Over the past decade, the wide receiver position has been in flux for the NY Jets. Yes, there have been the rare exceptions with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker in 2015 or Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson.
However, none have been mainstays at the position for Gang Green. That must be fixed if general manager Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh truly intend to turn things around.
Currently, the only receivers with more than 20 receptions last season under contract for 2021 are Jamison Crowder, Braxton Berrios, and Denzel Mims.
Right off of the bat, Crowder may not even be on the roster as the team saves $10 million with his release. Not to mention, Mims is the only Jets wideout signed beyond this season.
Taking that into consideration, New York must address the wide receiver position. They need to add starting talent opposite Mims that fits offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur’s Kyle Shanahan-type scheme.
What they also need is depth, as injuries have plagued the Jets at the position for years. Take a look at the San Francisco 49ers, where Saleh and LaFleur are coming from.
When Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk went down, the team saw players like Kendrick Bourne, Richie James, and Trent Taylor step up to help fill their lost production. That next-man-up mentality is exactly what the Jets need in their new pass catchers.
With such moves needed, expect the Jets to take a chance on some under-the-radar options on the market. Here are five who could be suiting up in Gotham Green next season.
Next: 1. A target from Kansas City
NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
1. NY Jets Target: Demarcus Robinson (UFA) – Kansas City Chiefs
Back in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs selected Florida wide receiver Demarcus Robinson in the fourth round. Since then, he has been outshined by the man taken a round later, Tyreek Hill.
That does not mean, though, that Robinson has been a bust by any means. After seeing no production as a rookie, Robinson has started 32 over the past four seasons, never missing a single game.
Over that span, he has accumulated 1,415 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns on 120 total receptions. He also has seen increases in receptions and yards every season.
Of course, Robinson has seen stability at quarterback with the Chiefs, being he went from Alex Smith to Patrick Mahomes. Another knock against Robinson is that he has never topped 500 yards in a season, as well as consistently not grading well with Pro Football Focus.
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Nevertheless, the Jets need experienced depth who can start if necessary. That is what Robinson brings to the table, and he fits the bill for a LaFleur wide receiver.
Robinson stands at 6-foot-1 and 203 pounds and will only be 27-years-old in 2021. He also can make things happen after the catch, averaging 4.2 yards after catch over the past three seasons. His hands are also very reliable, with only two drops over his past 48 games.
By no means should the Jets intend to sign Robinson to be that starter opposite of Denzel Mims. What the team should do is target Robinson to be that high-end third/fourth receiver because he can play the slot, while also being able to thrive on the boundary.
Next: 2. An experienced weapon from Jacksonville
NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
2. NY Jets Target: Chris Conley (UFA) – Jacksonville Jaguars
Another wide receiver for the Jets to look at is actually another former Kansas City draft pick in Chris Conley.
While he never lasted with the team beyond his rookie deal, the third-round pick in 2015 has made for a solid pro. Conley has amassed 52 starts in 84 career games over six seasons in the NFL.
Conley is on the older side, as he will be 29-years-old in 2021, though does not seem to be slowing down.
Over the past two seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Conley has 1,246 yards receiving on 153 receptions and seven touchdowns. He also averages about five yards after catch over the past two years.
With so much experience and playmaking ability, Conley can make for a solid addition to the Jets offense.
He is 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, making for a bigger-bodied receiver, although he has never played like it. Conley also is capable of lining up anywhere, whether it be in the slot or out wide.
This past season, Conley earned the best PFF grade of his career at 70.1, good for 62nd among 127 qualifying receivers. In fact, one of the most valuable parts of his game is his blocking ability. In 2020, he had an 82.7 grade as a blocker, sixth among all wide receivers.
Conley is not going to make too sizable of a dent in New York’s available salary cap and brings experience that the team desperately needs.
Next: 3. A late-round steal with a bright future
3. NY Jets Target: David Moore (UFA) – Seattle Seahawks
An interesting target the Jets could take a chance on this off-season is David Moore of the Seattle Seahawks. Taken in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Moore has become a red-zone favorite of Russell Wilson, as he certainly was a home-run of a late-round selection.
This past season specifically, Wilson had a 140.7 quarterback rating when targeting Moore.
2020 wound up being the East Central product’s most productive, as he had a career-high 35 receptions and six touchdowns. He also accounted for 417 yards receiving, while averaging over six yards after the catch.
What makes Moore such an intriguing option too is his versatility. He can line up in the slot, out wide, in-line, or even in the backfield. On that note, since 2018, Moore has rushed for 91 yards on 12 carries.
At 6-foot and 215 pounds, it comes as no surprise that Moore is a moveable chess piece on offense.
He is a wide receiver playing in a running back’s body, similar to the way Quincy Enunwa played the game, and exactly how Deebo Samuel plays for the 49ers. Chances are, should the Jets look to sign him, he can be deployed that same way.
Having recently turned 26-years-old, Moore fits the bill as a receiver the Jets could take a chance on and sign to a multi-year deal. At the very least, Moore has proven to be a very good third/fourth wide receiver, something New York needs badly.
That is, assuming that the Jets can pry him away from returning to Wilson and the Seahawks.
Next: 4. A high-risk, high-reward option
4. NY Jets Target: Josh Reynolds (UFA) – Los Angeles Rams
When the Los Angeles Rams dealt veteran Brandin Cooks to the Houston Texans last offseason, the question became who would step up and fill his production.
It led the Rams to take Florida receiver Van Jefferson in the second round. Except, little did they know, Cooks’ immediate replacement was already on the roster.
In the 2017 NFL Draft, the Rams took Texas A&M wideout Josh Reynolds 117th overall. At 6-foot-1 and 196 pounds, Reynolds has a large catch radius who like Moore, can even take handoffs out of the backfield.
Over four seasons, Reynolds has 1,486 yards from scrimmage with nine total touchdowns. But it was this past season that caught the attention of many.
Reynolds started 13 of 16 games for the Rams, having career-highs with 52 receptions and 618 yards, while also catching two touchdowns. Reynolds did not grade out as the most efficient receiver from PFF, though, with a 65.5 grade.
At the same time, Reynolds does produce once he has the ball, despite having a lean frame and limited elusiveness. In his last 32 games, Reynolds averages about 5.45 yards after the catch.
The reason why Reynolds is not among the upper tiers of free-agent wide receivers lies with his consistency issues.
Over the years, Reynolds has been a quality target for a stretch of games, before fading away for a couple. Thus, bringing up the concern of whether or not he can be a reliable starter.
The answer is maybe.
As he just turned 26-years-old, Reynolds has high enough upside that the Jets may consider giving him a one-year prove-it deal. Something that Joe Douglas showed he is willing to offer players last offseason.
Next: 5. An RFA wild-card
5. NY Jets Target: Zach Pascal (RFA) – Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Zach Pascal makes for one of the more underrated receivers potentially available this offseason.
As a restricted free agent, the Colts can tender Pascal and bring him back on that qualifying offer. Something that sounds possible with T.Y. Hilton set to be a free agent too.
Chris Ballard says to @dandakich that he anticipates Zach Pascal (a RFA) coming back next year.
No surprise obviously.
— Jim Ayello (@jimayello) February 5, 2021
Even so, Pascal should be among the top targets at wide receiver for the Jets. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler has already connected the Old Dominion product to the Jets, and Pascal certainly can fill that Samuel-type role.
Between 2019 and 2020, Pascal has 1,236 yards receiving with 10 touchdowns, while averaging over 14 yards per reception. Of those 14 yards, over five on average come once he has the ball in his hands. Pascal also has a bigger build, being 6-foot-2 and 214 pounds.
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Undrafted out of college, Pascal has developed into an excellent starting receiver for the Colts. He has started 27 of 32 games over the past two seasons, although, took a step back in efficiency this past season. After posting a 73.7 PFF grade in 2019, he graded out at 62.9 in 2020.
Entering this offseason, the Colts surely would like to retain the target, while the Jets are a threat to steal him. Pascal will be 27-years-old this upcoming season and is arguably the most under-the-radar receiver who could be a free agent.
Without a doubt, Pascal is the type of player that the Jets should target this offseason to help fix their need at receiver.
Ultimately, who knows what Douglas and company look to do in terms of giving Mike LaFleur receivers to work with on offense.
But one thing for sure is the team will be spending money in free agency to add a starter and depth at wide receiver.