him. Heading into the market, many thought Anderson was likely to get more than $10 million per year.
The truth, though, is it could be significantly more.
Consider this: If Cooper gets the transition tag from the Cowboys, that's a one-year deal expected to be worth about $16 million. After Cooper, Green and Sanders are the most accomplished receivers on the market. But Sanders will be 33 in July and is also only 5-foot-11. And Green will be 32 in July, missed all of last season with an ankle injury, and has played in just one game dating back to Nov. 2018.
That adds to the value of Anderson, who will be 27 in May and has only missed two games in his four NFL seasons. Also, contracts for receivers have been getting bigger and bigger. There are 16 NFL receivers who currently have contracts worth at least $13 million per year.
Whether Anderson is worth that much is open to debate. His best season was three years ago, in 2017, when he had 63 catches for 941 yards and seven touchdowns, and he had only 52 catches, 779 yards and five touchdowns last year. Of course, the Jets' offense was a mess last season and they were plagued by quarterback problems in the first half.
Anderson did have a tantalizing stretch late last year -- when he had 22 catches for 370 yards and two touchdowns in a four-game stretch from Nov. 24 to Dec. 12. That may not seem like much, but free agency is all about comparison shopping. Given the rest of what's available on the market to receiver-needy teams, that looks pretty good.
It should look pretty good to the Jets, too, since they need help at receiver and they could have near $70 million in salary cap space to spend. Beyond Jamison Crowder, their receiving corps is a big question mark, especially if they let Anderson leave. Ironically, they could be in play for Cooper if he's available.
That could play a part in Anderson's fate, too.