In the modern-day, pass-happy NFL, an offense needs multiple wide receivers who can create separation and make plays once the ball is in their hands. This being something that the NY Jets have lacked for years, given their last 1,000-yard receiver came in 2015.
New York’s poor production from their wideouts as of late has led to the annual plea from fans to add targets in free agency and the draft. And finally, general manager Joe Douglas made an attempt to address the issue.
Over a week into free agency and the Jets have added two very talented wide receivers to the group. Gang Green signed former fifth-overall pick Corey Davis to a three-year deal while also netting former Jacksonville Jaguar Keelan Cole on a one-year deal.
Both signings come as pleasant surprises, especially when compared to what happened last offseason.
In 2020, the Jets let Robby Anderson slip away to the Carolina Panthers, as the team replaced him with Breshad Perriman. A move that ultimately did not work out, to say the least.
Now, the Jets add two young weapons who can play inside or outside, and suddenly, the team has a solid core at receiver on relatively team-friendly deals.
Cole is set to make $5.5 million before hitting the market again after 2021. Meanwhile, Davis is making $37.5 million through 2023, although he can be cut after 2022 to save $10.5 million.
With Davis and Cole joining the Jets’ receiving corps, whoever is under center is going to have plenty of weapons to throw to.
That being said, how do the team’s wideouts stack up after these additions? Let’s take a look.
Next: 1. Who are the starters?
NY Jets starters: Corey Davis, Denzel Mims, and Jamison Crowder
This free agency, one of the deepest position groups on the market was wide receiver. Players such as Kenny Golladay, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Will Fuller, and more were available to sign. Instead, the Jets pivoted for Corey Davis, and for good reason too.
The 6-foot-3, 209-pound receiver is coming off of a career year in 2020, with 984 yards receiving and five touchdowns. At only 26-years-old, Davis has yet to enter his prime, and there is no reason to believe he will not while wearing Gotham Green.
Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur comes to the organization from the San Francisco 49ers with head coach Robert Saleh. The younger brother of Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, Mike will be running an offense for the first time in his career.
And chances are it will look eerily similar to the one 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan runs.
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Gang Green’s offense is going to be filled with outside zone runs, as well as play-action pass. A play style that Davis excelled this past season in with the Tennessee Titans. According to NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Davis gained 544 of his receiving yards off play-action.
Davis’ experience in a similar offense is going to open up plenty of opportunities for fellow starters Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder.
Mims, the Jets second-round pick in 2020, showed promise during his rookie season with his contested-catch ability. And Crowder has proven in two seasons with the Jets that when healthy, he is among the top slot receivers in the league.
Assuming all three can remain healthy in 2021, this starting trio has high upside for the Jets.
Next: 2. Who are the backups?
NY Jets backups: Keelan Cole, Braxton Berrios
One of New York’s biggest issues in recent years at receiver outside of overall talent has been the thin depth at the position. Last season, Crowder, Mims, and Perriman all missed multiple games, leading to Braxton Berrios and many others receive more playtime.
While that may have not been ideal for the Jets last season, it now better positions them experience-wise in 2021.
Berrios, a former New England Patriots sixth-round pick, enters a contract year in his third season with the Jets. Through two seasons, Berrios has 509 receiving yards and three touchdowns and provides the team with a solid option as a returner.
At only 5-foot-9,190 pounds, Berrios is primarily used as Crowder’s backup in the slot. A role that he shined in during 2021 when Crowder was hurt. But now, the Jets have their best No. 4 receiver in years with Keelan Cole.
Undrafted out of Kentucky Wesleyan in 2017, Cole has developed into a very underrated receiver. The former Jacksonville Jaguar started 23-of-64 games, totaling 2,242 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns in four seasons with the team.
At 6-foot-1,194 pounds, Cole is capable of lining up both in the slot and along the boundary, offering some versatility.
Cole, like Berrios, is also able to handle return man duties. In 2020, Cole returned nine punts for an average of 15.6 yards, including one for a touchdown. He also has a 27.0-yard average on eight career kick returns.
No, Cole and Berrios will not make up all of the depth at receiver for the Jets, especially when considering the draft has yet to happen. Rather they bring fantastic experience and versatility to the Jets’ second unit at receiver.
Next: 3. Who is on the bubble?
NY Jets on the bubble: Jeff Smith, Vyncint Smith, Lawrence Cager, Jaleel Scott, Josh Malone, D.J. Montgomery, Manasseh Bailey
As previously mentioned, the Jets are not done at adding to the wide receiver room.
Douglas still has a lot of cap space to work with, in addition to tons of draft capital this April. So, chances are, there will be more weapons to choose from when it comes time for 53-man roster cuts.
Until then, outside of the top five, there are numerous other receivers who will be fighting for a spot on the Jets roster. The first two that jump out are Jeff Smith and Vyncint Smith.
Jeff Smith, a quarterback-turned-receiver during his time at Boston College, stepped up last season with all the injuries at the position. In 12 games (four starts), Smith posted 167 receiving yards on 32 percent of offensive snaps.
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As for Vyncint Smith, injuries held him back this past season, though he showed promise in his 225-yard receiving 2019 campaign.
Behind them is where the true battle in training camp begins because of limited game experience. Lawrence Cager and Jaleel Scott are long-striders who bring size in their 6-foot-5 frames.
Josh Malone is a former fourth-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017 who only recently turned 25-years-old. At 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, he brings promising size and can hold his own as a kick returner.
As for D.J. Montgomery and Manasseh Bailey, both have yet to play in a regular-season game. They each stand at 6-foot-1 and will look to impress in training camp with their special teams play.
Ultimately, no one knows what the Jets’ wide receiver unit will look like come Week 1. However, one thing for sure is that the group is drastically improved already just over one week into free agency.