If the New York Jets have one glaring need, it is at wide receiver and tight end. They had one of the worst receiving corps in the NFL this season, and expect the Jets to invest heavily in the position this offseason. I believe the Jets should use at their first round draft pick to upgrade the position, and that they will make at least two free agent signings, which could be big ones.
Let’s begin at receiver, where the free agent market is good but not great. Eric Decker and Hakeem Nicks are the two obvious headliners, and the Jets could make a run at one or both players. Nicks is very talented, but he has had a ton of injury issues. However, he would give the Jets a big, physical receiver who can make plays in the red zone. Decker fits a similar mold as Nicks, but there are some concerns about his productivity without Peyton Manning. Both players would be major additions, and they would be expensive as well. However, the Jets have cap space, and they should look to sign at least one of these receivers.
The next group of free agent receivers includes players like Anquan Boldin, Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Golden Tate, James Jones and Emmanuel Sanders. I don’t see the Jets going after Boldin or Jones because of their age, and I don’t see Cooper and Tate leaving their current teams. However, Maclin or Sanders could make for a very interesting addition. Both players are smaller, but they are fast, athletic and have very good hands. Maclin is coming off a torn ACL, so he could be cheap.
In the draft, the Jets will be one of several teams looking at Sammy Watkins and Marqise Lee. Make no mistake, if one of these players is available when the Jets pick at No. 18 then it will be an easy decision to draft them. However, it currently looks like Watkins will be gone by No. 18, and Lee could be as well. Don’t be surprised to see the Jets try to trade up for one of these receivers, because they both look like potential Pro Bowl players.
If the top two players are gone, the Jets will take a long, hard look at Mike Evans. The Texas A&M wideout is the player you will see most frequently linked to the Jets in mock drafts, and he could be the pick. Evans is very big and is an absolute monster in the red zone. Drafting him makes a lot of sense for the Jets. Other players the Jets could look at in the first or second round include Jordan Matthews, Kelvin Benjamin and Paul Richardson. They could also be looking to add someone like Donte Moncrief, Devante Parker, Brandin Cooks or Odell Beckham, Jr. a little later on.
At tight end, Jimmy Graham is the obvious star of the free agent class, but there is zero chance the New Orleans Saints allow him to leave. However, Dennis Pitta, Fred Davis and Brandon Pettigrew could all make for interesting free agent options. Any of those players would be an upgrade over Jeff Cumberland, whom the Jets could still re-sign. If the Jets can get any of those three at a reasonable price, expect them to make the deal.
In the draft, Eric Ebron looks like a star in the making, and the Jets will give him strong consideration if he is available with their first pick. Ebron is the total package at tight end, and it would not be a surprise if the Jets chose him. I don’t believe they’d take Ebron over Watkins or Lee, but they could pick him over Evans. The Jets could also be interested in Jace Amaro or Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the second round.
No matter who and how they choose, the Jets must make several big additions at wide receiver and tight end this offseason. Their receivers simply weren’t good enough this season, and they can’t expect Geno Smith to develop without help. This is the Jets’ biggest need this offseason, and they need to use both the draft and free agency to fill it.