Hidden Assets

Christian Petersen

Three free agent wide receivers who could help the Jets without breaking the bank.

The free agent market for wide receivers is dwindling.  Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper have already been re-signed by the EaglesEric Decker may be too expensive for the JetsGolden Tate stands a good chance of re-signing with the SeahawksJames Jones is expected to hit the open market, but if there are only two or three upper tier free agent wide receivers available and multiple suitors, even guys like Jones may get too expensive for John Idzik's taste.  Some people are already writing off the free agent market as a viable means of upgrading the Jets' weapons in the passing game, and have turned their attention to the draft.  That might be a mistake.

First, there is no reason to be certain John Idzik is unwilling to win a bidding war for one of the top wide receiver options.  All we've seen thus far is how Idzik operates in an environment of extremely tight cap restrictions.  Give him the kind of cap space he will have in 2014 and we cannot be certain he will operate in the same manner.

Moreover, even if we assume for the moment that Idzik has no desire to engage in a bidding war for one of the top wide receivers, there are other options available that might cost relatively little and provide a good deal of bang for the buck.  One of the popular themes here at GGN is that Geno Smith performed so poorly largely because of the dearth of NFL quality receivers to throw to.  Regardless of your position on that issue, certainly it cannot be argued that the weapons a quarterback has to work with have absolutely no influence on the quarterback's production.  Likewise, a wide receiver forced to work with well below average quarterbacks is likely to post numbers that are not representative of his level of ability.  Such receivers might be hidden assets, fully capable of performing at a fairly high level if only they played in a better passing offense.  Their production, and therefore their asking price in free agency, has been artificially held down due to atrocious quarterback play.

Which NFL free agents might represent such hidden assets?  I present for your review three free agent wide receiver options for the Jets who are unlikely to break the bank, at least in part because of the terrible passing offenses they have had the misfortune of playing in:  Andre Roberts, Joshua Morgan and Jerome Simpson.  Each of these receivers is still relatively young, with at least three or four productive years to be expected.  Each has better than average speed and athletic ability, as can be seen in the following chart of their NFL Combine performances before they were drafted.

Name

Age

Height

Weight

40 Time

Vertical Jump

Long Jump

.







Jerome Simpson

28

6' 2"

199

4.42

37.5"

136"

Josh Morgan

28

6' 1"

219

4.46

36.5"

120"

Andre Roberts

26

5' 11"

195

4.46

36"

120"

Each of these receivers also has fairly recently put up decent numbers with some of the worst passing attacks in football, working with quarterbacks who in most cases have no business starting an NFL game.  The following chart lists each receiver's most productive year, the quarterbacks throwing to them that year, the number of passing yards their teams achieved in said year, and the adjusted yards such receiver might have been expected to produce in a more normal, 4000 yard passing offense.  Note that the adjusted yards are not meant to show exact figures of what they "should have" produced if only they had an average quarterback.  Such exact numbers are unknowable.  Rather, the adjusted yards are meant simply to show a rough estimate of what these receivers are capable of in a competent NFL offense.  The adjusted numbers suggest each of these three are reasonably capable of putting up what most would consider number two wide receiver numbers in an average NFL passing offense.

Name

Year

Yards

Quarterbacks

Passing Offense Yards

Adjusted Yards

4000 Yards Passing Offense

.

Jerome Simpson

2013

726

Matt Cassell,

Christian Ponder,

Josh Freeman

3427

847

Josh Morgan

2010

698

Alex Smith,

Troy Smith,

David Carr

3356

832

Andre Roberts

2012

759

John Skelton,

Kevin Kolb,

Ryan Lindley,

Brian Hoyer

3005

1010

Let's take a closer look at each option individually.  Andre Roberts is a fairly explosive, smooth, crisp route runner with enough deep speed and acceleration to present a decent, but not superb, deep threat.  He is very quick and elusive, and adjusts well to the ball in the air.  He is good at reading coverages, he knows how to get separation from defenders, and he has a good short area burst out of cuts.   He also is capable of and experienced at returning punts and kickoffs at the NFL level.  The best way to describe Roberts might be a slightly taller, stronger, faster Kerley with better special teams ability.  Take a look at the following highlight tape and see what you think.  Unfortunately all I could find were highlights, so you cannot judge his weaknesses from the tape.


Next up we have Josh Morgan.  Morgan is a big, strong, tough receiver, fearless over the middle.  He has above average speed but is not a burner or a major deep threat.  He fights fiercely for the ball and makes a boatload of tough catches in traffic, but he will frustrate you with occasional lapses of concentration and drops of easy catches.  Like Roberts he is capable of and experienced at returning punts and kickoffs at the NFL level.  The following tape shows every play Morgan was targeted in 2012, so you see the good, the bad and the ugly plays.  Those who want a big, physical receiver who will fight for balls in traffic should find a lot to like in this tape.


Finally we have Jerome Simpson.  Simpson is a tall, rangy, hyperathletic  receiver who has never quite lived up to his physical potential.  He has some serious hops and flashes extraordinary athleticism, but he has never been able to take the next step and maximize his obvious talents.  You get the feeling watching Simpson that he should be better, he should explode, but he just hasn't.  Still, he has soft hands, runs crisp routes, has good but not great speed, has extraordinary leaping ability and outstanding balance.  Even if he never puts it all together, what he is right now is better than any receiver the Jets currently have with the possible exception of Kerley.  Take a look at the highlight tape and see what you think.  Again, I was unable to find tape that showed anything other than highlights, so it is difficult to judge his weaknesses from the tape.

WARNING:  THE SIMPSON TAPE IS ACCOMPANIED BY A SONG WITH SOMEWHAT EXPLICIT LYRICS WHICH SOME MAY FIND OFFENSIVE.  I STRONGLY SUGGEST TURNING OFF THE SOUND IF THERE IS ANY CHANCE YOU THINK EXPLICIT LYRICS MIGHT OFFEND YOU.


Every one of these receivers would be at worst the second best receiver on the Jets if Idzik signed them.  Every one arguably has the talent to be the best receiver on the team.  None will make anyone think of Calvin Johnson, but they all are competent, NFL quality receivers who would instantly upgrade the Jets' offense. If the Jets sit out the bidding wars likely to erupt for the few top free agent wide receivers, they can still significantly upgrade the passing game by signing two of these receivers, and they could likely do it for relatively little money.  Each of these receivers has been held back by terrible quarterbacks and conservative passing games; each is capable of doing much more in a decent NFL passing offense.  The Jets may or may not resemble a decent quarterback situation, but regardless of your view of the Jets' passers, these receivers represent undervalued assets, hidden in plain sight.  Sign two of these guys, add a premium talent early in the draft, and suddenly the Jets have something a lot closer to NFL average weapons than the bottom feeder weapons the team has had the past few years.

So, that's enough of what I think.  What do you think after viewing the tapes?  Can these guys help the Jets?  Would you be in favor of signing one or more, and if so, which ones?  Do you think these guys could make the Jets' passing attack look at the very least competent?  Let me hear what you think of these options if the Jets are shut out of the premium free agent wide receivers.

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