Crowder, the New York Jets’ most potent offensive weapon over the last two seasons, is reportedly back on a team-friendly deal.
The #Jets and WR Jamison Crowder have finalized a renegotiated contract with plans to keep him on the team for the 2021 season, source said. Crowder will be a free agent next offseason at age 28 to get another payday before age 30.
The New York Jets’ most potent offensive weapon will return for the 2021 season.
Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Jamison Crowder is set to return to the team on a renegotiated contract that will keep in green for the immediate future. While financial details have not been disclosed, it is likely a team-friendly deal that expands the Jets’ already strong cap space situation. New York currently has the third-best available space (just over $27 million) behind only Jacksonville and Denver. Prior reports from ESPN’s Rich Cimini claimed that the Jets were asking Crowder to take a 50 percent pay cut to stay on board.
Crowder, who turns 28 this week, inked a three-year, $28.5 million deal with the Jets in 2019 after four seasons in Washington. He has gone on to become one of the more reliable slot options in the league and has become the Jets’ most consistent offensive weapon over the last two years. The Duke alum has tallied 1,532 yards on 137 receptions, a dozen going for touchdowns, in his Jets career. Each mark is good for best on the team over the past couple of seasons.
The future of Crowder was called into question by the Jets’ plethora of offensive signings in preparation for the arrival of a new quarterback, who turned out to be second overall pick Zach Wilson. With Corey Davis and Keelan Cole arriving in free agency and Elijah Moore emerging in the draft’s second round, the $10 million-plus in extra cap space granted upon Crowder’s release may have seemed tempting to the Jets. But under this new contract, Crowder is set to be an active prescience in Wilson’s first year, joining fellow returnees Denzel Mims and Braxton Berrios in the receivers’ room.
Jets head coach Robert Saleh acknowledged that Crowder was “working through some stuff” during the Jets’ voluntary offseason workouts earlier this month, but expressed confidence that he would partake in the mandatory portions, which are set to be held this week. Despite the relatively crowded receivers’ depth chart, Saleh insisted that there was room for Crowder’s talents on One Jets Drive.
“(I’m) really confident to get Jamison here quickly,” Saleh said, per Nick Shook of Around the NFL. “Jamison’s definitely got a role here, and we’re excited to have him.”
Per a report from ESPN’s Rich Cimini, the New York Jets want to keep the reliable slot receiver but are asking a big favor.
The New York Jets’ Jamison Crowder saga has apparently taken another turn, as a report from ESPN’s Rich Cimini claims that the team has asked the veteran receiver to take “at least a 50 percent pay cut”. Crowder is set to enter the final season of a three-year deal inked in 2019, returning on a non-guaranteed $10 million salary.
Over the last two seasons, Crowder has likely become the Jets’ most potent offensive weapon, earning 1,532 yards on 137 receptions, 12 of which went for touchdowns. Each of those marks is good for the team lead. Crowder, formerly of Washington, has established himself as one of the NFL’s more reliable slot receivers in that span.
However, questions about Crowder’s future have surfaced in the third and final year of his deal. The Jets are set to save over $10 million in cap space if they move Crowder through a release or trade. As the financial stalemate continues, Crowder has removed himself from organized team activities. He did not attend the voluntary workouts in Florham Park earlier this month and his status for this week’s mandatory portion remains uncertain.
In anticipation of the arrival of a rookie quarterback, later revealed to be Zach Wilson, the Jets spent this offseason bolstering their receiving corps. Former Tennessee Titan Corey Davis was added on a three-year, $45 million deal, while accoladed rookie Elijah Moore was chosen early in the second round (34th overall) in last spring’s draft. Their prior second-round choice, Denzel Mims, is expected to take on larger responsibilities in his sophomore season. The Jets also added another slot standout, Jacksonville’s Keelan Cole, while 2020 returnee Braxton Berrios earned positive reviews in taking the reps for an absent Crowder during the voluntary workouts.
Per Over the Cap, the Jets currently rank third in available cap space (behind Jacksonville and Denver) at just over $27 million. While they technically don’t need the extra money that would stem from Crowder’s departure, they still have lingering holes that could prove costly. The backup quarterback slot remains drastically understaffed, while the team is also reportedly still interested in former Washington blocker Morgan Moses.
Julio Jones will sing a new tune in the Music City. The accoladed receiver has shed his Atlanta Falcon wings and has moved on to Tennessee, where he joins a Titans squad already blessed with the offensive talents of Derrick Henry and AJ Brown. Thus ends a saga that ignited with a fateful phone call on live television by Fox Sports’ Shannon Sharpe.
In the aftermath, the eventual price for Jones has been hotly debated. Tennessee sent over two mid-round picks, one each over the next two drafts, the highest being a second-round choice in next year’s selections. It seems like a relatively low charge for one of the most accomplished receivers in recent NFL memory, one that gains some context when a hamstring injury suffered last season is taken into account.
Still, as Jones prepared to don Titans blue, fans of the 31 outliers are left with the lingering inquiry of “what if?” and “why not”?
At first glance, many New York Jets fans have every right to ask those questions. After all, if that was all it took for Jones to leave his Atlanta-based nest, the Jets could’ve spared the necessary parts to bring him in. They have an extra pick in both the first and second rounds of next year’s draft stemming from the Jamal Adams and Sam Darnold departures. One could even argue that adding Jamison Crowder (and getting back over $10 million in cap space with Jones) to the mix might’ve sweetened the deal.
But the Jets are more than capable of surviving the lack of Jones in their lives, as consolation lies all around them…
The Jones Privilege
Adding Jones has given the Titans the dreaded title of “offseason champions”, as amateurs and experts alike will probably list them as their Super Bowl champions. They likely inherit the title from the Arizona Cardinals, who were burdened with expectations after acquiring DeAndre Hopkins in a one-sided trade with Houston. Arizona began the year 6-3 but dropped five of their final seven in missing out on the playoff entirely.
Time will tell exactly how Tennessee handles the pressure, but it’s hard to be too cynical about their chances, at least on paper. The Titans are, after all, only two years removed from an appearance in the AFC title game and are coming off their first division title since 2008. They’re tied for the seventh-best record in the NFL over the last two seasons. During his unscheduled on-air conversation with Sharpe, Jones insisted he wanted to be dealt to a contender, ruling out Undisputed co-host Skip Bayless’ Dallas Cowboys…and, by process of elimination, the Jets.
Acquiring Jones is a first-world problem of sorts, a privilege bestowed to those who are the proverbial “one move away” from the Super Bowl. The Jets are a few moves away from merely fighting for a wild-card berth, never mind The Big Game. Even if they undoubtedly got better this offseason…if only because there was nowhere to go but up after the Adam Gase era…emerging from a crowded AFC pool packed to the brim with established contenders seems like a tall ask. There’s thus no use in taking the uncertainties of post-injury Jones, who turned 32 in February, not to mention the financial obligations that come with it (over a $63 million cap hit over the next three seasons).
One of the primary focuses of this New York offseason has been establishing a new identity, leaving a signature on a new exhibit. Through the hiring of new head coach Robert Saleh, the Jets have managed to do that. The former San Francisco defensive coordinator’s mantra of “all gas, no brake” has already been quoted ad nauseam by Jets fans and Saleh’s entry has been complemented by the arrival of several touted entries who are looking to take the next steps in their respective careers (i.e. Zach Wilson, Corey Davis, and Sheldon Rankins, all of who were chosen in the first round of their respective drafts).
But if one brings Jones into the conversation, suddenly a new identity emerges. Through no fault of Jones, this latest, most hopeful iteration of the Jets’ rebuild gets boiled down to the “Julio Jones Era” and would’ve rendered a great deal of offseason work meaningless.
There’s no doubt that Jones is fully capable of responding to this challenge and will seek to silence any doubters, particularly his former employers that thought he was “only” worth a second-round choice at best. But the Jets are seeking to scribe their own NFL story and identity, as well as write a comeback story that’s a decade in the making. They don’t have the time or resources to worry about ghostwriting someone else’s.
Obviously, in a perfect world, the Jets snag Jones, and he, at the very least, provides some entertainment during another year of rebuilding where progress won’t always show up on the scoreboard.
But if this year is truly the latest stanza of a seemingly eternal rebuild, the Jets must do what they failed to work during last year’s nightmare: take advantage of a bittersweet and gift and turn things into a year of development.
Simply put, anyone who’s watched a minute of NFL football over the last decade knows what Jones is capable of. If this hamstring issue is the first step of the twilight of his career, it’s better for that discovery to be made on a contender rather than a team in desperate need of answers. Once it became clear that the Jets weren’t going to do anything in 2020, Gase and Co. had a prime opportunity to audition a rushing triumvirate of La’Mical Perine, Ty Johnson, and Josh Adams. They instead decided to give Frank Gore a retirement tour, creating questions about the run game that lingered into the offseason.
The Jets have a group of receivers that, while talented, have yet to show they can handle the duties and burdens that comes with the status of a top target. Corey Davis worked behind Brown in Tennessee. Crowder has been a reliable slot option. There are high hopes for second-round brothers Elijah Moore and Denzel Mims. The receiving depth chart is packed to the brim with potential, but the Jets need more proven certainty to truly contend in the modern league. Rather than going with an option like Jones, who isn’t going to immediately shift the team’s fortunes in a lucrative direction, the Jets should instead focus on developing the attractive alternatives that are already in tow.
The accoladed receiver’s de facto trade request serves to end his decade-long tenure in Atlanta. Several teams will undoubtedly embark on a full assault for his services and the crowded resume that comes with it.
Should the New York Jets be among them? ESM investigates…
For: Fantasy Football
Jones has been a staple of the early portions of fantasy football drafts for years. When’s the last time Jets fans were able to choose their favorite players with legitimate dreams of a fantasy title in mind. The last realistic options were probably Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker prior to the star-crossed 2015 campaign.
Now, the Jets shouldn’t base their entire lineup around who wins fantasy football championships; if that were the case, they might as well made a move for Derek Carr. But the fact they haven’t had any fantasy stars in recent years is rather telling about where they are as a franchise. Where are the reliable big play targets? Who does the rookie quarterback turn to in the clutch? Who will teams double cover on the last drive of the game?
This offseason, the Jets used the free agency process to stock up on weaponry for the new franchise quarterback, who turned out to be Zach Wilson. The current depth chart-toppers (Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims, Keelan Cole, and rookie Elijah Moore) are undoubtedly upgrades from last season, but they have yet to prove themselves as consistent, reliable top options. Bringing in Jones would make him one of the Jets’ top playmakers of the past decade, and he might not even have to play a single down to prove that. Plus, the confidence Wilson would have with Jones there to greet him could prove invaluable not only in 2021 but for years to come.
Against: Julio’s Woes
The sophomoric nature of the internet and social media have perhaps made the Jets unwilling to take risks or make high-profile moves. Any move they make is going to be accompanied by satirical scrutiny that’s threatens everything they’re trying to work with in the latest stage of their perpetual rebuild.
Jones, through almost entirely no fault of his own, is going to bring some baggage with him. He’s no doubt keen to stick it to a Falcons that has apparently given up on him, and the Jets do have a high-profile matchup with the Dirty Birds that apparently did him dirty (Atlanta will “host” the Jets in London in October). Jones is also trying to emerge from one of the NFL’s most unfair stigmas: returning from an injury. Hamstring issues limited him to nine games in 2020, but he still managed to tally a respectable 771 yards.
These factors make Jones a perfect candidate, perhaps even the favorite, for the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year Award. Alas, that’s a quest the Jets truly can’t concern themselves with at this point. They have their own comeback/redemption story to write. It’s part of the reason Sam Darnold was let go. Sure, it was entirely possible that a green-clad Darnold could’ve benefitted from the coaching staff shake-up, but the Jets were at a point where they couldn’t base their immediate future on that “if”. The same could apply to Jones and his current endeavors.
For: They Can Help
Coming off three straight losing seasons (including a brutal 4-12 campaign that cost long-tenured Dan Quinn his job), the Falcons need a de facto bailout. As it stands, they’re currently of three teams with under $1 million in cap space (joining Chicago and New Orleans). Even so, they’re obviously going to want a decent return if they’re sending away one of the most prolific names in team history. Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports projects that any potential suitor would have to send at least a second-round pick.
The Jets have expendable assets to help the Falcons out. They own five picks in the first three rounds of next spring’s draft and could even include someone like Crowder (who becomes over $10 million in cap savings upon his departure). If the Falcons are going to trade Jones, something has to capture their fancy, make the deal truly worth their while. The Jets are one of the rare teams with both present and future assets Atlanta potentially covets.
Against: Anything But One Move Away
The Jets have improved by leaps and bounds this offseason, if only because there was little room to plummet further after 2020. Even so, making the playoffs is still going to be a tough ask. They’re trapped in a division with the defending AFC finalists and the other sections are packed with established contenders.
There’s no doubt that Jones can carry the load of a top receiver on a contender. He’s been part of a fairly consistent Atlanta team, but his prescience alone isn’t enough to secure a playoff berth. If he’s serious about moving, he’s likely going to choose a more established destination, not one where a majority of the starting lineup is undergoing a makeover.
Additionally, whoever trades for Jones is going to literally pay a hefty price. His 2021 cap hit exceeds $23 million, with $15 million guaranteed (per Over The Cap). The Jets are one of 11 teams that can handle Jones’ guaranteed salary with their current cap space, but there are other needs that need to be fulfilled before Week 1 kicks off. They’re in desperate need of a backup quarterback (preferably one that can double as a mentor for Wilson) and could certainly use another upgrade in their blocking and secondary areas. Jones, a 32-year-old due over $37 million over the next three seasons, is a luxurious acquisition that doesn’t fit the Jets’ current landscape.
The Verdict: Stay the Course
If this was a year or two into the Robert Saleh era, adding Jones would be a lot more feasible. There would be time to showcase what Saleh and his staff are building, a few contests to develop momentum in what the Jets hope is their last extensive renovation for a long time.
Recent history suggests that maybe the Jets would be a bit better off in bypassing redemption-seeking superstars, at least for the time being. New York is still picking at the wounds left behind in the wake of the Le’Veon Bell era. The ghost of Bell shouldn’t haunt the Jets forever, but things are still a bit too fresh to justify and work through the growing pains of a superstar seeking to prove to himself and the football world that he’s still capable of an NFL workload.
If the Jets were on the cusp of the contention red zone, they would be right to go all out. But, right now, they’ve picked up a few first downs, but probably haven’t even reached midfield in the stadium of NFL fortune. If they were closer to the Super Bowl, investing a substantial sum into a 32-year-old receiver…one who has taken quite the pen to the NFL record books…would be a relative risk worth taking. But when progress would be possibly defined as an appearance in the “In the Hunt” column seen on the networks’ playoff charts come the holidays, adding Jones is not something you can do and would be an endeavor that would merely leave everyone bitter.
The Jets have made their first big move! The team has reached a deal with WR Corey Davis for 3 years and 37.5 million, with 27 million guaranteed. The Jets lacked a true number one wideout, and with Davis, they have one. Davis, at 26 years old, is coming off a career year with the Tennessee Titans. Now, the Jets will hope the former fifth overall pick can repeat that success in the green and white.
What This Means
Corey Davis had a quiet start in his first year in the league with only 34 receptions for 375 yards. However, in his sophomore year, he put up 891 yards and four scores. Then, the receiver had a down third year eclipsing 600 yards with two scores. This past season though, Davis lit it up. Davis finished the season with 65 receptions for 984 yards and 5 TDs. He also hit career highs in yards per reception and receptions per game. Davis is a big-bodied receiver at 6 foot 3, 209 pounds, and his big frame should compliment Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder very nicely.
The Jets finally have a legitimate target for whoever their quarterback is at the start of next season. This opens things up for the entire offense and gives the Jets a sense of comfort heading into next season. The work should not stop here, though. With more money to spend, the team will likely look to make an upgrade at the edge position. Look for Trey Hendrickson as a potential target at the spot.
Henry Anderson was the first player let go in the New York Jets’ 2021 roster purge. Who might be next as free agency looms?
When the latest offering a playoff drought reaching double figures is a two-win campaign, changes are inevitable. The New York Jets officially got those changes, at least those made in 2021, underway last week with the release of three-year defensive lineman Henry Anderson. This process more or less began with an in-season fire sale that saw the New York careers of Le’Veon Bell, Avery Williamson, and Steve McLendon come to an end, but the future planning began in earnest with Anderson’s departure.
After a career-best seven sacks in 2018, his debut New York season after a trade with the Indianapolis Colts, Anderson failed to duplicate those numbers over two additional seasons. The $8.2 million added to the Jets’ cap space made him an essential candidate to open their transactions. New York now has over $77 million in cap space to work with, still second-best in the NFL behind Jacksonville. Even so, when you’re coming off a two-win season in a perpetual rebuild one can use all the resources they can get to crawl their way out…especially when you’re a team cursued with as many holes as the Jets. Thus, Anderson might not be the only to see his New York career cut short.
As the NFL’s pre-free agency period winds down, a tumultuous week potentially awaits with teams preparing to adjust their roster to drastically reduced salary cap. Who be next on the Jets’ free agency block? ESM investigates…
(all figures via Over the Cap)
WR Jamison Crowder
(Cap Savings: $10.375 million; Dead Money: $1 million)
Save for the uncertainty around the quarterback situation, what the Jets do with Crowder will be one of their most intriguing sags of the offseason. Crowder has established himself as one of the most reliable slot receivers in the NFL during his time in New York. He has been the Jets most potent offensive weapon by far over the last two seasons with 1,532 yards on 137 receptions, a dozen of which went for touchdowns. Those numbers are even handicapped by the fact Crowder was listed as a starter in only 19 games, missing four entirely due to injury.
Crowder has been the Jets’ most potent offensive weapon over the last two seasons…but does that say more about the state of the New York offense than it does about Crowder? No matter who the quarterback is next season, he’s going to need weapons. Should the Jets start completely fresh or perhaps take care of a need by keeping Crowder? With the same saving stipulations involved, another avenue for Crowder could be a trade, as potential dealing partners (Houston/Seattle, anyone?) could use a veteran producer for their weaponry.
Duo call. Give me Braxton Berrios on my team every day of the week. Great hustle here. Le'Veon Bell set up in a one-on-one situation, picks up two. Great job by George Fant. #TakeFlightpic.twitter.com/5kflTarW5X
(Cap Savings: $7.85 million; Dead Money: $2 million)
General manager Joe Douglas has made efforts to revamp the Jets’ blocking, an admirable cause after the previous regime took a neglectful approach that has proven costly. But another renovation could well underway, as Douglas’ first full-time free agency haul mostly underwhelmed, and that included the former Seahawk Fant.
Last season probably showed that Fant’s long-term future is probably better suited for the role of a reliable backup. While it’s great to have depth, as well as Fant’s veteran leadership, is this worth resisting the additional funds that can be used to plug holes on the offensive line and beyond?
Alex Lewis (LG, 71) maintains a nice hole for Bell to burst through with the help of the moving blockers. Opportunities for Bell like this were very few and far in between. Runs on the left side during this game were usually more successful with the help of Lewis #Jetspic.twitter.com/ehhvLIQW2I
(Cap Savings: $5.1 million; Dead Money: $1.6 million)
Lewis is a bit symbolic of Douglas’ admirable yet fruitless efforts to improve the blocking. When he took the general manager position in the latter stages of the 2019 offseason, one of his first moves was a trading a late pick to Baltimore to obtain Lewis, who inked a three-year last March after taking on a larger role in the offense in the Kelechi Osemele aftermath.
But Lewis failed to build on his debut season and spent the latter portions of the season on the reserve/non-football injury list. The Jets have appeared committed to Lewis as a bit of a blocking project of sorts, but his tantalizing cap savings make him a prime option for release.
Another yield from the 2020 free agency haul, the Long Island native Van Roten was at least passable, earning a decent pass blocking grade (71.5) on Pro Football Focus and partaking in every offensive snap over the Jets’ first 11 games. It’s possible he could survive another season of the Jets’ rebuild, if only to erase a box on the offseason checklist. There’s also no dead money left on his deal if the Jets were to cut him loose this time next year.
TE Ryan Griffin
(Cap Savings: $1.8 million; Dead Money: $1.4 million)
Time will tell how the Jets’ tight end situation works out, but the top two options, Griffin and Chris Herndon (over $2 million in savings) would provide extra offseason funds. With Herndon starting to show flashes of reverting to his rookie form in the late stages of the last season, not to mention his youth and and potential upside, the Jets would probably be more likely to end the Griffin experiment after he struggled to stay on the field after inking a three-year extension in 2019.
Foley Fatukasi is slowly becoming one of my favorites on this team.
The Jets’ front four, which will take on greater importance in Robert Saleh’s new systems, is an area that, surprisingly, needs little refurbishment. Keeping Fatukasi, who rose to the occasion when granted an extended opportunity after injuries and moves, would be a nice show of faith to a day three draft pick that has made a home for himself in the New York area in more ways than one. Fatukasi was born in Far Rockaway and his brother each star on Rutgers’ football team in Piscataway. After the eldest Fatukasi posted career-best numbers with the Jets, no use in breaking this family reunion.
With the veteran Anderson out and over $8 million of cap space in, ESM ponders what’s next for the New York Jets.
The New York Jets bid Henry Anderson farewell on Tuesday night, releasing the three-year veteran. With the release, the Jets now save about $8 million in cap space, bring an already robust number to just under $76 million to spend this offseason…the second-best purse in the NFL, behind only Jacksonville.
How does this change the Jets moving forward? ESM investigates…
Kyle Phillips had an awesome rookie season against the run – 16 tackles for no gain or a loss, tied for 3rd-most among edge defenders.
Phillips was turning into something that worked for the Jets over the past two seasons…so, of course, football misfortune befell him. This diamond in the rough emerged as an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee in 2019, and he went on to make the most of the time afforded to him. Playing 50 percent of defensive snaps, Phillips became a menacing prescience in opposing backfield, earning 39 tackles (7 for a loss, including 1.5 sacks, led the team) over 15 games (4 starts). The Jets’ defensive staff had high hopes for him entering the 2020 season.
“Being an undrafted free agent, he’s just a guy who’s so mature for his age. He’s one of those players you hope can play 10 years,” then-defensive line coach Andre Carter, now holding the same position at LSU, said of Phillips to team reporter Jack Bell. “He just works hard. He’s old school. He can play in various packages. He’s smart. He’s the least of my worries. He’s one of those players you enjoy having in the room because he asks intelligent questions.”
Alas for Phillips, he was never able to make an impact in 2020 due to lineup shuffling and an ankle injury that prematurely ended his season. But as the immediate name behind Anderson on the depth chart, this season takes on greater importance, as the transaction shows the Jets have extended a new brand of trust unto him. His development under Robert Saleh and his 4-3 tendencies will certainly be something to keep an eye on once the team reconvenes.
There are more funds to work with
The Jets’ cap situation has been discussed and sung about ad nauseam in the metropolitan postings, but the question becomes how they can wisely spend and distribute that money. New York is far removed from the proverbial “one move away” from the Super Bowl…heck, they might be several moves away from merely sniffing a wild card spot at this point. But the release of Anderson will allow them to address perhaps some under-the-radar needs they would be unable to obtain without the $8.2 million afforded to them through this transaction.
For example, the Jets could be well settled in their tight end spot, hoping that Chris Herndon has regained his rookie year form. This extra cap room, though, could perhaps give them the means to seek out some veteran help. Same with the running back spot, where they have plans for La’Michael Perine but are stretched thin with Le’Veon Bell gone and both Ty Johnson and Josh Adams up to hit the market. Now armed with nearly $75 million in cap space, they might also be able to afford multiple marquee free agents.
With the potential to add more weapons, it is in fact possible that the possibility of Sam Darnold staying has been raised ever so slightly.
The purge has begun
Obviously, there are exceptions, but the purge of almost anything relating to the Adam Gase era is officially underway with the release of Anderson. It informally began with the in-season release/trades of Le’Veon Bell, Steve McLendon, and Avery Williamson, but now a new cutdown to add even further to the salary cap surplus.
While Anderson’s time in New York was probably up…he earned only a single sack after the career-best 7.5 in 2018…the Jets might be tempted to dismiss some rare, reliable silver linings in an attempt to fatten their wallet even further. The team has a major decision to make on Jamison Crowder, who has been by far their most consistent offensive weapon over the last two seasons. But with a $10 million addition to their cap space picture due upon his release, he could be the next to go (though they could gain back the same amount in a trade). Others potentially on their way out include blockers George Fant ($7.8 million) and Alex Lewis ($5 million). The Jets’ cap picture is very healthy, but when one is cursed with as many issues as they are, every little bit helps. The mandated departure of Anderson is just the beginning.
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.
The New York Jets may have found a big-play man in Denzel Mims, but the receiving picture behind him is far murkier.
The Position: Wide Receiver On the Roster: Braxton Berrios, Lawrence Cager, Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims, Free Agents: Breshad Perriman, Jeff Smith, Vyncint Smith Reserve/Future: Josh Malone, D.J. Montgomery, Jaleel Scott
With the offense at a crossroads of sorts, the New York Jets are looking for playmakers. When it comes to their receivers, they may have uncovered a diamond in the second-round rough in Denzel Mims, but things behind him a lot murkier.
Part of the reason why it’s been so hard for Sam Darnold to develop a true rhythm as the Jets’ franchise quarterback is that his targets have undergone a ridiculous amount of turnover. Upon the departures of Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa, no receivers from Darnold’s rookies season of 2018 remained on the roster. In the of the 2020 season, Mims eventually found his NFL footing after missing the early stages due to injury, vindicating general manager Joe Douglas’ decision to pass on first-day talents like Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and Justin Jefferson.
But Douglas’ free agent options didn’t fare as well. Breshad Perriman, for example, failed to recapture the glory of his final Tampa Bay days, earning only 30 receptions over 12 games. New England castaway Chris Hogan failed to make a difference and the injury bug refused to leave the Jets alone. The most consistent part of the unit, slot man Jamison Crowder, led the team in all major receiving categories for the second straight season. Crowder is under contract for one more year, but the Jets would save just over $9 million in cap space if they moved on from him through a release or trade.
Even if Darnold doesn’t return under center, the Jets needs to freshen the receiving situation for the newcomer. The unit’s last 1,000-yard endeavors came through the Brandon Marshall/Eric Decker pairing during the doomed 2015 campaign.
Signed to a one-year deal worth $8 million ($6 million guaranteed), Perriman was brought in as the potential top target after ending his single season in Tampa in style (506 yards, five touchdowns in his final five games in 2019). But he never lived up to that billing in New York. He sustained an injury in the early going and never gained any momentum, save for strong performances in the New England games (8 receptions, 185 yards, 2 touchdowns).
With a new regime coming in and Perriman struggling in his lone green season, he is likely destined to hit the market.
Undrafted out of Boston College, the former quarterback has turned into a fun project in New York. Injuries have stunted his true potential, but Smith earned 167 yards on 17 receptions last season. That included a strong 81-yard showing when he was called upon to take extended duties when ailments ate up the top of the depth chart. He could potentially return as a depth option under new receivers coach Miles Austin.
After getting some extended playing time when injuries struck in 2019 (joining in-season from the Houston practice squad), Smith himself landed on injured reserve in the early going and was limited to seven games, during which he only earned a single reception and lost his return duties to Braxton Berrios and Corey Ballentine. It’s possible he could get another go at it if the Jets want to create a special teams competition.
Will They Draft?
While there are plenty of names available to the Jets through free agency…and there are plenty of resources to bring in an elite name…the Jets’ receiving corps needs a complete makeover. With an extra pick in two of the first three rounds, it wouldn’t be shocking to see them use one on a receiver. In the event they get Watson…a happening made increasingly remote but the Texans’ apparent stubbornness to hold on to the disgruntled thrower…they likely wouldn’t have the second pick to use on Heisman winner Devonta Smith, but Jaylen Waddle, his Tuscaloosa partner-in-playmaking, might be around if they hold onto the 23rd pick send from Seattle. The speedy Waddle has seen his projections fall after enduring an ankle injury in Alabama’s October tilt against Tennessee.
Day two options open to the Jets could include Kadarius Toney, Rondale Moore, Sage Surratt, and Amon-Ra St. Brown.
Allen Robinson, Chicago
Unlike Watson, Robinson is set to be a free agent and isn’t held back by stubborn management if he wants to find new opportunities. Fresh off a career-best 102 receptions despite the Bears’ unstable quarterback situation, Robinson could be a game-changer for the Jets no matter who’s throwing to him. Additionally, Robinson hasn’t exactly been subtle about his approval of the Jets’ offseason thus far. Twitter sleuths uncovered that some of Robinson’s recent “likes” involve calling for Watson to go to New York and approval of the Robert Saleh hire.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh
If there’s one thing Darnold needs right now, it’s consistency. Bridges are burned with, say, Anderson (who has become a selling point in Carolina’s ongoing rebuild), but Smith-Schuster’s Sothern California collaborations with Darnold earned rave reviews. Smith-Schuster caught some of Darnold’s earliest passes as the two guided USC to a 10-win season in 2016, capped off by the epic 52-49 thriller against Saquon Barkley and Penn State in the Rose Bowl. Smith-Schuster and Darnold united for 133 yards on seven hook-ups in that game, which afforded the Trojans the third slot in the final AP poll from that season. Some will point to Smith-Schuster’s propensity for pregame TikToks as an excuse to stay away, but that’s a small price to pay compared to the comfort and stability Smith-Schuster could provide to a quarterback in desperate need of those feelings…be it Darnold or otherwise.
Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay
For all intents and purposes, Godwin should be one of the biggest household names in football. Through no fault of his own, Godwin often gets lost in the headlines, but that might happen when your catching cohorts are Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, and Rob Gronkowski. Godwin also missed four games with a hip/quad injury but still managed to post 840 yards after a breakout year in 2019. Godwin has played a major role in the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl endeavors as well; he scored a touchdown that put them ahead for good in the Wild Card round against Washington and led the team with 110 yards in the NFC title clinch against the Packers. If Godwin is looking for a place to prove he can be a No. 1 receiver, New York would be a strong place to do it.
A makeover is definitely coming to the Jets’ receiving corps. Free agency would certainly be the better way to go, as it would provide Mims a good mentor and give the team so much-needed, experienced stability. Whoever comes into the Jets’ quarterback spot is going to be thrown into a roaring green fire. They need to do whatever they can to make Darnold or the incoming new party to feel as comfortable as possible. Providing him with a strong, elite receiving talent would be the best way to do that.
The New York Jets’ second straight victory was fueled by Jamison Crowder contributions from every end of the box score.
On Christmas weekend, the only man busier than Jamison Crowder was probably Santa Claus himself.
The New York Jets’ slot receiver left his mark on Sunday’s 23-16 win over the Cleveland Browns. Crowder put up 149 yards of offense and reached the end zone twice, each score serving as a turning point in the Jets’ second consecutive victory.
Crowder conjured up some holiday nostalgia and magic for his first score, called upon to pass with the Jets trailing 3-0. He wound up launching a 43-yard score to Braxton Berrios to give the Jets a permanent lead. It was only the second pass of his NFL career and first since an incompletion in October 2015 while repping Washington…ironically in a contest against the Jets.
This ensuing toss was far more successful and harkened back to his days at Duke. Crowder threw four passes through trickery in his career in Durham, his last being a 21-yard touchdown in the 2014 Sun Bowl.
“I told him next series you might think about going back there and playing some snaps at QB,” quarterback Sam Darnold joked in a report from Zach Braziller of the New York Post. “What a dime though. He threw it perfectly and, yeah, it was awesome to see.”
“I’ve never really played quarterback. But, you know, I’m an athlete,” Crowder said with a smile in another report from Andy Vazquez of NorthJersey.com. “I was just telling myself, ‘Just throw a dart,’ just make sure I put it where it needs to be.”
According to Crowder, the Jets (2-13) ran the trick play in practice on several occasions, but things never truly panned out. The complex duplicity involved rusher Ty Johnson faking a jet sweep before flipping the ball back to Crowder, a strong threat to unleash a reverse. Crowder would later show off his rushing prowess with a 14-yard sweep carry of his own to open the Jets’ next possession, setting the pace for another score (Darnold finding Chris Herndon to inflate the lead to 13-3).
But the plan went perfectly by design, as Crowder launched to an open Berrios, who had snuck by the unsuspecting Cleveland defense. Berrios then beat out Sheldrick Redwine to the pylon to complete the score and give the Jets the lead.
“You can’t really overthink it. You’ve got to just let things play out,” Crowder said, per Vazquez. “We ran it in practice a few times, and we connected in practice, but it really wasn’t where the ball should have been in practice. But I had all the confidence in myself that I was going to put it where it needed to be, and I had all the confidence that Berrios was going to catch it.”
Crowder would later help the Jets open the second half on the right note, this time returning to more traditional ways of scoring. His 30-yard scoring grab from Darnold was his team-high sixth of the season and put the Jets ahead 20-3. He wound end the day leading all receivers with 92 yards on seven receptions as the Jets eventually held on to a 23-16 triumph.
In the midst of two of the more difficult seasons in Jets history, Crowder has turned himself into one of the more dependable slot receivers in the NFL. He led the Jets in all major receiving categories last season (78 receptions, 833 yards, 6 touchdowns) and seems well on-pace to do it again in 2020 (55 receptions, 668 yards, 6 touchdowns). He’ll have one more opportunity to build on his stats in the Jets’ season finale in New England next weekend (1 p.m. ET, CBS).
Crowder is signed through the 2021 season, but could become a cap savings casualty with the Jets poised to save $10.5 million in space if he is moved. Nonetheless, the team has been impressed by the sense of stability he has brought to times of green chaos.
“The thing that I’d say about Crowder is that, over the last two seasons, he is so consistent,” head coach Adam Gase said in Braziller’s report. “You can always count on him. The quarterback can definitely count on him being in the right spot, right time. Make the play that needs to be made in the moment, especially when it’s a critical one.”
“When we need a big play, whether it’s the perfect coverage or the perfect route, it seems like he comes down with the ball. He makes something happen when something needs to happen.”