Robby Anderson’s free agency decision is crucial for the Jets draft plan

With the start of free agency inching closer and closer each day, are the New York Jets going to pay top dollar for WR Robby Anderson or will the deep threat strike a deal with a new team this offseason?

On Wednesday, March 18, 2020, the National Football League’s new season will begin with the start of the free agency period. On the offensive side of the ball, one receiver is set to hit the open market and has a chance to land quite the contract. New York Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson will have a market during the 2020 free agency period.

In his four seasons with the Jets, Anderson established himself as a formidable deep threat for New York’s offense. After completing the final season of his rookie contract, Anderson has made it known he is expecting to be paid, and with market trends, it could range anywhere from $10-15 million a year.

What will Robby Anderson be worth on the free agency market?

According to Pro Football Network’s Draft Analyst and Insider Tony Pauline, there seems to be a general consensus in the rankings of the top wide receivers in free agency. First is Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green, followed by Amari Cooper from the Dallas Cowboys. San Fransico 49ers WR Emmanuel Sanders is in third and last, but certainly not least, is Anderson.

While this list has some great talent, not all the members will be able to tread the waters of free agency. Sanders has expressed interest in returning to San Fransico, and the 49ers have echoed those same intentions. Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, while Green would like to hit the open market, it seems if he and the Bengals do not sign a long term deal, they are ready to use the franchise tag.

This cuts the list in half, without discussing whether the Cowboys can find the cap space to retain Cooper after using a first-round pick to obtain him, moving Anderson to the top of the list. Pauline also said that the Jets organization intends to make a push to re-sign Anderson, but with his salary demands will the Jets be able to outdo offers from other teams.

As stated earlier, from the start of his rookie season, Anderson established himself as a deep threat for the Jets’ offense. Anderson has had a reception of at least 50 yards in every season and has improved upon that number every year, setting his career-high during this past season on a 92-yard bomb against the Dallas Cowboys. He has also averaged 15 yards per reception the past two seasons and has averaged above 14 yards his entire career.

However, with this big-play ability comes some concerns. According to PFN’s Offensive Share Metric, Anderson ranked 88th out of 93 receivers who qualified for an overall 2019 grade with a 27.39. While the ability to break a big play is there, a lot into the NFL’s Next Gen Stats is a bit of a letdown. Anderson saw the closest average cushion from defenders having, on average, 4.3 yards of space at the time of the snap in 2019. On top of that, he also found the fourth-lowest average separation with just 2.2 yards between him and the defender at the point of catch or incompletion.

Furthermore, Anderson caught 54.17% of his targets in 2019, the 12th lowest in the league in 2019, and has only eclipsed a 55% catch rate once in four years. Even with these concerns, Anderson has been a reliable weapon for the Jets and accounted for 36% of New York’s targeted air yards last season. Anderson has also built up great chemistry with QB Sam Darnold coming into his third season in the NFL.

What will it take to keep Anderson in New York?

The key for the Jets will, without a doubt, be the price. It sounds as though the front office is intrigued by the wide receiver class in the 2020 Draft, if the price for Anderson soars too high, New York could back off and select a receiver off the board at 11 or grab one with an early Day 2 pick. However, if the Jets can lock Anderson down to some sort of contract, it would allow them to expend those resources on some help for the offensive line or the defensive side of the football.

The threat of outbidding other teams keeps popping up, but who else has there eye on Anderson in free agency? One team that would be a stable fit would be the Philadelphia Eagles, according to Pauline. Anderson, who played at Temple during his collegiate career, would be coming home to a team that needs speed at the WR position. Staying inside the NFC East, there has also been speculation that if the Cowboys can’t keep Cooper on the team due to salary cap issues, they might make a run at Anderson instead.

With so many moving parts in this scenario, Anderson’s 2020 free agency journey will be crucial for the Jets in the draft. If he decides to stay, it can help the Jets continue to build upon their offense, finding additional protection and support for QB Darnold. However, if he leaves, not only will the Jets still need to find that extra help but also replace Anderson’s production in the offense.

Anderson is basically in a win-win scenario at the moment because someone will pay him. However, looking from the Jets’ perspective, while the team will make a run to resign Anderson, if the price starts to creep too high, they could easily let him walk and double-dip into this incredibly deep receiving class in the 2020 Draft. Between his low overall OSM grade and some disappointing marks in the Next Gen Stats, the Jets should absolutely make an attempt at re-signing, but a $15 million annual salary would be a bit much when that could be spent in other areas of the team.

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