By Jason Keidel
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For all his semantic subterfuge, foibles, and faux pas, Woody Johnson was a breath of fresh, honest air on Sunday.
No doubt the Jets just adore the back page, Page Six, or any chance they can bogart the bold ink. But at least their histrionics of late have been over actually improving the team, even if it could cost them draft picks, cash, or both. Johnson could get slapped with tampering charges, as DeSean Jackson is still under contract.
Johnson, the shampoo heir who’s made our hair stand for way too long, talked a little too candidly about Jackson at the NFL meetings in Orlando, Fla. He’s the electric wide receiver and kick returner whom the Eagles are looking to cut if they can’t trade for draft picks. It turns out it could cost the Jets draft picks before they even negotiate for Jackson.
Jackson, 27, has much life left in his legs. He’s a deep threat, and a threat to run kicks deep into enemy grounds. (Just ask the Giants.) Just last season he caught 82 passes for 1,332 yards with nine touchdowns and a robust, 16.2 yards per reception. Those were the best overall numbers for his career.
Despite a relatively small frame in the age of hulking wideouts, Jackson has averaged 14 starts, 60 receptions, 17 yards per reception, and 1,000 yards – exponentially better than anyone Gang Green has now.
Sure, last season he was the beneficiary of a white-hot Nick Foles, while Geno Smith threw about 20 more interceptions than Foles. But what if Michael Vick were throwing to Jackson? They were productive teammates in Philadelphia, with Jackson averaging 22.5 yards a catch in 2010 while Vick was under center.
And again, both men could blossom under the tutelage of Marty Mornhinweg, who was their offensive coordinator with the Eagles.
And it would bump Eric Decker down to his proper position, a No. 2 wide receiver. Despite his gaudy stats in Denver, it’s almost universally understood that Decker is an embellished possession receiver who was flanked by much more talented receivers and the immortal Peyton Manning throwing him the ball. When Tim Tebow was heaving the pigskin, Decker was catching 44 balls a season. With No. 18 the numbers doubled.
Unless you’re Decker’s agent, it’s obvious the Jets paid Decker nearly double his market value. And even with that questionable contract on the books, the Jets still have more than $30 million of cap space, making them almost uniquely qualified to absorb Jackson’s contract, which include salary cap hits of $12.75 million this season, $12 million in 2015, and $10.5 million in 2016.
Parched for playmakers at every skill position, the Jets can find that coin under their couch. And though most Jets fans disagree with my take on Gang Green’s new-found frugality — I don’t think they should spend just because they have the money, despite the invectives burning up my Twitter page — we should agree that the Jets need to add some new blood to their anemic offense, especially when it fits comfortably under the cap.
In fact, if the Jets ended their free agent shopping after signing or trading for Jackson, a multiple Pro Bowler, they could close shop and consider their pre-draft moves a success.
With a young, ravenous defense that should rank in the top 10 this season (the Jets’ defense was 11th in the NFL last season) , the Jets desperately need an infusion for their anemic offense, which ranked 25th in 2013.
And with a cluster of draft picks that could swell to 12, the Jets are actually poised to make noise in 2014. They won’t supplant the Patriots as the chalk of the AFC East — particularly after New England swiped Darrelle Revis from under general manager John Idzik’s nose — but they should surely leapfrog Miami and Buffalo as wild card contenders.
If Idzik’s Seattle pedigree holds true to form — the Seahawks just won the Super Bowl with a phalanx of hungry, homegrown beasts — the Jets have a blinding future. You could say, for the first time in some time, that the pastures are quite green for Gang Green.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel
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