The Oakland Raiders reportedly will be releasing veteran wide receiver James Jones after just one season in Oakland. The acquisition of Amari Cooper in the 2015 NFL draft and the signing of free agent Michael Crabtree apparently left Jones the odd man out.
James Jones is a 6' 1", 200 pound eight year veteran wide receiver. He just turned 31 years old a month ago. Jones spent all but one of his seasons as a second or third option in Green Bay's prolific passing game. He never has had a season with more than 817 receiving yards, and has had only one season with more than six touchdowns, in 2012 when he had 14. Last year Jones led the Raiders in receptions with 73, led the Raiders in receiving touchdowns with 6, and was second in yardage with 666. It should be noted that his numbers were suppressed by struggling rookie QB Derek Carr, who averaged only 9.4 yards per completion and by far the worst yards per attempt number in the league at 5.5.
If the Jets were to sign Jones he would probably become the third best wide receiver on the team, behind Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall and ahead of Jeremy Kerley and Devin Smith. Assuming Smith looks like a legitimate NFL receiver at some point in the season, this would give the Jets five legitimate NFL quality receivers for the first time in recent memory. In a Chan Gailey offense that often will field four and sometimes even five receivers, this is of some value.
There are downsides to signing Jones. He is 31 years old and would likely be here for only two, possibly even only one year, depending on the status of Marshall and the development of Smith. Jones would likely be the third wide receiver target on the team in 2015, taking snaps from Kerley and Smith. If you want to see Smith on the field immediately, signing Jones would impede that. Jones would also take a roster spot from somebody like Shaq Evans, Quincy Enunwa, DeVier Posey, or Chris Owusu. If you believe any of these young guys have significant upside, perhaps you would be unwilling to have Jones take a spot from them. There is also the issue of cost, although a 31 year old wide receiver with only pretty good NFL production isn't likely to break the bank.
There are also upsides to signing Jones. Having him as the third wide receiver would finally give the Jets a full arsenal of weapons to throw to. The 2013 Broncos they ain't, but with the addition of Jones any notion that the quarterback lacks competent weapons would be put to rest. Jones also would provide valuable insurance should Decker or Marshall go down with an injury. It is worth noting that the current Jets team appears to be built on a two year schedule. By the 2017 season large numbers of current starters will likely be gone from the team, due to age and/or salary cap issues. This team is built with a two year window, to be followed by a rolling rebuild with the first three drafts of the Maccagnan era. Jones' age and likely contract would perfectly fit that two year window and make this team as strong as it can be for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Thereafter Jones would likely be released without dead money and the young replacements acquired through the first three drafts, including Devin Smith, would be ready to take over for Jones and Marshall.
I have never been a big James Jones fan, but it is fairly clear to me he is better than all but two of the current Jets wide receivers. In a Gailey offense that fields a lot of receivers, Jones would represent a valuable upgrade for a price that would likely not top much more than $1 million or so per year. In the unlikely event that either Geno Smith or Ryan Fitzpatrick provides even league average play at the quarterback position, the defense of this team has the potential to be good enough to carry it a long way in the playoffs, similar to 2010. James Jones could be a nice supplementary piece in a deep playoff run if things fall just right. That to me justifies bringing him in, for the right price.
What do you think? Should the Jets pursue Jones if the price is right, or would you rather roll with what the team already has in the passing game? If you think the Jets should pursue Jones, what price would you be willing to pay?