Important decisions lie ahead for Joe Douglas with free agency and the NFL draft nearing.
After spending the first part of the offseason finding New York’s next head coach, Douglas’ focus now shifts to putting together a competitive roster for Robert Saleh to work with. A major step in accomplishing that feat would be to address the wide receiver position, which was lacking in a lot of areas throughout 2020.
Denzel Mims has the makings of a future star and Jamison Crowder is consistently working out of the slot, but whoever the Jets’ quarterback is next season is going to need a lot more than two weapons to work with in order to be successful. Adding a No. 1 wide receiver is pertinent, as is beefing up the depth at the position in the event of a rash of injuries.
Last offseason’s free agent wide receiver class was thin, but that is far from the case this offseason. Here are eight wideouts Douglas and New York should have interest in once free agency kicks off.
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New York's pursuit of a No. 1 wide receiver should begin with Allen Robinson. The 28-year-old was dominant with the Bears in 2020 despite lackluster play under center, hauling in 102 passes for 1,250 yards and six touchdowns. Robinson is known mostly as a freak athlete who can beat defenses downfield with ease, but he also has a diverse route tree and the ability to make plays underneath. The Penn State product isn't exactly a speed demon, but he has a knack for making defenders miss in space and racking up yards after the catch when asked to do so. Robinson's recent social media activity has suggested he might welcome the Jets as a suitor this offseason. If that's the case, Douglas should do whatever it takes to bring him to the Big Apple. Robinson is the definition of a difference-maker and would alter the trajectory of New York's offense upon his arrival.
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Social media antics aside, JuJu Smith-Schuster showed why he is one of the best possession receivers in football throughout 2020, catching 97 passes for 831 yards and nine touchdowns with the Steelers. Smith-Schuster isn't a vertical threat like Robinson, but he is a YAC machine, which could make him an intriguing option as a fit in Mike LaFleur's west coast offense. There's also a familiarity factor if the Jets opt to stick with Sam Darnold, as the two played together at USC. Smith-Schuster has said he wouldn't mind reuniting with his former college quarterback, making New York a more intriguing destination than it already is if Darnold is with the team next season.
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There is no doubt that Chris Godwin should be near the top of the Jets’ free agent big board considering their need for a true No. 1 wide receiver. Godwin only had 840 receiving yards in a crowded Bucs offense this past season, but he is the complete package at receiver. Between his route running ability and ball skills, he has exactly what it takes to be a top wideout for years to come. Godwin turns 25 at the end of February and is just entering his prime, making him a lock to earn top dollar on the open market. That should not cause Douglas and company any sort of hesitancy in their pursuit.
Syndication: The Tennessean
Corey Davis' first three seasons with the Titans left plenty to be desired, but the former No. 4 overall pick broke out in a big way in 2020, tying a career-high with 65 receptions and posting new career-highs in receiving yards (984), yards per reception (15.1) and touchdown catches (five). It's worth questioning how Davis would fare operating as a No. 1 wide receiver — he undoubtedly benefitted from defenses keying in on A.J. Brown last season. However, the Western Michigan product has the physical tools to build on his recent success and is just entering his prime. As long as the Jets avoid overpaying, Davis could be a solid mid-tier target.
Will Fuller V
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There aren't many wide receivers in the NFL faster and more dangerous downfield than Will Fuller V. Injuries have plagued Fuller throughout his career — he has only played in more than 11 games in a season once — but he is a legitimate threat to burn a defense every time he runs a route. A PED suspension brought a screeching halt to Fuller's 2020 season and serves as another red flag, but it was the Notre Dame product's best year yet, registering career-highs in receptions (53), receiving yards (879) and touchdowns (eight). The Jets have almost no way of ensuring Fuller stays healthy if they sign him. The nature of his PED suspension is also worth vetting. With that being said, Fuller is the kind of talent a team like New York rolls the dice on.
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A severe case of the drops forced Nelson Agholor out of Philadelphia, but the 27-year-old bounced back with a bang in Las Vegas last season, catching 48 passes for 896 yards (18.7 yards per reception) and eight touchdowns. Darren Waller was the Raiders' top option in 2020, but it was Agholor who was Derek Carr's favorite downfield target. It's reasonable to wonder how much stock should be put into one strong season after the way he crashed and burned at the end of his tenure with the Eagles, but Agholor's career seems to be back on track. He might not be the true No. 1 wide receiver the Jets need, but the USC product could be a contributor and has a connection to Douglas.
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Josh Reynolds has worked in the shadows behind Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods in Los Angeles, but he has managed to make a name for himself as a reliable target on underneath and intermediate routes. Reynolds doubled his production last season, going from 21 receptions for 326 yards and one touchdown in 2019 to 52 receptions for 618 yards and two touchdowns in 2020. The 25-year-old made a living as Jared Goff's security blanket, registering a career-high 81 targets while Kupp and Woods worked outside. Reynolds showed what he could do with an increased role last season. He might not be a No. 1 wide receiver, but that is not the Jets' only need at the position this offseason. An influx of talented depth is required and Reynolds fits that profile perfectly.
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Speaking of high-upside depth signings, Zach Pascal is another name that should have New York's attention in free agency. Pascal posted career-highs in receptions (44) and receiving yards (629) while catching passes from Philip Rivers with the Colts last season. As ESPN's Jeremy Fowler suggested, Pascal is more of a second-tier target than a primary one. That should work in the Jets' favor, as it is going to take more than just one splash signing to get the wide receiver room pointed in the right direction. Pascal would be a worthy addition in terms of reliability and scheme fit.