Another big free-agent domino fell Tuesday when the Carolina Panthers agreed to sign wide receiver Robby Anderson to a two-year, $20 million contract.
The Panthers, who supposedly are entering a full rebuild under new head coach Matt Rhule, added to one of their most glaring needs, giving new quarterback Teddy Bridgewater a No. 1 receiver. The Panthers' signing of Anderson was bad news for the New York Jets, who were hoping to bring the receiver back, and tangentially for the Raiders and 49ers.
As we head toward the 2020 NFL Draft, the Raiders (No. 12 overall pick) and the 49ers (No. 13 overall pick) both are looking to draft an elite wide receiver from a loaded class. Over the last few months, it has looked like both Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb and Alabama's Jerry Jeudy could be available when the Raiders go on the clock at No. 12, giving Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock their pick of the litter and leaving the 49ers to take the best receiver left on the board.
That all assumed that the Jets, who pick at No. 11, would draft an offensive tackle to keep Sam Darnold from getting beaten up for the third season in a row. This draft is as tackle heavy as it is receiver heavy at the top, with Louisville's Mekhi Becton, Iowa's Tristan Wirfs, Alabama's Jedrick Wills and Georgia's Andrew Thomas all expected to be top-20 picks.
But, Anderson leaving the Big Apple to team up with his old college coach in Carolina gives the Jets a need that is as pressing as the one at left tackle. With Anderson gone, the Jets' only receivers are Breshad Perriman -- who they agreed to a one-year contract with Tuesday -- Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Braxton Berrios and Quincy Enuwa, along with assorted special teams and practice squad players.
If you thought the Raiders' receiving corps last year was bad, this group is a whole lot worse.
The Jets now will have to choose which position they think is more valuable to the development of their franchise quarterback -- wide receiver or left tackle?
In NBC Sports Bay Area's current mock draft, Dalton Johnson and I have the Jets taking Lamb, and that was before the Anderson signing. That had more to do with our infatuation for the Oklahoma receiver than the Jets' need at the position. But with Anderson and his 52 catches, 779 yards and five touchdowns now gone, the Jets have to get Darnold some playmakers on the outside or else he will be doomed to fail.
If Jets head coach Adam Gase elects to take Lamb or Jeudy, that would give the Raiders the one left standing and have the 49ers choose between drafting Alabama's Henry Ruggs or trading down.
Make no mistake, Ruggs, who ran a 4.27 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine, is a prize unto himself. He's a dynamic downfield threat and a versatile weapon who can strike from anywhere. But he is just a tick below Lamb and Jeudy in my eyes.
Another thing pushing the Jets the way of receiver and not left tackle is that Gang Green agreed to sign former Seattle Seahawks tackle George Fant in free agency. Fant, 27, was used as the sixth offensive lineman in Seattle, but he told KNJR in Seattle that he is coming to New York to play left tackle.
“I made it very clear that I wanted to play that position at the end of the season,” Fant said, via Newsday. “That was a huge part of me making this decision to go there. I feel like that’s home for me. I feel like left tackle is the best position for me. Now it’s to the point where I’m ready to go out there and prove it and just go out there and do my job and try to help this team win games.”
Of course, the Jets still could take Wills or Thomas and put Fant at right tackle and address receiver later on in the draft. That might be the smarter choice in the long run. But, this is the Jets we are talking about.
Anderson's departure appears to make it all the more likely the Jets go wideout at No. 11. That will leave the Raiders and 49ers hoping no other team in the top 10 goes wide receiver and they can still gobble up the remaining two of Lamb, Jeudy and Ruggs.