The New York Jets No. 1 priority entering the 2014 offseason, in my opinion, is to sign a free agent No. 1 wide receiver.
The lack of receiver depth on the Jets' roster cannot be understated. Santonio Holmes is as good as gone (for obvious reasons), leaving Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, Clyde Gates, David Nelson and Greg Salas.
Kerley and Nelson will be back with the team, Kerley as the slot guy and Nelson presumably as the No. 4 or No. 5 WR. Nothing to complain about there.
Gates has been injury-prone in his Jets' tenure and can't be counted on to produce by any means, and Salas could be back as the No. 5 or No. 6 WR.
Stephen Hill (23 yrs old next year), was supposed to be the No. 2 opposite Santonio Holmes when the Jets traded up to draft Hill with the 43rd pick in 2011.
Well, that plan didn't exactly pan out. While Hill is still too young to be labeled a "bust" this early in his career, he certainly has not produced for New York. (In 23 games with the Jets, he has averaged less than 26 receiving yards per game and only caught 45 of the 105 balls thrown his way).
Could Hill bounce back next year? Absolutely. He has all the physical tools, and the Jets knew he was raw when they drafted him. He has had two different offensive coordinators in his two years with New York.
That said, he is far from a reliable commodity entering 2014. Even if Hill DOES produce next year as a No. 2, the Jets still need a No. 1 wide receiver.
Enter Golden Tate (Seattle Seahawks), who will be 26 years old in August of 2014. Tate, in my opinion, is one of the most underrated wideouts in the NFL.
Tate is very quick and agile and excels at getting Yards-After-Catch (Believe it or not, Tate's 451 YAC this season is better than the likes of Dez Bryant, AJ Green, Andre Johnson and Jimmy Graham).
In fact, nearly 59 percent of Tate's yards this season have come from YAC, which is quite astounding for a WR.
Despite being listed as 5'10", Tate is very strong at the point of attack. He has good hands, is a good route-runner and a solid blocker.
Other than being short, Tate's only glaring weakness is that he struggles against the league's top cornerbacks. But can you even name a cornerback who plays in the AFC East that's not a Jet? (Grimes and Talib made the pro bowl, but Wilkerson also didn't make it, so I don't think any of that can be taken seriously)
And I didn't even mention, Tate's an elite punt returner (12.0 average ranks 6th in NFL). This, in theory, would put less of a burden on Kerley in terms of injury liability and fatigue.
In 15 games this season, Tate has racked up 769 yards on 56 catches (4 TD). But those numbers don't do him justice, as Tate has fallen victim to a run-heavy approach in Seattle. (Seattle's 397 pass attempts this season is 2nd-fewest in the NFL).
From the Jets' team perspective, I know they will aim to acquire WR's via free agency in addition to the draft. But I think signing a free-agent No. 1 WR is a MUST.
Geno Smith needs a proven veteran WR next year who is fairly young and can move the chains. When you compare Tate to the other available unrestricted FA's entering 2014, Tate is one of the best options.
Anquan Boldin- will be 34 yrs old, that's too old
Dwayne Bowe- will be 30 next Sept, off-the-field issues well documented
Hakeem Nicks, Jeremy Maclin, James Jones, Kenny Britt- all have history of injury problems Jacoby Jones- will be 30 Emmanuel Sanders- will be 27 but is a slot guy like Kerley Eric Decker- will be 27 and is a stud, but his number's might be a product of playing with Peyton Manning plus he figures to cost more $$.
Now, let's play devil's advocate and say the Seahawks win the Super Bowl, and Tate plays extremely well in the playoffs. Seattle's going to try its best to re-sign one of its best young players on offense, right?
But the Jets should have plenty of money to spend this offseason. With Sanchez, Holmes and Cromartie expected to be released, the team should have somewhere around $52 in cap space.
I'm not saying give Tate $15 mil a year. But 4 years, $45 mil. Something like that sounds good. If Seattle breaks the bank to re-sign him, then fine, let them have him. But I'm just saying he's one of the best available options.
Think about having Tate and Kerley and Nelson as the No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4. That's a solid group. Then you draft at least one WR in the first two rounds as well. In theory, the group would be enhanced if Stephen Hill breaks out and is a consistent "stretch-the-field" threat. But that remains to be seen.
Give Geno Smith some weapons next year and then let's judge whether or not he is the future QB of the Jets. Signing Golden Tate would go a long way towards helping Geno grow.
If the Jets are serious about being a playoff contender in the next couple years, they need to acquire "playmakers" on offense. Golden Tate has playmaker written all over him.