The Jets headed into free agency needing a slot receiver and an upgrade at linebacker, and they got both.
Hours after they agreed to terms with Redskins receiver Jamison Crowder on a three-year deal, the Jets outbid several teams to land Vikings free-agent outside linebacker Anthony Barr.
A league source confirmed that the Jets agreed to terms with Crowder, who will get a three-year deal worth $28.5 million – with $17 million guaranteed – to become a featured player in Adam Gase’s offense. The free-agent negotiation period began Monday, with general manager Mike Maccagnan armed with more than $82 million and a long list of needs. Giving Sam Darnold more weapons was on that list, and the Jets got him one.
The 5-9, 177-pound Crowder caught 221 passes for 2,628 yards and 14 touchdowns over the past four years for Washington. He had only 29 receptions for 388 yards and two TDs last season, when an ankle injury limited him to nine games. Crowder had at least 99 targets, 66 catches and 789 receiving yards in each of the prior two seasons. He also returned punts.
Barr, a first-round pick of the Vikings in 2014, had 13½ sacks in five seasons with them and showed steady improvement. A starter in 71 games, Barr also forced seven fumbles. He’ll be counted on to beef up the Jets’ pass rush, one of their biggest deficiencies in recent seasons. The Jets may draft a blue-chip edge rusher with the third overall pick, although Barr’s signing may allow them to draft an elite defensive lineman who can play end or tackle in their 3-4 scheme.
A league source confirmed Barr’s contract agreement Monday night. He and Crowder are expected to sign their contracts after the league year begins at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Crowder will be 26 in June, so he could grow with Darnold, who should have a decent receiving group. The Jets still don’t have a No. 1 receiver, but they have talent, speed and versatility with Crowder, Quincy Enunwa, restricted free agent Robby Anderson and tight end Chris Herndon.
The pending Crowder deal, which can’t be signed or announced until Wednesday, is a clear sign that the Jets won’t re-sign Jermaine Kearse.
The Jets still have plenty of work to do on both sides of the ball. They haven’t acquired a running back or an edge rusher.
The Jets are targeting Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, as are a number of teams. He’s widely considered the best free agent on the market. “I’m sooooo torn right now ... decisions,” Bell tweeted Monday.
After former NFL cornerback Charles James tweeted at Bell to flip a coin, he responded, “lol that would be easy if it was just between 2.”
Bell, who sat out last season, turned down a five-year, $70 million deal with the Steelers. Reportedly, only $17 million was guaranteed. Bell, one of the most talented players in the league, wants to be paid like a wide receiver. That could be too rich for the Jets.
Atlanta running back Tevin Coleman might be their next option. He would be more affordable for a team that has 26 free agents.
Two potential Jets targets on defense, end Trey Flowers and outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr., reached agreements with the Lions and Rams, respectively.
If the Jets can upgrade at inside linebacker, they may part ways with Darron Lee, who ended last season serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s drug policy.
The Jets addressed the offensive line Sunday when they agreed in principle to acquire two-time Pro Bowl left guard Kelechi Osemele and a sixth-round pick from the Raiders for a fifth-rounder. Osemele tweeted Monday: “J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets! ... Can’t wait to bring one in with my new squad.”
Since protecting Darnold is a priority, the Jets will try to sign Broncos center Matt Paradis. The Jets also were interested in Chiefs center Mitch Morse, but he reportedly is heading to Buffalo.
The Jets plan to sign former Bears receiver/special teamer Josh Bellamy, a source confirmed. He caught 14 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown last year.
They also are aggressively pursuing Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley, who many teams have in their sights. If the Jets can upgrade the inside linebacker position, they may part ways with 2016 first-round pick Darron Lee, who ended last season serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s anti-drug policy.
The Jets reached a deal Monday with one of their own free agents, defensive back Darryl Roberts. It was important to lock him up. Morris Claiborne is set to become a free agent Wednesday, and cornerback Buster Skrine agreed to terms with the Bears, a source confirmed.
Roberts started 10 games last season, spelling Trumaine Johnson at corner and Marcus Maye at safety when they were injured.
Roberts is the second free agent the Jets are bringing back. They came to terms with offensive lineman Jonotthan Harrison over the weekend. Other free agents the Jets would like to retain include defensive end Henry Anderson, returner Andre Roberts and kicker Jason Myers.