Robby Anderson signs with Panthers. Did Jets make a huge mistake by letting him walk?

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The New York Jets just let one of their most dangerous weapons walk away.

Wide receiver Robby Anderson, the team’s only deep threat and one of their few experienced wideouts, has agreed to join the Carolina Panthers. It’s a two-year, $20 million deal according to ESPN, which first reported the agreement.

The Jets are now in a precarious situation as they move forward in general manager Joe Douglas’ first full offseason at the helm. Not only did they lose Anderson, who was Sam Darnold’s most frequent target over the past two years, but at the moment, they hardly have any reliable targets for their young quarterback, not an ideal situation as he enters his pivotal third season.

Here’s a list of healthy and established wide receivers currently under contract for the Jets: 1.) Jamison Crowder; 2.) … And that’s the list. (Does it even count as a list if there’s only one guy?)

So how did they get here? Part of it is just bad luck. The situation would be a lot different and better for the Jets if Quincy Enunwa wasn’t facing an uncertain football future after another neck injury. And there were also sensible choices by Douglas and the front office.

The Jets, understandably, chose not to get involved in the bidding for star receiver Amari Cooper, who re-signed with the Cowboys for $20 million per year early in free agency. Some of the biggest receivers in football were available on the trade market over the past two weeks — with DeAndre Hopkins getting dealt to Arizona and Stefon Diggs heading to rival Buffalo.

The Jets weren’t a part of that either. And it makes sense: They have so many other needs that right now, it wouldn’t be wise to invest significant draft capital or a huge amount of money in one player.

But their decision to let a key weapon go when they could have had him back at a reasonable price is hard to make sense of, especially when imagining what a lack of weapons could mean for Darnold.

It wouldn’t have been a shock if Anderson signed a four-year, $48 million contract with more than $20 million in guarantees. But he escaped to the Panthers for a mere $12 million. (Yes, it’s a two-year, $20 million deal, but only the first year is guaranteed meaning the Panthers can cut him with no penalty after the first season.)

That’s a bargain considering the recent contracts that have been signed by other receivers with stats comparable to Anderson’s. And given their lack of receivers, it’s hard to understand why the Jets didnt’ make sure a deal got done.

The situation is not great. But all is not lost for the Jets. They still have ample time and ways to replace Anderson before the start of the season. And it won’t be impossible to fill the void left behind. Far from it. Yes, Anderson was the Jets’ most dangerous weapon, but he wasn’t a No. 1 receiver or even the centerpiece of their offense.

There are true forces of football nature out there. And if the Jets find one in this year’s NFL draft, which happens to have the most loaded receiver class in recent memory, no one will mind (or even remember) that the Jets let Anderson go.

But what if they don’t?

Finding that depth at receiver won’t be easy at this point, with nearly all the established weapons off the free agency board. The Jets agreed to sign Breshad Perriman late Tuesday. The former first-round pick has improved steadily since flaming out in Baltimore, but he has yet to have a breakthrough season.

And so with Anderson gone, the Jets’ margin of error has departed with him. They are now under massive pressure to land a big-time receiver for Darnold in next month’s draft. And the problem is the Jets have a ton of other needs — especially on the offensive line, which Douglas has upgraded significantly during free agency but remains a work in progress.

Does that mean they take a receiver with the No. 11 overall pick, potentially slowing the most important rebuilding project on their roster?

And, as Jets fans know better than most, the draft is no sure thing. What if they swing and miss on a receiver?

If the Jets had brought back Anderson, it’s possible they wouldn’t have improved their weapons from last season, but they at least would have been as good as last year — especially with tight end Chris Herndon set to return.

But now, if the Jets don’t find a way to replace Anderson, there’s a real chance that Darnold could have a worse group of weapons around him this year.

That’s an unacceptable risk at this pivotal point in Darnold’s career, especially considering Anderson was there for a reasonable price.


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