Welcome to our off-season review of the New York Jets roster at Turn On The Jets. Each week we are going to attack a different position. We will have a roundtable discussion on it, Steve Bateman will submit a film breakdown examining it and our draft staff will look at potential prospects the Jets could add. So far we have covered quarterback and running back, this week we move to wide receiver –
How should the New York Jets handle wide receiver this off-season?
Joe Caporoso – The situation for the New York Jets at wide receiver isn’t quite the mess that many of their other offensive positions currently are but plenty of questions marks still exist. Jeremy Kerley had a terrific season and was the team’s most consistent player on offense in 2012, racking up 56 receptions and 827 yards which are monster numbers considering the team’s passing game last year. We know he will be back and be a critical part of the offense, likely working primarily from the slot.
Outside of Kerley, the question marks begin. 2012 second round pick Stephen Hill will be back after an inconsistent and generally disappointing rookie campaign. He must improve his route-running and ability to catch the ball in traffic if he wants to play major reps next season at split end. The team would be wise to bring back Braylon Edwards on a veteran’s minimum deal as insurance. Edwards ran strong routes in his three games with the team last year and looked like he still had plenty to give. If Hill’s development isn’t coming along well enough, Edwards can handle major reps on the outside and excel in the three-step game, particularly on slants and in-cuts.
Santonio Holmes is coming off major foot surgery and the team’s owes him a significant amount of guaranteed money. It is not out of realm of possibility that they will cut bait or look for a trade partner. Holmes has the skill set to be productive in Mornhigweg’s scheme, if he is the focused player he was during the 2010 season. However, the Jets cannot afford the same type of lazy route running and lack of communication with the quarterback they saw from him at times in 2011 and 2012. His fate remains up in the air but if Holmes is back in 2010 form, along with Edwards returning on a cheap deal, the Jets have the potential to have a deep, talented group of receivers. A four-wide featuring Holmes, Edwards, Kerley and Hill would be difficult for any defense to deal with.
At the bottom of the depth chart, don’t look for Clyde Gates or Chaz Schilens to return. In theory, Jordan White should have a skill set that is a perfect fit for the Jets new offense so maybe he will make some noise in training camp. Don’t look for the Jets to be too active in the free agency or trade market at receiver, with other positions taking priority this off-season. If they could stockpile draft picks, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Jets add a mid-round or late-round prospect to develop down the road but it would be shocking to see them select a receiver before round four.
Chris Gross – While the New York Jets have an abundance of offensive personnel issues to address this offseason, one position that may not necessarily need a total overhaul is wide receiver. The most important issue for the Jets receiving corps is health. It is imperative that Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill return at full strength from each of their respective injuries. Holmes was lost for the season with a Lisfranc injury in week 4, while Hill suffered a less severe leg injury later in the season.
It will be interesting to see what new General Manager John Idzik decides to do at the position, considering the newly hired Marty Mornhinweg will be implementing a West Coast Offense. Holmes and the emerging Jeremy Kerley seem to fit the bill in terms of wide receivers meant for this offense, but neither are viewed as the type to stretch the field for big gains. Each of them are stronger in the short passing game, while making runs after the catch. Hill would presumably be the player relied upon as the deep threat, with his tremendous speed and size, but he certainly still has a lot of growing to do.
Braylon Edwards is another interesting case. Edwards was brought in late last season as a move of desperation for an offense that was down to starting Clyde Gates and Mardy Gilyard opposite Kerley. Idzik was part of the front office in Seattle that released Edwards last season, just prior to the Jets claiming him off of waivers. If I had to guess, I’d say Idzik does not opt to bring Edwards back. He has been part of a group that has recently parted ways with him, and Edwards does not necessarily fit the bill of an effective WR in the West Coast Offense. Edwards is more of a possession receiver, with a small amount of ability after the catch at this point in his career. If he is brought back, it will likely be on a one year, incentive based deal.
So outside of Holmes, Kerley, and Hill, who will be playing wide receiver for the Jets next season? With the current state of the salary cap, the Jets will need to have a very good draft, as well as landing a budget free agent, who they can get the most bang for their buck out of. That immediately rules out all of the big name players that will be hitting the market this offseason. Dwayne Bowe, Mike Wallace, Greg Jennings, Victor Cruz, and Wes Welker can all almost certainly be disregarded, barring any type of major trade that frees up cap space for New York. More realistic options in the free agent market would include players like Louis Murphy, Josh Cribbs, Kevin Ogletree, or Jerome Simpson. None of these players will be nearly as effective as the prior, but they would come at a much cheaper rate, and each of them have the ability to provide production beyond their pay grade, if utilized properly.
The trade market is quite possibly the most interesting aspect of the Jets offseason to monitor. We have previously explored the idea of moving CB Antonio Cromartie in an effort to maximize his trade value and relieve some much needed cap space. One possibility that Idzik could explore for Cromartie, is moving him to the Minnesota Vikings for Percy Harvin. Minnesota could certainly use help in the secondary having surrendered the 9th most passing YPG last season, with 244.2, and also generating the 4th least number of interceptions, with just 10. A player like Cromartie would greatly bolster the production level of this struggling secondary, while providing a nice veteran presence for young players like Harrison Smith to lean on.
Conversely, Minnesota and Harvin have publicly been at odds over Harvin’s contract situation since the conclusion of the 2011 season. Rumors have been floated for about a year about Harvin being moved, but Minnesota has been reluctant to do so thus far. Perhaps a package including Cromartie could finally entice the Vikings to rid themselves of Harvin and any lingering contract disputes.
For New York, Harvin would come in and likely become the primary receiving option right away. His skill set would fit nicely with what the Jets are moving toward on offense, having a a slightly more physical, larger style of play than Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson. Attaining a player like Harvin would then allow the Jets to explore the option of trading players like Santonio Holmes. Whether or not they would be able to find a partner for such a deal remains to be seen, but it would certainly be something that would be looked at in the hypothetical scenario of Harvin, or a player of that mold, being acquired.
Realistically, the Jets are likely to sign a low cost free agent, while taking a chance at a later round receiver in this year’s draft. For who those players could potentially be, be sure to check back Thursday, as our draft team breaks down the best wide receiving options for the Jets in the 2013 draft.
Mike Donnelly – The Jets wide receiver position was an absolute wasteland last year, littered with players like Jason Hill, Mardy Gilyard, Clyde Gates, and Chaz Schilens. The unit’s best player, Santonio Holmes, was injured early in the season and was placed on IR. The 2nd round draft choice, Stephen Hill, was banged up numerous times throughout the year and when he did take the field, he showed an impressive ability to drop passes. Oh wait, that wasn’t a good thing at all, nevermind.
The best and most effective player week in and week out was clearly Jeremy Kerley, who actually had a very solid season and proved that he can be a major contributor going forward. The only other reliable option was Braylon Edwards, who was brought in toward the end of the season after being cut by Seattle due to a knee injury. It’s not too often you see a team pick up a starting receiver during week 14 after he was just cut by another team, but that is just what Mike Tannenbaum was forced to do.
As we all know by now, the Jets hired Marty Mornhinweg as their new offensive coordinator and he will be bringing his west coast offense with him. So what does that mean for the receiver position going forward and what changes will be made? Surprisingly, I don’t think the position will look all that different in 2013. Santonio Holmes will almost certainly be back due to his contract. Holmes tends to get lazy in his route running, but he has explosive after-the-catch ability and he could return to his big playmaker days. Stephen Hill is going to be here as the new coaching staff tries to develop him, because while his hands are made of stone, you can’t teach a player be be 6’4” with blazing speed. Jeremy Kerley is going to be back as well and play a major role as the slot receiver, which is a huge position in Mornhinweg’s offense. Look for him to have a ton of catches next year.
The other player likely to be back in 2013 and play a role for us? Braylon Edwards. Braylon loves being a Jet, and he was productive down the stretch, even though our quarterback position was a catastrophe. I don’t think the Jets are going to use a high pick on a WR this year, and will choose to develop Hill and Kerley instead. Under that scenario, we need a solid veteran to rely on along with Holmes, and Edwards fits the bill. He provides a tall target that can get deep down the field, and most importantly, his price tag will not break the bank. With the Jets salary cap situation being what it is, that is unfortunately going to be a major factor when shaping the 2013 depth chart. The Jets have pressing needs all over, so I don’t expect the WR position to be addressed in a major fashion. What we see is what we’ll get, whether we like it or not.
TJ Rosenthal – Vision for how the Jets should revamp the WR position is blurred until a new system is in place with a QB who can deliver the ball accurately and on time in it. As for the current roster, if the Jets go to a West Coast style, we could envision Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley thriving. Stephen Hill? We are not sure that system highlights what his strengths are.
Chaz Schilens and Braylon Edwards are not exactly constant quick hit speed guys to us but size will be needed in the red zone and on short yardage slants. The one WR Jets fans might want to see more of in a short spread passing game could be a healthy Jordan White. I believe he led the nation in catches as a senior in college. Reception monsters thrive in west coast systems.
The Jets clearly need WRs via free agency and the draft. The aforementioned group even with an elite QB is not good enough. New GM John Idzik will work within budget constraints in the attempts to fix the issue. We can’t expect Idzik to fix the problem with any one or two particular WR’s until we see who will be throwing the ball. Footwork, throws on time, hitting tight windows. Making good decisions. Give us that QB before we start to fill in who fits best on the outside.