New York Jets – Three Skill Position Free Agents To Target

Michael Nania with three skill position free agents the New York Jets should purse in free agency…

Skill positions are not where Mike Maccagnan needs to be looking first to invest premium free agency dollars. There are plenty of more important holes elsewhere, and the Jets’ RB and WR positions are arguably two of the most stable positions on a roster that is anything but. At both positions, they have a combination of intriguing young potential and steady veteran production.

With that being said, we’re talking about a team that has ranked 24th or lower in scoring in 5 of the past 6 seasons. Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, and Elijah McGuire make up a promising young core, but one that is far from a sure thing. Bilal Powell and Jermaine Kearse are solid vets, but far from game-changers. If this team can find affordable playmaking in free agency, they should no doubt kick the tires.

Here is one player at each skill position to potentially focus on

WIDE RECEIVER

Allen Robinson

While I’m higher on this Jets receiving group than most, there is one glaring hole that isn’t getting much attention: red zone production.

Since 2015, 23.7% of red zone targets have resulted in a touchdown. Here is how the leaders of the 2017 Jets receiving core have performed in the red zone in that time frame (targets/touchdowns)

  • Robby Anderson: 1/15 (7%)
  • Quincy Enunwa: 1/16 (6%)
  • Jermaine Kearse: 6/32 (19%)
  • Austin Seferian-Jenkins: 5/22 (23%)

The three receivers are all well below average, while ASJ also checks in at a below average level (though we all know he could’ve easily had 2 more touchdowns this year). This team could use an established weapon in the red zone; a jump-ball winner in the intermediate ranges a la 2015 Brandon Marshall.

Allen Robinson could be that guy. In the same time period mentioned previously, Robinson is tied for the league lead with 18 red zone touchdowns, and that’s despite missing just about all of 2017. Collecting those 18 scores on just 41 targets, his 44% touchdown rate in the red zone is easily the best among receivers with at least as many targets.

The obvious elephant in the room while discussing the prospects of adding Robinson is the ACL injury he suffered this season. Will he come back the same? Is it smart for the Jets to rely heavily on two receivers bouncing back from serious injuries?

Robinson is still only 24. While some teams might be more desperate to break the bank for him despite his major injury questions, the Jets really should explore bringing him in. Spotrac currently values him at $13.6M per year. That would put at top ten in the league, an investment the Jets can’t afford to make in a receiver coming off a serious injury. However, if the risk of his ACL drags his market value into a more affordable range, maybe somewhere around $8-9M with team-friendly guarantees, I would be on board for the Jets making a competitive run.

RUNNING BACK

Jeremy Hill

First off, I’d like to emphasize that the Jets really should not be spending big bucks on a running back. It’s a non-premium position that is addressed easily in the later rounds of the draft, which has been an absolute gold mine for game-changing talent in the last few years. All of the following names were called past the first round in just the last three drafts:

Kareem Hunt, Alvin Kamara, Jordan Howard, Jay Ajayi, David Johnson, Derek Henry, Alex Collins, Joe Mixon, Aaron Jones, Tarik Cohen.

I’d love to see the Jets dip into the mid-round running back pool this year. Still, there are some intriguing names on the running back free agent market, and if a potential high-impact fit can be had at the right price, it shouldn’t be an idea that is tossed aside.

The name that stands out most to me is Jeremy Hill. The Jets seemed committed to a committee approach this past year, and if both Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire return, we could see another stable of backs. Both Powell and McGuire are more of the east-west scatback variety, looking to use their quickness to get outside while also both contributing as receivers. In my view, the missing element could be a power threat.

Hill could be the guy to bring that lunchpail mentality to the running backs room. Since entering the league in 2014, the Bengals have trusted him with 33 carries inside the opponent’s 3 yard line, 6th most in the entire league. He’s converted 17 of them into TDs, a 52% rate that beats the NFL average of 47% in those situations.

To boot, Hill is still only 25 years old, and with 29 rushing scores over his first three years has proven that he has big-time playmaking potential. After falling out of favor to rookie Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard, in addition to missing the second half of 2017 due to injury, the Jets might have a shot to buy low on a productive young back.

TIGHT END

Trey Burton

Last night in Minnesota you saw Burton make what will become one of the most iconic TD passes in Super Bowl history, as he found Nick Foles for the score on a bold 4th down attempt. With that play, he already has a better career TD-INT ratio than any quarterback on the Jets roster, so if (quite literally) all else fails he could come in and compete with Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty.

Kidding aside, Burton is an intriguing young tight end at only 26. He was rarely featured offensively in his first two seasons before bursting on to the scene over the previous two. He caught 37 passes on 60 targets for 327 yards and a touchdown in 2016. This year, his target number was sliced to just 31, but he still managed 23 catches and 248 yards with 5 touchdowns on much improved efficiency (3rd in tight end DVOA).

If Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ price tag gets out of hand, Burton would be an intriguing fall back option, bringing untapped potential and versatility to the table.

Photo Credit: NFL.com 

Author: Michael Nania

You can follow me on Twitter @Michael_Nania. I'll be hosting the weekly Jets opponent preview podcast, Know Your Foe, starting with the 2018 regular season. I've been writing for Turn On The Jets since January 2018, and you can also check out more of my work on the Jets over at Gang Green Nation.