- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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The New York Jets' wide-receiver situation calls to mind the popular car-insurance commercial, the one where a guy is told he can save 15 percent in 15 minutes. He responds, "Everybody knows that."
Well, it's the same deal with the Jets at receiver: Everybody knows they need help, lots of help. It's their No. 1 priority in the offseason. Consider: A total of 94 players produced more receptions last season than the Jets' leading receiver, Jeremy Kerley, who had 43 catches. Get the picture?
The Jets will go into free agency next month with a depth chart that includes No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 receivers, but no clear-cut No. 1 and No. 2. Their most accomplished wideout, Santonio Holmes, is a likely salary-cap casualty. The wideout with the most long-term potential, Stephen Hill, has disappointed. Quarterback Geno Smith will have no chance to improve unless the front office surrounds him with some playmakers.
Projected off-season plan: Look for the Jets to make at least two significant acquisitions -- one in free agency, one via the draft.
Free agency: The Jets should be able to find a solid No. 2. Two players jump out as possibilities -- Golden Tate (Seattle Seahawks) and Jeremy Maclin (Philadelphia Eagles). GM John Idzik is familiar with Tate from his years in Seattle and the same can be said for offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and Maclin.
Tate and Maclin are only 25, still early enough in their prime years to warrant a big contract. Maclin's familiarity with Mornhinweg's offense makes him a natural fit, but there's risk because Maclin is coming off ACL surgery. Idzik has shown he's willing to gamble on medical risks, but those were modest contracts. Maclin will be costly despite his 2013 injury. A one-year, prove-it contract won't be enough to pry him away from the Eagles. Eric Decker (Denver Broncos) will be a hot ticket, but buyer beware: His gaudy numbers are due, in large part, to Peyton Manning. Nevertheless, he'll get paid like a No. 1 receiver, figuring to land a deal for at least $9 million per year. The Jets would be wise to stay out of that neighborhood, focusing on a $5 million-to-$7 million-a-year receiver that can grow alongside the wideout they pick in the draft. The Seahawks' Sidney Rice, a possible salary-cap casualty, could be a possibility.
Draft: Six to nine receivers could go in the first round, according to ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr. The Jets (18th) are sitting in the middle of the round, staring at the likelihood of getting the fourth- or fifth-best wideout. Forget about Sammy Watkins (Clemson); he'll be long gone. Mike Evans (Texas A&M) and Marqise Lee (USC) figure to go somewhere in the 13-to-18 range. Remember, the Jets could move up four or five spots by trading their extra third-rounder, putting them in position to take a top wideout. Idzik won't force a "need" pick, so it's possible they could wait until Round 2. Signing a good receiver in free agency will allow them the luxury of waiting, if necessary.