Why the New York Jets Should Not Ignore Wide Receivers This Offseason

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Why the New York Jets Should Not Ignore Wide Receivers This Offseason
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The New York Jets have a number of options at wide receiver already on the roster. With Santonio Holmes, Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill all under contract for 2013, the Jets aren't exactly desperate for pass-catchers. That becomes especially true if they end up re-signing free agent wide receiver Braylon Edwards. 

Between outside linebackers, safeties and a quarterback, the Jets have far more pressing needs than wide receivers. That being said, they can't afford to ignore the position completely in the 2013 offseason.

The Jets got a measly 2,032 receiving yards out of their wide receivers in 2012, but much of their struggles could be attributed to injury and to poor quarterback play. Considering how stocked the cupboards seem to be at wide receiver, why is it considered a need for the Jets?

For starters, the wide receiver position will always look a bit worse when it's struck by an injury to its best player in Week 4. Stephen Hill was never supposed to be a No. 2 receiver, and the fact that he became one after just one injury is a testament to the poor job Mike Tannenbaum did as general manager—a topic we've discussed here at great length all the way through his eventual firing.

Beyond that, wide receivers can't perform at their peak without a decent quarterback throwing them the ball; with Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow rating out respectively as the 63rd and 62nd quarterbacks on Matt Miller's top 65 quarterbacks, "decent" is far from an accurate descriptor of the Jets quarterback situation.

The question then becomes, how do the Jets improve their production at wide receiver? The simple answer is to stay healthy and get a major improvement from the quarterback position, both of which are much easier said than done.

One thing to keep in mind, also, is that 2013 marks the last year the Jets are significantly on the hook for Santonio Holmes. They owe him $11.25 million according to NYJetsCap.com, and can only save $1.25 million by cutting him. That won't happen this offseason, but there's no guarantee he'll stick around through 2014 when he is owed a fully non-guaranteed $8.25 million.

Stephen Hill may have been thrust into a situation that wasn't ideal for him as an unpolished rookie receiver, but that's not sound reasoning for writing off his struggles completely.

He has to learn to catch the ball consistently; he dropped 22.22 percent of catchable balls (six drops, 21 catches, 27 catchable balls). That would have tied for worst in the NFL in 2012 if he had been targeted more often.

We've seen receivers overcome a career case of dropitis before (hello, Braylon Edwards) but Hill must also improve as a route-runner if he wants to put an exclamation mark on the answers to the questions around him after his rookie season.

Well, when you put it that way, the Jets aren't as well off at receiver as once thought.

It's not all bad, however, as wide receiver Jeremy Kerley has been a revelation. Drafted in the fifth round in 2011, Kerley became a starter in 2012 and was the Jets leading receiver by a long shot with 56 receptions for 827 yards and two touchdowns. The Jets have him for two more years at a total of just over $1.2 million—a steal for a player with Kerley's upside.

That being said, Kerley's value circles back to Holmes. The two are incredibly similar in skill set and build, and the Jets might wish to get more well-rounded at receiver in the future.

The Jets don't need help at receiver as much for 2013 as they might for 2014 and beyond, so throwing money at a top-flight free-agent receiver wouldn't be wise, especially given the fact that Holmes is set to be the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL, making even more money than that Calvin Johnson guy.

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The Jets could target a second-tier free-agent receiver and another through the draft, or perhaps even draft two receivers. 

The first decision that has to be made is on Braylon Edwards. He made $825,000 last year, so it's not a question of whether it's financially feasible to keep him around—surely a 10-catch, 125-yard season didn't bolster his stock that much. Edwards has matured a lot, comparatively speaking or otherwise, and could be kept as a veteran presence to help bring along Stephen Hill.

Then, the issue becomes depth. Fly-by-night waiver wire pickups such as Jason Hill and Clyde Gates aren't going to cut it anymore. The Jets are installing a West Coast offense, and it's time to go after a receiver who may not have the perfect measurables, but who can at least get open. 

With regards to the draft, this year's crop of wide receivers presents good value in the second and third rounds, so the Jets could still bolster their offense without a big investment. USC's Robert Woods and West Virginia's Stedman Bailey are receivers who could be fits.

There are no guarantees that the Jets receiving corps would be good enough even when fully healthy, but even just one injury could make for a frightening case of 2012 deja vu.

 

Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless otherwise specified, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.

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