Despite a roster that lacks star power, the New York Jets managed to go 8-8 in 2013, good for a second place finish in the AFC East.
However, to say the team needs to upgrade the wide receiver position this offseason would be a severe understatement. The Jets should do their due diligence and examine every option in both free agency and the NFL draft.
Once they have done this, they should come to the conclusion that free agent Jeremy Maclin and likely first-round draft pick Marqise Lee are their best options.
The best part? The Jets will have a serious opportunity to snag them both.
According to Overthecap.com, the Jets currently have a touch over $20 million available in cap space. Only nine teams have more money to spend.
After spending the past five seasons in Philadelphia, Maclin will hit the open market on March 11. He missed the entire 2013 season due to a torn ACL, which could allow him to fly under the radar.
In Philadelphia, Maclin would need to contend with DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper and LeSean McCoy for touches. In New York, he'd become a focal point of the offense. In his career, Maclin has averaged 64.5 receptions per season while also catching 26 career touchdown passes.
A player with his ability would be a huge help for Geno Smith—or whoever the Jets decide to go with at quarterback.
If the Jets were able to bring Maclin aboard, the focus would then shift to the draft. Should they use their first-round choice on another wide receiver?
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Last season, Jeremy Kerley led the team in receiving with just 43 catches. No other receiver had more than 40 catches or more than three touchdown receptions.
Smith had a tough rookie season, but he didn't have a great supporting cast. Players like Greg Salas and Clyde Gates would be lucky to be on the practice squad for many teams in the league.
The Jets can solve this problem via the draft.
Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins will be long gone by the time the Jets come up at No. 18 in the first round. But there is a good chance that USC wideout Lee will still be available.
This would be an excellent pick for the Jets.
Lee finished his college career with 248 receptions and had a massive 2012 season with 118 receptions for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Looking at his skill set, he brings quite a bit to the table.
Lee has prolific speed and routinely gains separation in the secondary. On top of that, he has terrific hands. He can attack defenses across the middle of the field or by running deep routes, but his biggest strength may be his ability to run after the catch. Lee is capable of turning a five-yard route over the middle into a touchdown. His ability to make defenders miss with the ball in his hands is evident.
If the Jets were able to draft Lee, they would have a legitimate No. 1 receiver in the fold. If they bring in Maclin prior to the draft, the team will have a very formidable combination.
Smith and the offense would be the benefactors as the Jets have always proven they can move the ball on the ground with Rex Ryan as coach. Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory will still be sufficient at grinding out tough yards.
Taking a quick glance at the roster, the Jets may seem like a team that needs a ton of help. But really, adding these two pieces would completely transform the team.
General manager John Idzik will be challenged with finding weapons for his young quarterback. Maclin and Lee are the ones he needs to seriously pursue.