One of the bigger names is off the free agent market, as Jamison Crowder has agreed to terms on a three-year, $28.5 million contract with the New York Jets. With this taking place just hours after the legal tampering period began, it was clear they wanted to get Sam Darnold a new slot receiver.
INJURIES IN WASHINGTON
During his time with the Redskins, Crowder totaled 280 targets, 192 receptions, 2,240 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first three seasons before letting fantasy owners down with just 29 receptions, 388 yards, and two touchdowns during the 2018 season. When on the field, Crowder has been a consistent producer, flashing what might be one of the better slot receivers in the game. The issue is that he hasn’t been able to stay on the field consistently over the last two years.
He played through injuries at the start of 2017 and it clearly impacted his play on the field, as he totaled just 19 receptions for 149 scoreless yards through the first six games. Once healthy, Crowder produced like a Pro Bowl receiver, rattling off 44 receptions for 615 yards and three touchdowns over the next eight games. And then, in 2018, he wisely chose not to play through injuries, sitting out Weeks 8-12, trying to heal his ankle injury. Once returning, the Redskins were already onto their third- and fourth-string quarterbacks.
ADAM GASE AND THE SLOT ROLE
By signing with the Jets, he’ll walk into the starting lineup alongside Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa, replacing Jermaine Kearse. Many will point to the targets Kearse has seen over the last two years and use that to determine Crowder’s role, but you can’t forget that it’s a brand-new offense with a new coaching staff led by Adam Gase. During Gase’s time with the Dolphins, Jarvis Landry manned the slot in 2016-2017 and totaled 292 targets in that span. Landry was traded prior to the 2018 season, leaving Danny Amendola as the primary slot receiver. It may not seem like much, but Amendola actually led the team in targets (79) and yards (575). The slot receiver position has played an important role in Gase’s offense, so the signing of Crowder makes sense.
While Robby Anderson is the one most believe to have the most value in New York, it could be Crowder overtaking that role. If you recall, Quincy Enunwa started the year strong, posting 21 receptions for 278 yards and a touchdown over the first four weeks, but then faded into fantasy oblivion. What happened? He was moved out of the slot, which is where Sam Darnold was seemingly most comfortable throwing the ball. The old regime decided that Enunwa should play on the perimeter and allow Jermaine Kearse to fill that role. Well, Kearse saw 48 targets over the next six games. He didn’t do much with them, but it goes to show that Darnold didn’t necessarily favor Enunwa as a receiver, but was more tied to his placement on the field. The fact that Gase has used a slot receiver heavily in his offense, combined with the fact that Darnold seems to target slot receivers at a high rate, Crowder can very well lead the team in targets.
The question becomes: How many targets will there be to go around? Considering Gase’s offense totaled less than 480 pass attempts in two of his last three seasons in Miami, the answer may not be what we were hoping for, though they somehow threw the ball 599 times in 2017. To put it nicely, Gase hasn’t been consistent in his approach. One positive is that the wide receivers always accounted for at least 60 percent of the targets, which is one of the higher marks in the league. We also must factor in that his quarterbacks while in Miami were Ryan Tannehill, Jay Cutler, Brock Osweiler, Matt Moore, and David Fales. The Jets don’t have a run-game at this time, so it’s possible we see them become a bit more pass-heavy with their current personnel.
There are a lot of variables with this signing, as the Jets are a team with plenty of cap space still available, and they’re also a team who’s been tied to Le’Veon Bell. If they were to sign Bell, it would impact Crowder more than anyone else on the field, as they’d be competing for targets. But as of now, they have Isaiah Crowell as their starting running back, so we have to approach him with the current roster. Given Crowder’s slot-only designation combined with Darnold’s slot attraction and Gase’s history, there’s plenty of room for optimism. You could see an offense where Robby Anderson acts as the Kenny Stills field-stretcher, Quincy Enunwa plays the physical perimeter role, and Crowder takes on the old Jarvis Landry role. While I don’t think you’ll see the target numbers of Landry, you should see a WR3/4 option in PPR formats with upside for more. Most may not realize it, but Crowder was already a top-36 (WR3) wide receiver twice in his career. My early 2019 projection: 102 targets, 68 receptions, 760 yards, 4 touchdowns
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