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NY Jets should take a flyer on Marqise Lee in free agency

NY Jets (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
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The NY Jets look to enter the 2020 season with a lot of roster holes. In order to help address their issues at wide receiver, they should take a chance on Marqise Lee.

At first glance, the NY Jets seem poised to open the 2020 season on a high note. After a rough start to the 2019 season (1-7), the Jets rallied to finish with a respectable record (7-9).

And in spite of enduring a new head coach and a bout with illness, quarterback Sam Darnold showed noticeable improvement between his rookie (17 TD/15 INT/57.7 completion percentage) and sophomore seasons (19 TD/13 INT/61.9 completion percentage).

However, general manager Joe Douglas has his work cut out for him if the Jets hope to continue their momentum into the upcoming season.

The Jets have a litany of high-impact free agents, including Robby Anderson, Demaryius Thomas, Brian Poole, Kelvin Beachum, and Jordan Jenkins. The team was already weak at offensive line and cornerback, and losing Anderson and Thomas threatens to create a crisis at wide receiver as well.

While the Jets project to have a good amount of cap space (currently about $56 million) and can certainly free up some more with strategic cuts, they have a lot of roster holes and limited resources with which to fill them.

Potential Cap Casualties(savings)

Sammy Watkins ($14M)AJ Bouye ($11.4M)Vernon Hargreaves ($9.9M)Jordan Reed ($8.5M)Alec Ogletree ($8.25M)Delanie Walker ($6.4M)Marqise Lee ($5.25M)Jerick McKinnon ($4.55M)Devonta Freeman ($3.5M)Trumaine Johnson ($3M)Gio Bernard ($2.8M)

— Spotrac (@spotrac) February 14, 2020

The Jets will have to get creative if they want to field a competitive team next season.

In addition to maximizing the value of their draft picks (by drafting well and even trading down when possible), the Jets will need to scour through the entire free agent pool for discount players.

For example, let’s look at wide receiver.

Early reports suggest that the Jets will probably not be able to resign Anderson. Assuming Anderson leaves, the team will be left with the challenging task of replacing their No. 1 wide receiver and best deep threat.

While it would be great if the Jets could afford to bring in a similar star to replace Anderson (perhaps Sammy Watkins or Amari Cooper if they are available), it may not be the most realistic or prudent solution.

Consider the following three players.

  • Player A: 63 catches for 941 yards and seven touchdowns
  • Player B: 39 catches for 593 yards and eight touchdowns
  • Player C: 48 catches for 680 yards and seven touchdowns
  • Player D: 56 catches for 702 yards and three touchdowns

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Player A is Anderson, Player B is Watkins, Player C is Cooper, and Player D is Marqise Lee. All stats are from the 2017 season.

The reason those numbers are from 2017 is because that was the last time Lee was healthy for an entire season. Lee is injury-prone and inevitably carries with him a great degree of risk, making it likely that the Jacksonville Jaguars will cut him.

However, Lee has shown during brief bouts of success that he can put up comparable numbers with some of the better free-agent wide receivers out there. And he would presumably cost a fraction of the price.

Building a successful team ultimately comes from making the best use of your resources. Obviously the Jets would be greatly improved by adding Cooper, but is he worth $15+ million/ year?

While Anderson and Watkins shouldn’t cost as much as Cooper, they will both probably cost more than $10 million/ year. Meanwhile, the Jets could probably offer a low-risk, incentive-laden deal to Lee for less than $5 million.

Successful teams aren’t built by spending wildly and adding all the most exciting names. They are built by assembling the most talent across multiple positions for the most efficient costs possible.

NY Jets 2-round NFL Mock Draft featuring blockbuster Jamal Adams trade. Next

The Jets should follow that mantra and take a chance on Lee.

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