- There are very real reasons—above and behind on-the-field play—the New York Jets cannot shortchange Braxton Berrios this offseason.
- If Joe Douglas is a man of his word, he recognizes the added value Berrios brings to the table.
- Berrios’s contract negotiations will reveal a lot about the Jets’ direction.
Joe Douglas and the New York Jets simply cannot afford to shortchange Braxton Berrios in contract negotiations, for a few reasons.
On the afternoon of Dec. 26, 2021, a father turned to his son and said, “That (just) won (them) the game.”
Wayne Chrebet, playing the role of football father on this day, turned so suddenly to his son, after Berrios’s 12-yard third-down catch (one that resembled something No. 80 would often execute for his Jets teammates in the late 1990s and early 2000s), and reminded him just how important the human element means in football.
“As soon as he caught that pass, I said to my son, ‘That won the game,'” Chrebet said on The Underdog Jets Podcast after the Jets’ victory over the Jags. … “And I believe that. It’s just little things like that might go unnoticed … but that play was a huge play in the game, and he’s continued to make those plays every week.”
— Robby Sabo (@RobbySabo) December 29, 2021
Berrios’s tough-man haul kept the drive alive en route to a critical field goal that did, indeed, propel the Jets to victory.
While it’s hardly noteworthy that Chrebet would enjoy a tough, over-the-middle, third-down catch, it’s everything else that’s critical here. It’s the emotional yet so refreshingly non-analytical substance that serves as Berrios’s greatest advantage this offseason—as he seeks a much-deserved payday.
The New York Jets cannot afford to stiff Braxton Berrios in contract negotiations—and Joe Douglas already knows it.
Never underestimate the human element
In spite of Lisa Simpson’s seemingly infinite IQ score, she missed the mark when speaking about the very “emotionally impacted” Darryl Strawberry.
These guys do have feelings. They’re not robots (well, other than the C. Montgomery Burns-esque, sinister and most likely lab-created Tom Brady, of course). Professional athletes are often impacted by fans and the media (even if it usually doesn’t appear that way).
The same applies to teammates.
Football isn’t all analytics and film. It’s a game played by humans who wear a wide variety of emotions on a second-by-second basis. What happens at practice is heavily influenced by the human element, just as game days wrap themselves in an emotional overtone.
Berrios’s emotions undoubtedly impact the team.
There’s a reason Bill Belichick never seeks to curb his players’ positive emotions when playing. No, it has nothing to do with a slight distraction—en route to getting his trusted cameramen in place. It’s instead allowed to flourish thanks to an acute understanding of the critical aspects of football.
“This is why you lift all them weights; this is why you do all that sh*t,” Bill Parcells once told his team on the sideline.
Hard work equals rewards which equal the human emotions that make the hard work tough and the rewards worthwhile.
Got it? Good.
Berrios’s excitable on-field reactions represent the extra layer of secret cheese needed to make the breakfast sandwich with Canadian bacon at least salvageable (anything but Taylor Ham simply should not suffice). His get-you-going attitude is an exact attribute sought-after when thinking about the intangibles that could eventually complete a roster.
Culture, culture, culture
The way in which Joe Douglas introduced himself to the Jets fanbase was a breath of (fresh?) Northern New Jersey air. (Well, those of you who live in the area may substitute for a different region, if you wish—this category includes me, of course, so I’ll go with Dingmans Ferry, PA, for a more accurate regional choice of the air we breathe.)
The young general manager arrived with his “inside-out” team-building mantra guns-a-blazin’. He not only understood that the game of football begins in the trenches—in spite of an “outside matters more” movement that has a serious case to make and is quickly gaining momentum—but he also publicly assured a downtrodden fanbase that he understands it starts in the trenches and with the quarterback, first.
That attitude led to two first-round offensive linemen and a first-round quarterback over his first two big-boy drafts.
When Douglas says something, he usually means it. (Sorry, Jamal Adams, but he most definitely does not mean it when jockeying for asset value.)
Douglas’s other big day-one proclamation dealt with a frustrating yet so accurate idea that “culture is important.”
Berrios represents everything Douglas wants in what he means by “culture.”
The free-agent-to-be is well respected, he works hard, his teammates like him, and he has been there since the start of the Douglas era. By most accounts, he works harder or just as hard as anybody on the team, as he’s often seen on the practice field prior to and after the session (I’ve witnessed it myself).
Drafted by Belichick’s New England Patriots, the sixth round in 2018, the Miami product represents the direction this organization aspires to head. After not making the 2018 and 2019 Patriots, Douglas scooped him up, and he’s since improved every season, every day.
The 2021 NFL All-Pro at kick returner led the NFL with 30.4 yards per return, while also adding four offensive touchdowns on top of his stadium-stirring 102-yard kick return score in the victory over the Jags.
Sure, he could still be labeled as just a “special teams” player in a lot of respects, but … so what? Leon Washington and Brad Smith also mattered to the culture, despite the definitive special teams tag each former Jet carried.
Besides, Braxton Berrios isn’t just a special teams player.
The offense took off with Berrios’ jet-motion ways
Does everybody remember September? I wonder how many fans actually do remember the good old days—just four months ago—when Mike LaFleur was, by far, the Jets’ worst coaching hire since Adam Gase.
New York’s offense struggled mightily out of the gate. Usually, good coaching shows up over the entirety of a full football season, and that’s what happened here.
LaFleur finally realized that he needed to get with the times. He didn’t have the talent, so he needed to threaten the defense in a way that would allow for more space, flexibility and avenues to extra yardage.
What Mike LaFleur finally realized and understood was that he needed to insert Braxton Berrios in a way that fits today’s NFL.
Track the season: Once LaFleur started using Berrios in a heavy jet-motion and orbit-motion fashion, the offense, with Zach Wilson, started to take off.
|Week||Opponent||Snaps||Off. Snap %|
Berrios boasted a solid snap count over the first three weeks of the season—mainly due to team injuries—but LaFleur had yet to really implement a heavy jet-motion-concept scheme. In Carolina, he traditionally tried to establish the run. Against New England, he had no chance thanks to a poor Wilson afternoon. Denver was more of the same.
By the time Mike White entered and LaFleur had gone up to the press box, Berrios found himself on the outside looking in. LaFleur had somewhat figured it out, but it wasn’t until after Wilson returned from injury in Houston, and after Elijah Moore was lost for the season (he missed the final five games) that Berrios became infused in the offense in a net-positive way.
Berrios played in over 80 percent of his team’s offensive plays against both Jacksonville and Tampa Bay, and those two offensive outputs ranked as the Jets’ two most productive offensive outputs of the season (with Zach Wilson at quarterback). A game later, in Buffalo to cap the season, the Zach Wilson-led offense put up its worst game of the season (53 total yards) without Berrios and the jet-motion threat in the lineup.
The threat of his rushing abilities via jet or orbit-motion did enough pre-snap damage to allow the Jets untalented offensive line (with multiple backups) to look solid against a talented Maimi and Tampa Bay defense and unstoppable against Jacksonville.
By the time Tom Brady provided Jets fans with one final parting gift, LaFleur’s offense was red hot. Then … Berrios misses the final game, there’s no sufficient weapon to substitute for Berrios offensively, and, naturally, LaFleur has to resort to an early-of-the-season version of this offense—no jet-motion which meant no outside playmaker to threaten and widen the defensive edge players, and very little reason for the second-level players to move east-west so suddenly.
Sure, the Buffalo Bills defense is no joke, and Wilson was without his top weapons, but the offensive scheme featured a radical departure of what worked with Berrios in tow over the prior several weeks.
Braxton Berrios will never rack up the yards and receptions Elijah Moore will, but that should be understood, especially since they play different positions within this offense …
Moore is the true receiving threat that has the talent to stack up well-deserved Pro Bowls, whereas Berrios is the X-factor-type that can play the role of decoy—while also possessing the ability to burn a defense at a moment’s notice.
The difference between ‘losing’ and ‘shortchanging’
Notice how I never said the following: The Jets cannot afford to lose Braxton Berrios. I can’t say that because it’s not true. They can afford to lose the man, as so many teams can afford to lose a player who’s looking at a possible 3-year, $18 million contract this offseason, per Jets X-Factor’s David Wyatt-Hupton.
The Jets can afford to lose Berrios, but they cannot afford to shortchange him in negotiations. They cannot afford to look as though they’re not willing to pony up at least a little beyond his open market worth.
Such a penny-pinching strategy, as it relates to this player, would serve as a net-negative. It could hinder the development of the football program, the overall vision for this culture.
Suddenly, as folks within the building shake their head while glued to their smartphones, the all-important question would be asked: Are we really not willing to reward one of the hardest-working guys the respect he deserves? Are we really stiffing this guy, one who always does the right thing and actually contributes to the team in a significant, All-Pro-worthy way?
That will not work for a lot of folks, especially for NFL agents who want to point their clients in the right direction and the independent contractors who share a locker room with No. 10, who are always wondering what their future holds.
Joe Douglas is no dummy. He never has a problem saving a dollar or two via free agency and even when it concerns his own players. This is a tag Douglas has earned—despite finishing third in free agent guaranteed dollars in the 2021 free agent period.
But there’s a very good reason his “value GM” tag is currently fair: We haven’t yet reached the stage where this Jets program had the opportunity to extend deserving players who actually wanted to remain here. In Berrios, Douglas has finally reached that stage, and he knows it.
From special teams to the culture, his jet-motion abilities to actively representing the symbol of what this program aspires to be, the Jets can afford to lose Braxton Berrios.
They simply cannot afford to shortchange the man.
Braxton Berrios can only head for different pastures if he wants to turn down a hefty New York Jets offer, or if another NFL team goes absolutely bonkers in terms of guaranteed dollars and years.
Joe Douglas knows this is a different beast. Everything he’s preached up to this point makes it obvious.
Next Article: Can the Jets afford to lose Braxton Berrios?
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