3 notable WRs the NY Jets can still sign in free agency

Even after signing Mike Williams and drafting Malachi Corley the Jets' WR corps could use reinforcements
Michael Thomas
Michael Thomas / Stephen Maturen/GettyImages

After free agency last season, many believed the NY Jets had a very solid and intriguing wide receiver corps that, while lacking a true one-two punch, had enough juice and complementary skill sets to be a better-than-average group.

Sure, they weren't the Bengals' three-headed monster, and they didn't have a pair of No. 1's like the Dolphins, Eagles, or 49ers, but they did have a bonafide No. 1 in Garrett Wilson, an acceptable two in Corey Davis, another big-bodied receiver in Allen Lazard, and the speedy Elijah Moore.

All were players with complementary skill sets who were expected to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

They finished the year starting UDFAs Jason Brownlee and Xavier Gipson alongside Wilson, while Lazard languished on the bench in the first year of his $44 million contract.

Moore was dealt shortly before the draft for the capital necessary to acquire Aaron Rodgers, and Davis suddenly and unexpectedly retired at the start of training camp. Quickly the deep and dynamic receiving room was left impotent.

The Jets ranked 30th in receiving yards last season and to their credit have made moves to prevent a repeat in 2024. First, they signed veteran Mike Williams to combine with Wilson to form the best wide receiver duo the Jets have had since 2015's Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker pairing.

Second, they traded up to draft Western Kentucky's Malachi Corley at the top of the third round. Williams is a high-end WR2 with two 1,000-yard seasons under his belt, and the Jets were very high on Corley even ranking him as the fourth-best receiver in the class.

Still, there are questions, chiefly whether Williams will return to form after a Week 3 ACL tear last season, and whether or not there will be a learning curve for Corley who ran a limited route tree and played against inferior competition at Western Kentucky.

Behind the top three on the depth chart are the aforementioned Lazard and three former UDFAs: Xavier Gipson and Jason Brownlee from the 2023 class and Irv Charles from the 2022 class.

While some might believe that Lazard would return to form with Rodgers returning to the lineup, it's questionable if the Jets have the same faith given reports that they were open to trading him back in March.

Brownlee and Gipson both flashed potential, primarily in the preseason, but ultimately failed to seize opportunities and Charles is essentially a Justin Hardee replacement known for special teams contributions over actually playing wide receiver. An injury or slow start out of the gate to any of the top three receivers on the depth chart could sink the team fast.

At this point in the year, pickings are slim on the free agent market and any available option comes with warts. That said, these are all players that can be had on the cheap that can stabilize the bottom of the depth chart and potentially take on a bigger role if need be. Here are three players who fit the bill.

1. The NY Jets could reunite with Corey Davis

Davis's sudden retirement was a big blow to the Jets in 2023. As we've seen in the past, it's questionable how much a player can contribute after a year away from football, but with Davis now reinstated and a free agent, he might be the best of the remaining crop.

He sometimes gets a bad rap among Jets fans for some crucial drops and missing time due to injury, but his entire career he's been a reliable and versatile receiver.

For his career, his per 17-game averages are 60 receptions and 845 receiving yards — not too shabby for a depth piece. He also has the ability to play at times as a big slot thus adding to the versatility he could provide as a depth receiver.

Rumors circulated in March that the Jets had been in contact with Davis about a potential reunion, so there's at least some smoke there. Davis, despite the questions about how he'd perform after a year off from the NFL, might just be the best fit and most likely outcome.

2. The NY Jets could sign Hunter Renfrow

Hunter Renfrow, a former fifth-round pick out of Clemson, started out his career very productive and exceeding expectations. After putting up at least 49 catches and 600 yards in each of his first two years in the league, he tallied 103 catches, 1,038 yards, and nine touchdowns en route to a Pro Bowl selection in 2021.

2022 however saw him struggle to get acclimated in new head coach Josh McDaniels' offense and injuries ultimately derailed his season. 2023 had him firmly entrenched in McDaniels' dog house and was his worst season as a pro, posting just 25 catches for 255 yards and zero touchdowns.

McDaniels has a reputation for only supporting his guys and burying those who aren't. He clearly caused some issues with player morale at minimum. Renfrow, it would seem, was not one of his guys and as a result, saw a reduction in opportunities.

Still, one has to wonder how much of the production dip is due to McDaniels, and how much the league is simply figuring Renfrow out. He's a shifty, sure-handed receiver, but lacks elite speed and has underwhelming size.

The other issue is Renfrow is a slot-exclusive player. He does nothing to help the depth in the event of an injury to Wilson or Williams and would compete with Gipson for the backup slot and return man role.

There's some value there, especially given that Gipson is currently the only player on the roster with return man experience, but it's so much easier to cover an injury to the slot than it is to one of the outside receivers. Renfrow might have been a better fit before the Williams and Corley additions.

3. The NY Jets could sign Michael Thomas

Probably the biggest name on this list, Michael Thomas is a long way removed from being an alpha dog WR1. In 2019, he set the league on fire with 149 receptions for 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns. Since then injuries and age have plagued him.

He got hurt during the 2020 season and wound up missing the entire 2021 campaign. In the four years that followed his 2019 brilliance, he has only played in 20 of a possible 67 games. Last season was his healthiest year, playing 10 games and tallying 39 catches, 448 yards, and a touchdown.

There's still some talent there. Thomas is also a big receiver who can play outside and has experience in the slot as well. No longer the primary option in the passing game and working as a depth piece to spell other receivers and step up in case of injury might keep him fresh throughout the year as well, giving reason to believe that he still can contribute to a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

That said, the injury history and age are concerning. So too are the locker room and off-the-field issues that might make steering clear the best scenario at the end of the day.

Yes, each of the above options has its flaws and brings with it their share of concerns. Even with that said, any of the three would offer more comfort than Allen Lazard and three former UDFAs. To me, the clear choice that's head and shoulders above the rest is Corey Davis.

He already knows the team, went through a portion of the offseason program with Rodgers and the offensive staff last year, and has had no obvious dips in performance.

He wouldn't be asked to pick up right where he left off, but he would provide depth, get an opportunity to produce in a more limited role, and serve as a guy who can start in the case of an emergency. Signing him is a slam dunk, and will make the offense that much more potent in 2024.