If the New York Jets want soon-to-be second-year quarterback Geno Smith to take the next step, they need to give him something — anything — to work with.
Upgrading the wide receiver corps will be arguably the team’s biggest priority this offseason, and it will start with addition by subtraction. That subtraction: Santonio Holmes.
Holmes has the team’s fourth biggest cap number (more than $8 million) heading into 2014 and is expected to be released. He’s still a threat when healthy, but his health is the biggest threat of all. The near-30-year-old missed five games last season and 12 the year before, and New York simply needs to move on.
His departure will open up the top spot on the depth chart.
Incumbent slot receiver Jeremy Kerley is on the rise and could be a star this coming season, and former Buffalo Bills receiver David Nelson made a great impression upon joining the Jets mid-season. Both players are still under contract, though both would be best served in secondary roles.
The Jets will almost certainly need to nab a big, tall wideout to work the perimeter early in the draft with the potential to step in as the team’s top air threat. They need a Braylon Edwards-type who can not only burn a corner on a streak but also go up for the tough ball in traffic. Gang Green thought Stephen Hill could develop into that guy, but so far, that ambition has been all for naught.
New York, however, will enter the draft with a much better idea of where it stands at the position than it does currently.
The Jets are eying all the soon-to-be top receivers in the free agent market, which, as of now, includes the likes of Eric Decker of the Denver Broncos and Emmanuel Sanders of the Pittsburgh Steelers, as well as Philadelphia Eagles wideouts Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin.
There are plenty of other prospective Jets in that group, of whom are adequately ranked by WalterFootball.com here. Meanwhile, here is the website’s rankings of the very deep crop of receivers in the upcoming draft.
Expect the Jets to draft one potential immediate starter in the first three rounds while giving Hill a scare for a roster spot via a free agency acquisition or two.
Nick St. Denis is the publisher of AFCEastDaily.com. The SUNY Plattsburgh journalism grad spent four years covering the Jets for Scout.com and five years covering preps and collegiate sports for newspapers in New York and Virginia. Follow him on Twitter at @NickStDenis.