Crowder has been one of the most reliable weapons the New York Jets have had over the last two years, but a major decision looms.
Even before the nightmarish two years of the Adam Gase era, the New York Jets and offensive firepower have been like oil and water. In a modern NFL ruled by fantasy football, the Jets’ struggles on offense and low win totals are no coincidence.
Jamison Crowder, however, has been a welcome exception to the hard times. After four seasons in Washington, where he made an immediate impact by breaking a rookie receptions record previously held by Art Monk, Crowder joined the Jets on a three-year deal worth $28.5 million. As the team faltered, Crowder has developed himself into one of the most reliable slot receivers in the NFL. He is one of only 36 receivers throughout the league to earn at least 1,500 cumulative yards, a number not only achieved with four different quarterbacks in tow but one that could’ve been much higher had Crowder not missed four games wth an ankle injury last season. His 699 yards and six touchdowns still managed to lead the team in 2020.
With the horrors of last season behind, the purge of anything related to the prior regime has been well underway. All but one of the fired Gase’s assistants (special teams coordinator Brant Boyer) were bid farewell, and an in-season fire sale put Steve McLendon and Le’Veon Bell on a collision course for the Super Bowl (Avery Williamson was likewise involved). On the offseason front, 25 Jets are up for free agency, but save for a select few (Brian Poole, Marcus Maye) there’s no one the list that screams priority re-sign.
Crowder, however, is ensnared in a tricky situation as a new unit, one that could include yet another quarterback, starts to assemble. He is under contract for another season, but, with the aforementioned contract guaranteeing $17 million, Crowder could be bid farewell if the Jets are looking to send a a few further millions to an-already healthy cap situation. If Crowder is removed, be it through trade or outright release, the team would save just over $9 million.
What are the Jets to do? ESM investigates…
The Case To Keep
When you’re a team like the Jets, a team that failed to pass the 14-point plateau in nine games last season, are you really in any position to turn down any source of firepower? Never mind four digits in yardage; Crowder and free-agent-to-be Breshad Perriman were the only ones to crank out 500 yards on the New York roster last season…and Perriman only broke the threshold by five taillies.
No matter who starts under center for the Jets in 2021…be it Sam Darnold, Deshaun Watson, or a spring draftee…they’re going to need weapons to work with. Drafting Mekhi Becton was a good start, even if it meant passing on some of the name-brand receiver talent available at No. 11. But, if the Jets were to release Crowder and let Perriman walk, the top returning receiver would be Braxton Berrios (394 yards last season). Sure, there’s cap space to add a talented slot option like Chris Godwin, JuJu Smith-Schuster, or Curtis Samuel. But if you keep the reliable Crowder, a team with a ridiculous amount of holes to fill has one less spot to worry about. The quarterback will also have a guaranteed, established weapon to work with rather than relying on a big score in free agency.
Crowder’s status as a seasoned veteran and one of the rare Jets on the current roster with playoff experience (earning a trio of receptions in Washington’s loss to Green Bay in the 2016 Wild Card round) could have a calming effect on some of the younger names on the roster like Denzel Mims, whom the Jets envision as a long-term, big-play option.
The Case To Cut
Crowder has established himself as a serviceable receiver and a reliable slot man. But if Jamison Crowder is your top receiver, that might say more about the state of your team than it does the receiver.
The Jets are not the proverbial “one move away” from the Super Bowl. In fact, they’re several moves from merely sniffing Wild Card weekend. They can use all the help they can get. Sure, their circa $68 million cap space is a wonder to behold and gives the team some solid funding to work with this offseason. But any little bit can only help this team carry on into the future. The Jets have to ask themselves if a potential top ten slot receiver is worth keeping as they move on. Samuel, for example, could step in as the slot man while the Jets take their semi-replenished funds and go after an elite big-play name like Chicago’s Allen Robinson, who has held no secrets about his thoughts on the Jets’ offseason endeavors.
Many hypothetical trades for, say, Watson also seem to center of the Jets’ surplus draft capital. But with the same cap relief afforded to Jets if they include Crowder in a deal, they may be able to keep a precious pick if you include the receiver in such a deal.
Crowder has undeniably served as a silver lining during the latest stages of the Jets’ perpetual rebuild. Is that really worth keeping him around for the potential good times ahead?
No matter how many opportunities the Jets have to stock up on offensive weaponry this season, they’re in no position to refuse help that’s already available to him. This New York makeover, now overseen by Robert Saleh in addition to Joe Douglas, can not afford to focus on one area. It’d be great if the path back to contention required only replenishing the offensive weaponry. But the Jets have further questions to answer with their run game, the non-Becton blocking, their defensive back seven, and their kicker. There’s no use in adding slot receiver to that last when a name like Crowder is already there.
If the Jets are able to persuade Houston in a trade for Watson…and there’s no indication the stubborn Texans are willing to budge just yet…then trading Crowder would wind up being wise if it saves them an excess first-rounder. Otherwise, let him stick around and provide reassurance to a returning Darnold or the new guy.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags