If the New York Jets hope to enjoy a productive 2013 season, one of the areas that they cannot ignore this offseason is the wide receiver position. With their top three wide-out talents locked up for the upcoming year, the Jets are not exactly desperate to find a free agent stud that will demand a handsome contract. Yet, without a little more depth to the downfield game, a string of injuries could derail the passing game much like it did last year.
Returning from an injury and hoping to have a comeback year is No. 1 receiver Santonio Holmes. The former Super Bowl MVP was out for the season early last year due to a Lisfranc foot injury suffered in Week 4. A successful return for Holmes would set the Jets up for a resurgence in the rest of their passing attack. He is capable of producing a 1,000 yard season, much like he did in 2009. As the number one guy to Mark Sanchez, Holmes could also have new career-highs in touchdowns and receptions.
Backing up Holmes are slot receiver standout Jeremy Kerley and often injured but talented rookie Stephen Hill. While Hill was drafted to be the No. 2 receiver, Kerley exploded with an unexpected 2012 campaign. Kerley led the Jets in receiving with 56 receptions for 827 yards and two touchdowns. Furthermore, he doesn't count much against the Jets cap as Gang Green has the TCU alum for the next two years at just $1.2 million. A virtual steal for a player with an upside like Kerley. While Hill was only a rookie, he did not live up to the organization's expectations of him in year one. Hill finished the year with just 252 yards and 3 touchdowns. One of his offensive problems was his tendency to drop the ball, catching less than half of his intended targets. Hill will have to cure his case of the dropsies if he hopes to be on the field for much of the upcoming season.
TOP FREE AGENT RECEIVERS
The first question that will need to be answered is what to do with upcoming free agent Braylon Edwards. The waiver pickup only made $825,000 last season so he fits right in with the tight cap situation that the Jets are under. While his stats have been on the decline, Edwards has matured greatly both on and off the field. The NFL is turning into a young man's game and Edwards seems to have accepted his role as a veteran presence. The Jets should keep Edwards to help Stephen Hill in his progression and as a fallback in the event of an injury to one of their top tier guys.
With the current cap situation, it would be unrealistic for the Jets to target a top receiver in the free agency market. Holmes is set to make more money in 2013 than any other receiver in the league, making more money than even Calvin Johnson. The fact is that with the money tied in to their current players, the Jets will have to find depth in other areas, namely the upcoming NFL draft.
That is of course if the organization can pull off the impossible. Recently, the Jets have endured fire for trying to move star cornerback Darrelle Revis. Revis is the kind of player that can bring back a huge return. With Minnesota trying to move the mercurial Percy Harvin, the trade could benefit both teams. Especially if the Jets could squeeze a first round draft pick out of the Vikings.
TOP RECEIVER OPTIONS IN 2013 DRAFT
While the upcoming NFL draft does not include a standout at the receiver position, there are many depth options in the second and third rounds. The Jets need a player to round out the talent that they currently have on the roster with the potential to blossom and exceed expectations when put in the right situations. The team could benefit from a number of players in the draft. One great fit would be Markus Wheaton of Oregon State.
Wheaton enjoyed a superb 2012 season with the Beavers. He finished the year with 91 receptions for 1,244 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was also featured as a tailback in the Beaver offense, adding 631 yards on 83 carries. Wheaton's true weapon is his speed, providing the true big play threat that the Jets currently lack. His speed downfield could open up the receivers running under routes that provide crucial first downs.
Another inexpensive option would be to draft West Virginia alumnist Stedman Bailey. Bailey can work out of the slot and flew under the radar for much of the year playing next to Tavon Austin. In terms of talent, the two receivers are interchangeable. Geno Smith benefitted greatly from having a speedster like Bailey to throw to and Sanchez could experience the same success with the proper time to make his reads and pass the ball.
With the current cap handcuffing the Jets from making a huge splash in free agency, the team will most likely get their receiver depth from the draft. With great talent deep in the 2013 draft class, the Jets could find a standout receiver who will fit in well with the team. Barring a huge shake-up like trading of Revis for Harvin, the best route for Gang Green would be to return Edwards and bring in an infusion of young talent through the 2013 draft.