The Jets haven't had a true, No. 1 receiver since 2015, when Brandon Marshall had his last dominant season. He was the last Jets receiver to have 1,000 yards, and it's not clear they have one that's even capable of doing that now.
That's a problem, especially in this pass-happy era. Because while it's important that GM Joe Douglas is rebuilding the offensive line, quarterback Sam Darnold still needs weapons to make the Jets' offense run. He does still have Jamison Crowder, but his most dangerous receiver was Robby Anderson, and he's now in Carolina. And Anderson's replacement, Breshad Perriman, hasn't even combined for 1,000 yards in the last two years.
So while Crowder and Perriman are a good start, the Jets are still lacking a game-breaker -- a dynamic playmaker who can change defensive strategy and become Darnold's go-to guy. With none left in the free-agent pool, though, and the Jets still likely to take an offensive lineman in the first round of the draft, Douglas may have to get creative to find the No. 1 that Darnold needs.
If he's willing to be bold, there could be a few options available in a trade -- though just how good those options are depends entirely on the price.
Here's a look, though, at some the No. 1 receivers the Jets could find
if they're willing to make a big trade...
Odell Beckham Jr. (Browns)
There have been rumors (and some reports) for months that Beckham wants out of Cleveland, and that the Browns (under new management) are willing to trade him. Everyone denies those, but … well, of course they do.
But here's the reality: The Browns learned in Year 1 that the Beckham Circus can be as distracting as advertised. Also, as he battled through injuries, he wasn't his usual Pro Bowl self. He was still pretty good, though, and he has a lot of value, even with four years left on his five-year, $90 million contract (which becomes easy to get out of after the 2020 season).
What would it cost? He'd only cost the Jets $14.25 million in cap space, which they can definitely afford. But in terms of the trade, Beckham might be the most expensive player on this list, since it was only a year ago that the Browns sent a first-round pick (17th overall), a third-round pick (96th) and safety Jabrill Peppers to the Giants for Beckham. At the very least, they'd want those picks back.
In a draft deep in receivers, that seems like something Douglas would be unlikely to do. But Beckham would be interested in a return to New York, as SNY has reported, and based on talent alone he's exactly the kind of explosive weapon Darnold needs. Would the Jets be willing to accept and deal with everything else that comes with him?
That probably depends on the cost.
Brandin Cooks (Rams)
The logistics of trading for the 26-year-old are difficult to navigate. For one, the Rams would have to be willing to absorb a $17.8 million dead-money hit against their 2020 salary cap to deal him. For another, Cooks is owed $20 million over the next two seasons and has had concussion issues, both of which diminishes his value in a trade. And then there's the fact that he's coming off the worst season of his career (42-583-2 in 14 games).
Still, he had four straight 1,000-yard seasons from 2015-18 and he's still young, and reportedly teams are interested. Cooks certainly stirred up a social media firestorm by Tweeting "Free me" on Friday night, which some took as a sign he wants out of L.A. in the wake of their decision to cut running back Todd Gurley. It's also worth noting he's already been traded twice in his career -- both times for a first-round pick and more.
It's unclear if the Rams would be willing to trade him and absorb that cap hit, but even if they are, it's hard to see them being the third team to get a first-round pick in return. A second-round pick might be the max. But considering the Jets could land a top receiver there, they shouldn't offer more than one of their thirds.
Sammy Watkins (Chiefs)
The Super Bowl champs have plenty of weapons, so there's no need for them to keep the 26-year-old former first-round pick around, especially considering his cap hit in 2020 is $21 million. The Chiefs can clear $14 million of that off their books by cutting him or trading him.
Since the Chiefs haven't cut him yet, it's possible they'll be bringing him back after a significant pay cut. But if they can't agree to terms, a trade makes more sense since they'd at least get something in return. It won't be much, since teams know they could still get a shot at him in free agency. Plus, they'd need to rework his contract anyway, since he's due a $13.75 million salary this year.
Honestly, a sixth-round pick might be more than enough to get him, and even that might be high. Remember, though he's loaded with talent, he's not exactly the No. 1 receiver the Jets need. He hasn't put up anything close to No. 1 numbers since 2015, when he had 60 catches for 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns in his second season in Buffalo. Last year, he had 52-673-3 in the Chiefs' dynamic offense. Of course, all three of those touchdowns came in the season opener -- a nine-catch, 198-yard teaser that was his lone 100-yard receiving game.
It may be better to take a flier if he's cut than waste anything in a trade.
A.J. Green (Bengals)
It seemed a little odd that the Bengals spent $17.8 million to tag a 31-year-old receiver who missed all of 2019 with an ankle injury, half of 2018 with a toe injury, and battled a groin injury in the nine games he did play that year. He has the talent to be one of the best receivers in the NFL when healthy, but he's only been healthy for one season in the past four years.
Clearly the Bengals see value in keeping Green around to help Joe Burrow, the rookie QB they plan to draft first overall. But they also have Tyler Boyd and John Ross and they're also not exactly close to competing for a playoff spot. Wouldn't it be better to draft another young receiver and get rid of Green?
So maybe they'd be open to a tag and trade. Of course, the cost would have to be really low and even then it's hard to see this being worthwhile for the Jets. Green would either have to sign his expensive franchise tag or sign off on a new contract. Either way, that's a heck of a financial gamble to take on a player who may be a seven-time Pro Bowler, but sure appears to be breaking down.