Who will these quarterbacks be throwing to Week 1?
With all of the injuries and uncertainty at wide receiver along with the lack of depth at tight end the Jets will have to piece together the rest of roster watching teams who have excess talent at those spots for final cuts or trade opportunities. That being said I have gone through the AFC teams looking for players who could shake free and help the Jets.
The Bengals have a glut of wide receiver talent starting with AJ Green, Mohammed Sanu and Marvin Jones. On the backend they have Andrew Hawkins who has been compared to recent draftee Tavon Austin for his speed, shiftiness and return skills, Brandon Tate who is another player who fills multiple needs as he is one of the best punt returners in the league, and Roy Roundtree who is a shifty with good route-running skills who starred at Michigan. At the end of the preseason the Bengals will have hard decisions to make, Roundtree should shake free and Hawkins or Tate might be available for the right price.
Another avenue for the Jets to take is to look at players in the last year of their contract who could benefit from a change of scenery. Kenny Britt is a very talented wide receiver who is a Rutgers product who resides in New Jersey. Britt was a first round pick in 1999. He is also in the final year of his contract with more than his share of run ins with police to his name and coming off of problems with both knees. Britt has a lot to prove this season on and off the field and if the Jets bet on him, and it pays off they may find a long-term option at wide receiver. Those watching Titans OTAs have seen a return of Britt’s explosion which was missing in a disappointing 2012. Jon Baldwin of the Kansas City Chiefs has been a first round disappointment through his first couple of years in the league. He has been labelled as lazy and is in Andy Reid’s dog house already. He is holding off Donnie Avery for now but that is another situation that bears watching. He has averaged 14 yards per reception in his career and is 6’4″ and 230 pounds.
January 8, 2012; Denver, CO, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (89) during the first quarter of the 2011 AFC wild card playoff game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Two former Jets might hit the free agent market. Both Brad Smith and Jerricho Cotchery could be on the market as their teams either want to get younger or have a glut of new talent at wide receiver. Smith would fill the pistol/wildcat/returner role he played while with the Jets. However he is not a threat as a receiver nor as a quarterback and teams seem to have figured out straight running quarterbacks who are not dual threats. Jerricho Cotchery has struggled the last two years with Pittsburgh after leaving the Jets. He made some clutch grabs but with only 33 in the last two years that might not be enough to keep his roster spot in Pittsburgh or garner one in New York.
The Jets may try to catch lightning in a bottle with some players who have high upside but haven’t had everything click yet in their career. Damien Williams of the Tennessee Titans had 45 receptions for 592 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2011 and finds himself buried on the depth chart in Tennessee and might shake free in final roster cuts. Marvin McNutt is a big, physical wide receiver that had 1300 yards and 12 touchdowns in his senior year at Iowa. He was drafted by Philadelphia last year in the 6th round and came up from the practice squad after week 12. He was cut in the offseason and signed immediately by Miami but he remains on the roster bubble even there. LaVon Brazill is a 6th round pick of the Colts that averaged nearly 17 yards per reception in his rookie season but finds himself behind Wayne, Hilton, and Heyward-Bey. Da’Rick Rogers has looked good for Buffalo so far on the field, if he can manage to avoid off the field issues and Buffalo tries to put him on the practice squad the Jets might be wise to put in a waiver claim.
Certain players would fill a specific need for the Jets as a punt returner if they hit the open market. Players like Marc Mariani who averages 24.8 yards per kickoff return and 11.2 yards per punt return would really help. With Darius Reynaud already returning for the Titans Mariani might be available. Trindon Holliday is another return specialist for the Broncos who might not have the roster space to keep one.
At the tight end position the Patriots always have a glut of quality players. Jake Ballard is finally close to 100% after the Patriots stole him from the Giants off of waivers and stashed him on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list last year. If Gronkowski and Hernandez are healthy and Fells and Hoomanawani also back someone has to go. Fells is a pure blocking tight end that the Jets are sorely missing and taking a chance on Ballard if available would be a cheap bet for a year.
Orson Charles was a 4th round pick in 2012 who starred at Georgia and was highly rated as a receiver and blocker. Charles fell to the 4th round due to a pre-draft DUI. He did not perform well in his rookie year and is now languishing behind Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert on the depth chart in Cincinnati. He is certainly worthy of a second chance. Tony Moeaki may be on his way out of Kansas City as he is in the final year of his rookie contract and the team drafted Travis Kelce out of Cincinnati and signed Anthony Fasano. Moeaki should be healthy for training camp from a knee scope and could be a trade target.
Next time I will look at NFC wide receivers and tight ends who might be available for the Jets as the offseason rolls on and following that we will explore the remaining free agents.