The Jets are hurting at wide receiver, literally and figuratively. The running game is struggling, which limits the possibility of play-action. Their rookie quarterback doesn’t have a lot of proven, healthy targets to whom he can throw.
So, yes, it would be tempting for New York to add a veteran receiver before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline. Very tempting. But much like that tantalizing last piece of cheesecake in your refrigerator, it might be nice now, but bad for you in the long run.
And so it is with the Jets, who dropped to 3-5 after losing to Chicago on Sunday. Yes, Sam Darnold and their 28th-ranked passing offense could use some help, especially in the wake of injuries that have sidelined starting wideouts Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson.
But the Jets shouldn’t make any rash decisions, given the fact that at 3-5, it doesn’t feel as if they are in the thick of the AFC wild-card chase. Even though they steadfastly refuse to admit it, this season is all about laying the groundwork for the future by beginning to develop Darnold. The Jets perhaps tipped their hand last week as to their intentions in this area by signing former Miami and Tennessee wide receiver Rishard Matthews, who had 19 snaps against the Bears but wasn’t targeted by Darnold.
Their situation at running back is similar. Reliable Bilal Powell needs season-ending surgery for a knew injury, but the injury isn’t career-threatening, as coach Todd Bowles said last week. One day later, Bowles admitted he misspoke and that Powell’s was not worse than that of Enunwa, who suffered a bulging disc in his neck that sidelines him for all of last season before returning this year. Enunwa had 21 receptions in the first four games this season before again being derailed by injury, this time an ankle problem. He has sat out the last two games.
But instead of going out and getting a big-name running back to replace Powell (and remember, Le’Veon Bell isn’t even eligible to be traded until he signs his franchise tender with Pittsburgh, which he has shown no inclination to do), the Jets promoted De’Angelo Henderson from the practice squad and moved sixth-round pick Trenton Cannon into the No. 2 RB role. Cannon had a season-high 29 snaps at Chicago and had a season-high nine touches from scrimmage. The Jets even had Darnold target him on a wheel route early in the second quarter, but Cannon was well-covered and the pass was incomplete.
Certainly New York general manager Mike Maccagnan will perform his due diligence, as usual, and work the phones between now and 4 p.m. Tuesday. But also keep in mind the Jets don’t have a second-round pick because of the trade with Indianapolis which enabled them to move up three spots in the draft and select Darnold. And it wouldn’t be prudent to give up their No.1 except in a blockbuster deal, so a third-rounder likely is the biggest chip Maccagnan can use unless he wants to trade a player on the roster.
Here are some possibilities at wide receiver, along with the potential negatives:
Demaryius Thomas, Denver. Thomas, a ninth-year pro, still is a productive player. But his numbers are on the decline and he has a $17.533 cap figure for 2019. Yes, the Jets have the kind of cap room for next season to absorb such an exorbitant number, but they have a lot of other needs to address (offensive line, pass rusher, nickel corner, etc.).
Pierre Garcon, San Francisco. The 32-year-old Garcon’s base salary is $5.6 million for next season, so he would make more economic sense than Thomas. And even though he sat out San Francisco’s loss to Arizona on Sunday because of a knee injury, it’s possible that, much like baseball teams sometimes do near the trade deadline, the 49ers were being cautious with his health in case they decide to move him. But his numbers have declined sharply in recent years and the Jets already have a similar player in 28-year-old Jermaine Kearse, although his contract will run out after this year and he will be a free agent. Still, it would seem to make more sense to re-sign Kearse, whom Darnold already is familiar with.
DeVante Parker, Miami. He actually wouldn’t be a bad fit for the Jets on the field, considering he has the speed to get deep, much like the Jets’ currently injured Robby Anderson (ankle), but has a bigger frame than Anderson and would be better at bringing in the 50-50 type balls Darnold often throws. And with a $9.387 million fifth-year option due to him next season, per overthecap.com, he wouldn’t be a bad option financially. Unfortunately, NFL geography makes this almost an impossible deal for the Jets to pull off, considering the Dolphins are in the same division and will host the Jets on Sunday. Just imagine all the inside info Parker could provide the Jets. And that’s why it almost assuredly wouldn’t happen.
It seems unless the Jets and Maccagnan are presented with something too good to pass up, they won’t make any major moves, although the coffeeholic Maccagnan has shown he is willing to make smaller, under-the-radar deals. But for now, I think the Jets would be best off standing pat because a seriously flawed team with a young quarterback isn’t likely to make a playoff run. (Remember that the 2009 Jets and rookie QB Mark Sanchez only qualified for the post-season because their final two opponents, division winners Indianapolis and Cincinnati, tanked games against New York.)
Also note that in 2014, the then 1-6 Jets swung a trade with Seattle for disgruntled wide receiver Percy Harvin to help inconsistent second-year QB Geno Smith. Then-GM John Idzik labeled it a “potential coup” for the Jets, but that potential was never realized. Harvin totaled 460 yards and one TD on 51 touches from scrimmage and was released by the Jets after they finished 4-12 in Rex Ryan’s final season. One dynamic player cannot turn around a team with a still-learning quarterback and plenty of other flaws.