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Thoughts from the first afternoon of the legal tampering phase of Jets free agency

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NFL: Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

NFL free agency sort of got underway this afternoon at noon Eastern as the legal tampering period began.

There are still a number of big fish out there, but a few faces have agreed to terms on contracts.

Jamison Crowder to sign with the Jets (3 years/$27.5 million)

At times we look at free agency through too simplistic of a lens. A move is either a spectacular signing that will vastly improve a team or a disaster that will set a team back.

This move fits neither description.

There’s logic behind it. To start, Crowder should serve as an upgrade over Jermaine Kearse, Improving the weapons around Sam Darnold is a noble cause.

The contract also isn’t out of line with Crowder’s resume. While there is much concern about the state of the middle class in American society, NFL wide receiver is one occupation where the middle class still makes a healthy living. Players with marginal production like Crowder regularly command annual salaries in the $9 million range in the NFL. When you factor the inflation that comes from the rise in the 2019 salary cap, the deal even comes out as slightly more modest.

Adam Gase loves the screen game, and Crowder has some ability to make plays with the ball in his hands.

And anything you can do that adds to the versatility of your offense helps. Crowder projects as a slot receiver. In my view, Quincy Enunwa is best utilized moving around the offensive formations to try and create mismatches. The addition of Crowder means he will not be stuck in the slot. Enunwa can travel around the formation, and the Jets will still have a credible slot threat on the field in Crowder. But if the Jets happen to like the matchup in the slot, they can still stick Enunwa there and remove Crowder from the field.

With all of that said, this is the type of signing that I think also displays deeper long-term issues at play with the Jets. Free agency in 2019 is not the first act of this play. It is the newest chapter of a story that led us to this point.

Fans tend to focus on the Draft for the impact players who populate the top of the board. What happens in the middle rounds also has importance, though. In those rounds, the good teams find role players. These aren’t guys who move the needle a ton. Their skillsets are limited, but they find a way to help their team at the margins. These are the slot receivers who chip in a big catch to extend a drive every now and then and finish the year with 600-700 yards.

A big part of their value comes from the fact they give their team production on very cheap rookie contracts for four seasons. When I see this deal with Crowder, I can’t just think about him. I also think about all of the failed recent picks the Jets have made at the receiver position.

The addition of Crowder should help the team some, but that annual pricetag over $9 million is not exceptionally efficient spending. The failures of this team in the Draft to produce a more cost-effective option essentially forced the team to spend big on a complementary part. With better Draft evaluations, the Jets could already have this spot filled on the cheap and have an extra $9.5 million in their pocket to upgrade another area.

That’s the danger of missing in the Draft and trying to build through free agency. It’s an inefficient method. When you dream in the cold of January about having $100 million to spend, you don’t think consider roughly 10% of it going to a third or fourth banana in the passing game.

Jets to re-sign Darryl Roberts

I see a lot of similarities to this move with the team’s decision to re-sign Jonotthan Harrison over the weekend. Namely, the re-signing of a marginal player will likely be met with too much praise.

I felt like Harrison benefited because people compared him to Spencer Long, not adequate NFL centers. Similarly, I think the positive view many hold of Roberts comes from comparing him to Trumaine Johnson’s 2018 season, instead of comparing him to quality corners across the NFL.

There isn’t much harm in bringing Roberts to training camp, but I think it will likely be a failure by Mike Maccagnan if he is on the Week 1 roster.

Roberts will turn 29 during the season and is essentially a JAG dime back. He isn’t a good candidate to play major snaps, and the Jets are likely in trouble if he does. Most of his work will likely come on the practice field, reps better served going to a younger developmental player.

Buster Skrine to sign with the Bears.

There isn’t much to say here beyond the obvious. The Jets need to address cornerback, and they need to do much better than Skrine in the slot.

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