The New York Jets have plenty of money to spend this offseason, but they also have a laundry list of needs, particularly on the offensive side of the football. Acquiring Antonio Brown would immediately turn a weakness into a strength for the Jets offense.
Antonio Brown has unsurprisingly generated interest from a variety of teams across the league, with the Oakland Raiders, Washington Redskins, and Tennessee Titans named as some of the organizations looking to acquire the star wide receiver from the Pittsburgh Steelers, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Now, the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport has relayed one more interested team in the New York Jets. While most of the smoke has focused on the Raiders, whose best wide receiver on the roster is currently veteran hand Jordy Nelson, the Jets offense needs a playmaker as badly as the Raiders. Like Oakland, the Jets have been linked to Le’Veon Bell, who would be a massive upgrade over the running backs New York fielded in the 2018 season.
Wide receivers, however, are held in higher value in this league. It will take more money and, of course, draft capital for the Jets to trade for Brown – as opposed to simply signing Bell in free agency – but a new No. 1 receiver could help talented second-year quarterback Sam Darnold even more than an all-purpose running back.
Brown was still the best wide receiver in the league last season, getting open at will despite being the target of every defensive gameplan. He set a career high with 15 receiving touchdowns in just as many games, and he surpassed 100 receptions for the sixth straight season; it’s an unprecedented run of statistical dominance.
At 30, Brown is still in the prime of his career, and while he may be more interested in pursuing a Super Bowl at this stage of his career, he could be a part of something special with Darnold and Co. in New York. Though there may be concerns about Brown’s ability to work with Darnold, he was never tabbed as a problem for the Steelers in the past; it was only this year when things seemed to blow up between him and Ben Roethlisberger, who has potentially been enabled by the Steelers organization due to his star status.
Brown is a game-changing talent; that is known. Everything else about him is speculation, based on the kind of parting of ways that tends to make every party involved look bad. The Jets would have to give up a high draft pick and take on Brown’s contract, but given the upgrade he’d give to Darnold, who desperately needs weapons as the Jets franchise quarterback, it is a significant upgrade worth making.
In Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson, the Jets aren’t bereft of pass-catching talent, but neither player is nearly as consistent, savvy, or talented as Brown, who is the NFL’s premier route-runner. Combining Brown’s dominance in all areas of the game with Enunwa’s strength and Anderson’s ability to stretch the field vertically would give the Jets their best wide receiver trio in recent memory. Yes, these three would be even better than Eric Decker, Brandon Marshall, and Enunwa.
Darnold’s development is critical to the Jets success, and Mike Maccagnan’s job security could be called into question if the USC product doesn’t start leading the Jets to wins relatively soon. And judging by the way Adam Gase’s tenure in Miami ended, he’ll need all the help he can get with the Jets.
There’s no doubt that Brown can have a transformative effect on a Jets offense that has a couple of intriguing pieces around a high-upside-but-unproven quarterback, but lacks a difference-maker. Brown is very much that game-changing talent, and there isn’t a wide receiver in this league who is as proven, in terms of pure production.
If a bidding war ensues among the handful of teams with legitimate interest in Brown, then the wide receiver will become pricey. But for a team with holes, plenty of money, and a franchise quarterback, that price – which shouldn’t be too onerous, as every team in the NFL knows the Steelers have to trade Brown no matter what – will be worth it.