New York Jets 2021 offseason recap: Wide receivers

Not only are the New York Jets’ receivers the most upgraded green groups, but they may also be one of the most improved units in the NFL.

Following the conclusion of minicamp activities, the NFL offseason is officially over. The next time the New York Jets convene in Florham Park, they’ll be getting ready for preseason and regular season action for the 2021 season. 

With the offseason in the rearview mirror, ESM looks back on the green offseason that was, position-by-position. Part three centers on the revamped receiving corps…

Dec 27, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Breshad Perriman (19) attempts to catch the ball as Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward (21) defends during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

How It Started

The Jets’ situation at receiver wasn’t exactly the corps’ fault. Rather, the relative state of neglect more or less served as a condemnation of the Mike Maccagnan era, as the reluctance to add blocking put them in such a dire hole in the catching front.

After letting Robby Anderson walk to Carolina with relatively little resistance, the Jets were in dire straights at receiver. In terms of veterans, they elected to use most of their offseason budget on blocking help. While the veteran blocking assistance (George Fant, Connor McGovern, Greg Van Roten) was mostly unproven, it filled a hole that desperately needed to be addressed.

But the proposed solutions on the offensive line handicapped the Jets’ options in terms of help at receiver in the post-Anderson era. Granted, the free agent offerings at receiver weren’t exactly lighting up scoreboards…Anderson, frankly, was arguably the best option…but the Jets were forced to rely on consolation prizes in the form of first-round washouts (Breshad Perriman) and antiques from New England (Chris Hogan). They would join 2019 returnees Jamison Crowder and Braxton Berrios on the top of the depth chart.

The receiving negligence was again made apparent on draft day, when the Jets chose to draft a lineman with the 11th overall pick instead of one of the elite first-round catching talents. Sure, Mekhi Becton’s debut soothed the blow of missing out on Justin Jefferson, Henry Ruggs, CeeDee Lamb, and Jerry Jeudy, but that was of little consolation to the Sam Darnold era. Day two of the virtual draft offered another consolation prize, as Baylor-based big-play threat Denzel Mims fell to the 58th overall selection. However, Mims spent most of his first Florham Park summer on the injured list, though he was able to flash some late potential. Despite partaking in only nine games, Mims was 15th amongst rookies in receiving yards (357) and the seventh-ranked freshman catcher (min. 20 receptions) in average gain (15.5).

New York Giants, Corey Davis
Sep 14, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Tennessee Titans wide receiver Corey Davis (84) in the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

How It’s Going

No matter if Darnold came back or if the Jets opted to start a new franchise quarterback era, the Jets were going to make sure their primary passer had a strong posse.

Blessed with a cap space surplus, the Jets wasted no time in upgrading their receiving corps. It was understandable that they’d miss out on the big-name targets. Opting out of the Julio Jones sweepstakes was for the best and it was going to be hard to lure top guys like JuJu Smith-Schuster to an ongoing rebuild. While the Jets emerged from the offseason without a true No. 1 target, they have several players who have established potential to fill that role.

The additions were headlined by the arrival of Corey Davis, a key contributor in the Tennessee Titans’ recent playoff runs. While he lost top receiver duties to A.J. Brown, Davis is coming off a career-best season (984 yards on 65 receptions, five of which went for touchdowns), one that could’ve ended in quadruple digits in yardage had he not dealt with placement on the COVID-19 list. Davis also knows how to perform in the postseason, or at least on a winning team, an uncannily common theme in the Jets’ free agents signings (Tevin Coleman, Sheldon Rankins, the recently reportedly signed Morgan Moses). The same goes for Keelan Cole, a slot option that earned over 2,000 yards over the last four seasons despite constant quarterback turnover in Jacksonville.

In the draft, the Jets were once again blessed with a big-play receiving talent landing in their grasp. The team had a first-round grade on Ole Miss catcher Elijah Moore and was overjoyed when he fell to the 34th overall choice. He’s now on pace to top the depth chart after the strong minicamp showing.

“His work ethic is off the charts,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh said in a report from Dennis Waszak Jr. of the Associated Press. “His mindset is off the charts. We’re excited to continue working with him so we can see him get better…He’s a dynamic young man.”

While Perriman opted to follow his father’s footsteps in Detroit and Hogan traded in his receiving gloves for a lacrosse stick, the Jets do welcome back both Crowder and Mims to their proceedings. Medical misfortune has befallen Mims once again…a non-COVID illness kept him out of minicamp…but the Jets maintain high hopes for him.

“He’s eager, he’s a really cool dude to work with,” offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said of Mims in a report from Max Goodman of SI.com. “But he’s just gonna have to get out there. And again, it’s just going to be reps and just going and understanding the speed of the game.”

The Crowder situation was even more interesting. A reliable slot prescience, Crowder was, by far, the most potent and consistent weapon of the two-year Adam Gase era. That, however, probably says more about the futility of the Gase era than it does about Crowder. With the Jets due about $10 million in cap space upon Crowder’s removal, dishing him off to a contender would’ve made sense, but the team instead opted to rework the last year of a three-year deal inked in 2019. Crowder’s now getting about $5 million guaranteed as opposed to $10 million with no assurances.

Jamison Crowder, New York Jets

Are They Better Off?

Not only is the receiving group the most improved unit on the Jets, but it may also be one of the most improved units in the whole NFL.

Time and time again, especially in this era of prioritized offense, we’re told that a receiver is only as good as his quarterback. It’s hard to argue that when you wonder what Larry Fitzgerald’s numbers could’ve been if not for the Arizona quarterback carousel from the football underworld after Kurt Warner’s retirement.

But the right offensive arsenal can do wonders for an incoming quarterback, especially a rookie quarterback preparing to take his first NFL snaps. What the Jets have assembled for Zach Wilson is, on paper, better than anything Darnold ever had to work with. There’s no clear-cut No. 1 man on the current depth chart. Even the touted Moore shouldn’t be crowned before putting on his game jersey. The way this season appears to be shaping out, however, the receiving situation couldn’t be better.

Even though the Jets got a lot better as a team this offseason…if only because there wasn’t much further to plummet after last year…making the playoffs is still going to be a lot to ask for. This receiving corps is perfect in a season of development. It’s more or less a 17-game audition to hold a major role in the potential good days ahead. This time around, those auditioning actually have sizable resumes to display.

Final Offseason Grade: A

How important was it for the Jets to upgrade their receiving corps? Continue the conversation on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Report: RB Frank Gore headed to the New York Jets on one-year deal

New York Giants, Frank Gore

Gore, who will turn 37 next week, joins the New York Jets after previously spending a year under Adam Gase’s watch in Miami.

Running back Frank Gore has signed with the New York Jets, his agent Drew Rosenhaus told Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Gore, who will turn 37 next week, enters the 2020 season as the third all-time leading rusher in NFL history (15,347 yards), behind only Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton. He has spent the majority of his illustrious professional career with the San Francisco 49ers and was recently named to the NFL’s 2010s All-Decade team.

The 2005 third-round pick from Miami spent a decade in San Francisco before joining the Indianapolis Colts for three seasons. Since then, Gore has gone on a tour of the AFC East, spent the most recent two seasons with the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills respectively. Last season, Gore was mostly used as a spell option for Devin Singletary and start eight games when the rookie was injured early in the season. Gore tallied 699 total yards and two scores while partaking in Buffalo’s second playoff trek in the last three seasons.

Gore’s New York arrival will reunite him with head coach Adam Gase and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. The triumvirate previously held the same positions during the 2018 season in Miami. Gore failed to score a rushing touchdown for the first time in his career, but led the Dolphins with 722 yards on the ground. His 4.6 average on 156 carries was his best tally since 2012, one of five Pro Bowl seasons with San Francisco (2006, 2009, 2011-13).

Several teams had reportedly vied for Gore’s services in what would be a 16th NFL season. ESM’s own Alex Wilson recently explained why Gore could’ve been a good fit for the New York Giants.

Gase recently hinted that he planned to lighten running back Le’Veon Bell’s workload, telling ESPN’s Rich Cimini “I do think we have some guys that can help maybe lessen the load on (Bell) to where it’s not all on him”. Bell tallied 245 carries, 11th in the NFL, in his first year as a Jet. The addition of Gore gives the Jets a veteran spell option behind Bell. Incumbent backup rushers Bilal Powell and Ty Montgomery remain free agents while inexperienced reigned behind Bell in the form of Kenneth Dixon and Josh Adams. New York also drafted rusher Lamical Perine out of Florida in the fourth round (120th overall) of last month’s draft.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Several pass rushers the Jets could consider in free agency

New York Jets, Jadeveon Clowney

The amount of defensive talent that the New York Jets have when healthy has the potential to be one of the elite units in the NFL. With young, formidable building blocks in star safety Jamal Adams, proven linebacker C.J. Mosley and the highly touted defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, coordinator Gregg Williams does have some pieces to work with.

With Mosley roaming the middle, Williams in the trenches and Adams to command the secondary, holes in the cornerback and pass rusher position are still critical when creating an efficient defensive unit.

So what’re some realistic moves for pass rushers? Options are still on the table for the Jets. With roughly $25 million in remaining cap, the Jets could still look to make a splash with a pass rusher.

1. Jadeveon Clowney

Clowney is an interesting option for any pass rush needy team. There are a lot of questions surrounding him, but the payoff could be huge. Does he deserve top tier pass rusher money?

Can he be productive as a team’s number one pass rusher? Here are a couple of things to consider: Clowney has never posted a double-digit sack season, (that’s with spending five seasons in Houston with most of the attention of the opposing offensive lineman focused on teammate J.J. Watt). When he finally signed with the Seahawks last year with expectations to be their premier pass rusher, he recorded just three sacks with just seven tackles for loss in 13 games. Clowney is a freak athlete and a physical specimen with the potential to be a top-five pass rusher in football. I would like to see some more consistent production before giving him a big payday.

2. Everson Griffen

After announcing on his social media that he will be leaving the Vikings, Griffen is another intriguing option. He is a slightly safer option than Clowney. While he is five years older than Clowney at 32, he has a much more impressive resume.

Spending the last nine seasons with the Vikings, Griffen has posted 74.5 career sacks and 86 tackles for loss. After filling the big shoes of legendary defensive end Jared Allen, Griffen has been one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL. Could be brought in on a short term deal given his age and be an immediate impact player.

3. Ziggy Ansah

Ansah would be a low-risk signing. Nagging injuries have slowed his progress recently and posted only 2.5 sacks in the last 11 games with the Seahawks. Despite his lack of production in recent years, Ansah still draws attention from opposing offensive lineman because of his massive 6-5, 275-pound frame.

With a few impressive years with the Lions, including multiple double-digit sack seasons under his belt, Ansah could be brought in for cheap on a one-year prove-it deal. If he can stay healthy, the payoff for the Jets could be beneficial.

New York Giants Interested In Kyle Van Noy

The NFL’s 2020 free agency period will begin this month. The New York Giants are set to have over $80 million to spend if they choose to. There is plenty of elite talent weeks away from hitting the open market that would fill positions of need for New York’s team.

The Giants are reportedly interested in a few big-name pass-rushers. The interest was reportedly mutual between the Giants and Yannick Ngakoue, prior to Yannick receiving the franchise tag (according to Jordan Raanan of ESPN). The Giants also have a mutual interest with Markus Golden in terms of a contract extension (Sports Illustrated). New York even has a mutual interest with big-name edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney.

There is another name to add to the Giants’ list of potential edge rusher targets in 2020: Kyle Van Noy.

The Giants’ Interest

According to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY, the Giants have an interest in signing New England’s free-agent pass-rusher Kyle Van Noy. This would likely only hold true if New York was unable to strike a deal with Jadeveon Clowney. But Van Noy would be an excellent value signing for the Giants.

Vacchiano estimates that Van Noy’s contract could “land in the $12 million per year range,” which is about half of what it would cost to sign Jadeveon Clowney.

In New England’s 2019 defense, Kyle Van Noy was moved to edge rusher. In this role, Van Noy totaled 60 pressures, 6.5 sacks, and a pressure rate of 13.8%, which ranked 26th best at his position (Pro Football Focus).

Though he is a great pass-rusher, Kyle Van Noy is an elite run defender. He earned an 85.4 run-defense grade on Pro Football Focus, an elite grade that ranked top-five at his position. He also totaled 56 combined tackles and 7 tackles for loss in 2019 as an edge rusher. As an off-ball linebacker in 2018, Kyle Van Noy racked up 92 combined tackles.

For only $12 million per year, Kyle Van Noy would be an excellent signing compared to the rest of the players on the market and their respective price tags.

Van Noy’s Possible Interest

Kyle Van Noy has spent his last three and a half seasons playing for the New England Patriots. The seven-year NFL veteran had a good relationship with Joe Judge, the Giants’ new head coach. Judge was with New England since 2012. 

When Van Noy learned of Judge’s promotion as New York’s new head coach, he was excited for his former special teams coordinator. While appearing on “The Pat McAfee Show” this offseason, Kyle described Joe Judge as a “ball of energy” and a “really, really good coach” that loves football. At the end of his discussion about Joe Judge, Kyle Van Noy exclaimed: “Go, Giants!”

Of course, Van Noy is probably just showing support for his former coach. But, being that he is an impending free agent, Kyle Van Noy could have been hinting at a desire to reunite with Joe Judge in New York. If that is what Van Noy wants, the Giants should be on board and should pursue him in free agency.

New York Giants: Comparing Jadeveon Clowney and Markus Golden

New York Giants, Jadeveon Clowney, Markus Golden

The New York Giants are in need of a pass-rusher heading into the 2020 NFL offseason. Free agency begins next month and the Giants have over $70 million to spend. The team has been linked to top-tier free agents such as Jadeveon Clowney. But the Giants have an edge rusher of their own that’s set to be a free agent next month.

Markus Golden will be a free agent this offseason after an impressive bounce-back season as a member of the New York Giants. Coming off of an injury, Golden signed a one-year deal with New York and totaled 10 sacks while starting in all 16 games. Despite this, most are not sold on Golden as a primary pass-rusher. The Giants are reportedly one of the teams interested in signing edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney. But how big of an upgrade is Jadeveon Clowney over Markus Golden? And is Clowney worth the contract that he is set to receive this offseason?

Clowney or Golden?

Jadeveon Clowney has an estimated market value by Spotrac of $20 million on average annually. Over The Cap projects that Clowney will get a five-year contract worth $21 million on average annually. In comparison, Markus Golden has a Spotrac market value of $13.5 million on average annually. Over The Cap projects that Golden will get a three-year contract worth $9 million on average annually.

Jadeveon Clowney is widely regarded as one of the best edge rushers in the NFL. However, teams will be cautionary when considering signing him. Clowney has a bit of an injury history and played in only 13 games in 2019. In those 13 games, Clowney totaled only 3 sacks and 31 combined tackles. But once Clowney was fully healthy for the playoffs, he took his game to another level.

The Seattle Seahawks played two playoff games this season before being eliminated. In those 2 games, Clowney dominated and totaled 1.5 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, and 12 combined tackles. He was all over the field for Seattle’s defense and was clearly their best defensive player.

Markus Golden did have a much better statistical season than Clowney. He played in 16 games and totaled 10 sacks, 72 combined tackles, and 13 tackles for loss. One criticism that many people have on Golden is that a lot of his sacks were “clean-up” sacks and he was not really applying consistent pressure. But Golden’s production will come at half of the price of Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney is regarded as one of the league’s elite run-defenders, but he is not necessarily a dominant pass-rusher either.

It would be risky to invest a lot of money into either one of these players. However, both of them would fill a huge need for the Giants in 2020 and beyond.