NY Jets continue to fumble offseason with Diontae Johnson trade miss

The Jets missed out again

Diontae Johnson
Diontae Johnson / Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports

The NY Jets have lost all ability to evaluate the wide receiver position. That's the only conclusion that could be drawn after the team fumbled yet another possible wide receiver upgrade, this time in the form of former Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Diontae Johnson.

Johnson was officially traded from the Steelers to the Carolina Panthers on Tuesday in return for cornerback Donte Jackson and a late-round pick swap.

Jackson is a middling cornerback on an expiring contract, so his value is minimal. It's likely Johnson could've been had for roughly the price of a fifth-round pick. For whatever reason, however, the Jets weren't interested.

SNY's Connor Hughes reported after the trade that the Jets never had interest in acquiring the former Pro Bowl wide receiver, despite the fact that he was arguably the best, most realistic, and most affordable wide receiver upgrade remaining on the market.

Add this to the long list of egregious wide receiver miscalculations the Jets have made over the last two years.

The NY Jets should have traded for Diontae Johnson

The Jets have made it abundantly clear that they're going to stay away from the top free agents on the market this offseason. They're not going to shell out big bucks for players like Calvin Ridley or Marquise Brown. They won't be trading for Tee Higgins and giving him an extension.

The Jets are bargain-bin shopping, which is what made Johnson such an appealing trade candidate.

Johnson is entering the final year of his contract and carries a cap hit of under $10 million for an acquiring team. The Jets could have had a rock-solid WR2 for significantly less than what they'd pay on the open market, and all it likely would've taken was a Day 3 pick.

The Jets said no. Not only did they not meet the asking price, they weren't even interested in Johnson's market. That should tell you all you need to know about how the Jets evaluate wide receivers.

Johnson finished with 51 catches for 717 yards and five touchdowns in just 13 games last season. He's two seasons removed from a 1,000-yard campaign and finished with 86 catches for 882 yards in 2022.

This is despite playing in an offense and with a quarterback that didn't exactly maximize his skill set. Johnson is the only wide receiver in the NFL to rank top-five in ESPN's open score every year between 2019 and 2022. He ranked 12th out of 153 qualifiers in 2023.

While he has struggled at times with concentration drops, Johnson remains one of the best wide receivers in the NFL at getting open. At the very least, he's better than every free-agent wide receiver not named Ridley or Brown, and you can very easily argue he's better than at least one of them.

The Jets could've acquired Johnson at a fraction of the price it would've cost to sign the others. Instead, they're almost certain to sign a mid-tier free agent, who is not as good as Johnson, for similar/more money.

This is reminiscent of last offseason when the Jets had zero interest in signing DeAndre Hopkins, but heavily pursued an injury-prone Odell Beckham Jr. before signing Allen Lazard and Mecole Hardman.

Hopkins went on to put together yet another 1,000-yard campaign, while Beckham limped his way through another injury-riddled season and Lazard and Hardman were complete net negatives for the Jets.

It should also be noted that the Jets didn't have a single first-round grade on any wide receiver in the 2023 NFL Draft class. Players like Jordan Addison, Zay Flowers, and Jaxon Smith-Nijgba — all consensus first-round prospects — certainly could've helped the Jets.

Failing to trade for Johnson in a vacuum isn't the end of the world. It's a missed opportunity, sure, but it doesn't make or break the Jets' season.

But when you have a long line of egregious decisions at one position, questions need to be raised. What is the Jets' plan for the wide receiver position this offseason if Johnson wasn't even a consideration?

It might be time to start preparing for the inevitable Beckham and Marquez Valdes-Scantling signings — we all know they're coming.