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NY Jets: 6 potential targets for Sam Darnold in 2020 and beyond

By Bryan Levin
NY Jets (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
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NY Jets (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

The NY Jets could target these six receivers to make Sam Darnold’s life easier.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. A high-powered NY Jets offense for Sam Darnold hasn’t been either.

The history of the New York Jets, and even more specifically, the recent history of the Jets can be summarized by their desperate search to find a franchise quarterback.

In the past two decades alone, several possible solutions in an attempt to end this plight have come and gone. Chad Pennington would have, and probably should have been the answer, but numerous injuries derailed that dream.

Mark Sanchez was dubbed “The Sanchize” by teammates and coaches early in his rookie season. Kellen Clemens and Geno Smith proved to be nothing more than capable backups at best. Christian Hackenberg was…Christian Hackenberg.

One lesson that we have learned repeatedly from teams that have been able to successfully develop true franchise quarterbacks is that young signal-callers need strong protection from their offensive line and dependable, proven weapons.

Ever since April 26th, 2018, the night the Jets drafted Darnold, every move going forward should have, in some form or fashion, revolved around Darnold and his development.

Current Jets general manager Joe Douglas made his vision clear at the start of free agency this spring, his first full offseason in charge of building the roster: fortify the wall in front of Darnold.  This was accomplished by bringing in six new offensive linemen via the draft and free agency and retaining guard Alex Lewis.

With a rebuilt offensive line, there is reason to be excited about Darnold’s prospects and continued development.

The focus now for the Jets should be to address the team’s skill players and firepower. As he does every summer, Bill Barnwell of ESPN released his rankings for all 32 NFL teams’ offensive weapons before training camps.

The Jets, heading into 2020, rank 29th on his list, and that was before the numerous camp injuries. For Darnold’s three years in the NFL, Gang Green has averaged a ranking of 27th.

While this year’s group of weapons features several new faces and intrigue, the Jets still need a significant, potentially game-changing weapon for Darnold ideally for 2020 and beyond.

After acquiring significant draft capital following the Jamal Adams trade, the Jets have the ammunition to deal for this piece or use the picks to select multiple skill position players in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Until then, here are several options currently in the NFL that could be fits via trade or free agency next spring.

Next: Keenan Allen and Allen Robinson

NY Jets (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

1. The NY Jets could target Keenan Allen in 2021 free agency

Keenan Allen has been one of the better wide receivers in the league for several years but has been somewhat lost in the national shuffle due to a poor new fanbase in a new city and inconsistent team success.

Still only 28, Allen has averaged an impressive 101 receptions over the last three seasons. As a free agent next offseason, it would be a bit of a surprise to see the Los Angeles Chargers let their best offensive player walk away, especially after inking arguably their best defensive player, Joey Bosa, to a mega-extension earlier this month.

For this reason, Allen may not be the most realistic possibility, but he would certainly make a difference for the NY Jets and would command top dollar on the open market.

2. The NY Jets could target Allen Robinson in 2021 free agency

It feels as though Robinson has been in the league for nearly a decade, but will only be 27 this summer. Like Allen, Robinson has flown a bit under-the-radar nationally after spending his first four seasons in Jacksonville and the last two fighting through bad quarterback play in Chicago.

While he has been unable to repeat his incredible second season in the pros, Robinson has still been a productive and reliable target in the Windy City and would be a tremendous addition to a thin and relatively unproven wide receiver group.

With his contract set to expire at the end of this season and the Bears yet to reach out to discuss an extension, it’s possible he could find a new home in 2021.

Next: JuJu Smith-Schuster and Cooper Kupp

NY Jets (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

3. The NY Jets could target JuJu Smith-Schuster in 2021 free agency

With a revised salary cap projection for 2021 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pittsburgh Steelers figure to be, as of now, significantly over the salary cap for next season.

After two dynamic seasons to begin his NFL career and the departure of Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster was expected to take a giant leap in his third season. Unfortunately for Smith-Schuster, injuries and inconsistent play at the quarterback position hampered him tremendously.

If he is able to rebound in 2020, a massive payday could be in store. Despite their cap situation, it would be quite surprising if the Steelers let him walk given his age (24 next spring) and ability.

However, if he hits the market, he should be a top priority for the Jets to pair with Darnold, whom he already has a history and rapport with after the two connected quite often for the 2016 USC Trojans.

4. The NY Jets could target Cooper Kupp in 2021 free agency

Cooper Kupp has emerged as one of the most reliable and steady options out of the slot in the NFL since entering the league in 2017. A great route runner with great hands, Kupp has been a major safety blanket for Jared Goff over this span.

His addition may be a bit redundant with Jamison Crowder already slotted in to work many of his routes underneath, but for a young quarterback on the ascent, it would be hard to turn down the opportunity to bring in as many productive and trustworthy targets as possible.

The projected shrinking of the 2021 salary cap could play a major factor in the Los Angeles Rams’ and Kupp’s situation.

Next: Kenny Stills and Curtis Samuel

NY Jets (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

5. The NY Jets could target Kenny Stills in a trade or 2021 free agency

Kenny Stills may not be the most consistent, true week-in, week-out difference-maker that Allen and Robinson are, but his speed and big-play ability would be a welcomed addition for Darnold.

With Robby Anderson departing this offseason, the Jets inked Breshad Perriman to a one-year deal to provide a speedy, homerun threat. If the Perriman experiment doesn’t work out, Stills could be a great downfield option to take the top off of opposing defenses.

A pending free agent next spring, Stills could possibly be had even sooner if the Houston Texans stumble out of the gate with the enigmatic Bill O’Brien calling the shots.

6. The NY Jets could target Curtis Samuel in a trade

The Brooklyn-born offensive weapon has had a somewhat disappointing career in the NFL after entering the league in 2017 as a second-round pick. A dynamic all-purpose weapon at Ohio State, the Carolina Panthers have not been able to find the perfect role for Curtis Samuel to this point.

He has, however, flashed in moments and displayed the skill set that, in the right situation, can be quite useful. Only 24, on paper it would be difficult to see a new regime in Carolina give up on a clearly talented player, but he wasn’t drafted by the new staff and has no significant ties to them.

Next. NY Jets: Top 3 takeaways from Saturday’s training camp practice

Offseason trade rumors surfaced in the spring, and typically in this league, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

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