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Age of Laveraneus

On Wednesday, the New York Jets released wide receiver Laveranues Coles, who has spent seven of his nine NFL seasons as one of the Jets go-to receivers. In 105 games with the Jets, 74 as a starter, Coles has 459 receptions (fourth all-time on Jets), 5,941 yards (fifth) and 37 touchdowns (tied fifth). He is one of only two Jets receivers to catch over 90 passes in one season (91 in 2006, Al Toon was the other with 93 in 1988).
Any conversation about the Jets best receivers of all time has to include Coles. He fell to the third round of the 2000 draft after being kicked off the Florida State football team due to multiple off-field issues. Joining a rookie class that included Chad Pennington, Sean Ellis, John Abraham, and Anthony Becht (all-first rounder picks) Coles was the 13th receiver taken in the draft, with only Plaxico Burress (eighth overall) having a better career (well, that can be argued now since Plaxico’s November incident). But the one hang-up between player and organization has been about the contract. It’s why Coles left for a two-year sabbatical in Washington, D.C. (as part of a four player Jets exodus to the Redskins) after they offered him a long-term contract, only to be swapped for Santana Moss two seasons later, a trade that would be mutually beneficial. Coles always had a great relationship with Pennington, and was probably the player in the Jets locker room most upset by his release to make room for Brett Favre. That was pretty much a warning sign for his release, as the Jets made it clear they were looking for something different out of the passing game than the Pennington-Coles combo. Coles was never flashy and was never a true deep threat, but he was consistent and a hard worker who always seemed to be underappreciated as a Jet.
Fans and pundits alike have been clamoring for improvements in the receiving game, and now we will at least get something different. After watching Larry Fitzgerald dominate for the Arizona Cardinals in the playoffs and Santonio Holmes lead the Pittsburgh Steelers on the last drive to win the Super Bowl, everyone wants a new wide receiver to lead them to glory. Expect many bidding wars for Coles, T.J. Housmandzadeh, Drew Bennett, Marvin Harrison, Devery Henderson, and lesser-known receiver like Jabar Gaffney, Amani Toomer, Mark Clayton, Michael Clayton, Miles Austin, and Nate Washington, just to name a few of the free agents. But all of the aforementioned receivers could wind up costing more than they are worth, and none are really a number one receiver.
For the Jets, the best route for a receiver will likely be the draft (while they find a pass rusher via free agency) with a rather deep draft class for receivers in 2009 to keep the receiving corps young and relatively cheap. At number 17, top-rated receiver Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech won’t fall even with his ankle injury, so unless the Jets are willing to pay a hefty price to move up, you can forget about him. Two players the Jets will likely look at are Jeremy Maclin of Missouri and Percy Harvin of Florida. Neither one is very tall (Maclin is 6-1 while Harvin is 5-11) but both put up respectable 40-speeds at the Combine (4.46 for Maclin, 4.41 for Harvin) and have been part of spectacular offenses the past few seasons in college. Maclin caught balls from Heisman Trophy nominated quarterback Chase Daniel and Harvin was a main weapon as a pass catcher and rusher for Heisman winner Tim Tebow’s offense. In 2008, Maclin caught 82 passes for 1,260 yards and 13 scores, while Harvin had 40 catches for 644 yards and seven scores while rushing for 659 yards and 10 scores. Maclin would be a better fit for the Jets (Harvin seems like a carbon copy of Leon Washington, which may not be a bad thing to have) to team up with Jerricho Cotchery and youngsters David Clowney and Chansi Stuckey to be a formidable receiving corps along with Dustin Keller at tight end and Washington and Thomas Jones out of the backfield.
There is a slight chance Coles comes back for his third tour with the Jets. If he doesn’t get the long-term, high-paying contract on the free-agent market and the Jets don’t find anyone to their liking, a reunion could happen a few months down the road. Keeping Coles and a drafting Maclin would have the Jets set at receiver for years to come. Free agency starts just a few hours from now (about nine hours after this will be posted) as we sit back and watch how the 2009 New York Jets take shape.

Jason Levy

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