The more people around the NFL fell in love with the large group of receivers in the draft, the more they warned about what might happen in free agency. They knew Robby Anderson was looking for a big payday, but they increasingly doubted it was going to happen.
So far, it appears they're right.
It only takes one team to make him an offer he can't refuse, of course, but so far it does appear that the market for the 26-year-old receiver has collapsed. Only one receiver -- Dallas' Amari Cooper -- has really cashed in during the free-agent signing period. And one week since the market opened, Anderson remains unsigned.
That's bad news for him, but potentially good news for the Jets.
"At this point, he's got to be thinking about getting the best deal he can from the Jets," said one prominent NFL agent. "He can still get a decent deal for maybe one or two years, and then be back on the market when the (NFL salary) cap starts to go way up. He'll still be young. Maybe his numbers go up and he can really cash in then."
Anderson, who had 52 catches for 779 yards and five touchdowns last season, entered the market hoping to cash in now, of course. He was eyeing a contract worth in the neighborhood of $13 million per season, per a source -- an expectation that seemed possible since many considered him the second-best receiver on the market behind Cooper. And Cooper got a five-year, $100 million contract from the Cowboys with a reported $60 million guaranteed.
But no other receiver has approached that money. In fact, two other accomplished free agent receivers -- Emmanuel Sanders and Randall Cobb -- didn't even get half of that per-year value. Cobb got a three-year, $27 million deal from the Texans that included $18 million guaranteed. And that might even be an outlier, considering Sanders had to settle for a two-year, $16 million deal with $3 million more in incentives from the New Orleans Saints.
Where does that leave Anderson? It's not clear since there has been a telling silence from his camp, and few sources around the NFL can do more than guess at his current options. The Jets would still like him back, a source said, but GM Joe Douglas set a price for him, and based on how he's dealt with other free agents he seems unlikely to raise it.
Douglas is also not going to bid against himself, and right now it's not clear which other teams would even be interested in competing for Anderson, especially after a couple of big-name targets were traded (DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona and Stefon Diggs to Buffalo). Maybe the Indianapolis Colts or perhaps the Philadelphia Eagles, who had shown some interest in possibly trading for Anderson in the past. But his options seem to be limited.
And even if there are more interested teams, the initial question raised by many around the league still applies: Why overpay for Anderson when there are many younger, cheaper, equally-talented options available in the first three rounds of the draft? Some NFL scouts have said there could be as many as 25 receivers worth taking in the first three rounds. That means every team will get a chance at some good ones and get them on low, rookie deals.
The closer the NFL gets to the draft, which is now exactly one month away, the more teams will lock in on some of those receivers. That means the longer Anderson waits, his price is more likely to go down than up.
So if Douglas' strategy was to wait Anderson out, it appears to be working. And it's increasingly possible that whatever the Jets are offering will turn out to be the best that Anderson can get.