Speculation surrounds D.K. Metcalf following Seattle’s Russell Wilson trade
On Tuesday afternoon, the NFL world was rocked by the news that Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had been traded to the Denver Broncos. Denver sent over two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-round pick, quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant, and defensive lineman Shelby Harris in the deal. The Broncos also received a fourth-round pick.
With Seattle clearly headed for a rebuild, speculation has begun to swirl surrounding the quality players that remain on Seattle’s roster.
There is no bigger star on the Seahawks’ current squad than wide receiver D.K. Metcalf.
One of the most imposing physical specimens to ever strap on a helmet, Metcalf was already a subject of trade speculation prior to the trade, as his contract expires after the 2022 season. Now, it appears even more plausible that he could hit the trade block.
The New York Jets need wide receiver help, so, naturally, they will be linked to any notable wide receiver that becomes available.
Should the Jets consider making an offer for Metcalf?
What will it cost to trade for D.K. Metcalf?
Metcalf is a 24-year-old wide receiver who scored 22 touchdowns over his past two seasons without missing a single game. That is the profile of a player who would demand a hefty trade package to be acquired.
Let’s take a look at some comparable recent trades that involved star wide receivers in their prime.
- 2020 – Stefon Diggs (entering age-27 season): Vikings traded Diggs and a 2020 seventh-round pick to Bills for a 2020 first-round pick, a 2020 fifth-round pick, a 2020 sixth-round pick, and a 2021 fourth-round pick
- 2020 – DeAndre Hopkins (entering age-28 season): Texans traded Hopkins and a 2020 fourth-round pick to Cardinals for RB David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick, and a 2021 fourth-round pick
- 2019 – Odell Beckham (entering age-27 season): Giants traded Beckham to Browns for a 2019 first-round pick, a 2019 third-round pick, and S Jabrill Peppers
- 2018 – Amari Cooper (during age-24 season): Raiders traded Cooper to Cowboys for a 2019 first-round pick
In terms of age, the Amari Cooper trade is the closest comparison. It’s certainly rare to see a great wide receiver traded so early in his career.
A first-round pick seems like a requirement when looking at these trades (other than the baffling Hopkins deal). However, the Jets’ first-rounders in the 2022 draft are not equivalent in value to the first-rounders in the deals made above. Buffalo’s first-rounder was the 22nd overall pick and Cleveland’s was the 17th overall pick. The pick traded from Dallas to Oakland held unknown value at the time since the trade was made in-season, but it ended up landing at No. 27.
For the sake of this article, let’s just say the Jets try to match the value of the Beckham package. The first and third-round picks sent from Cleveland to the Giants were in the 17th overall slot (950 points on Jimmy Johnson trade chart) and the 96th overall slot (116 points), combining for a value of 1,066 points on the trade chart.
The Jets can essentially match that package by trading their two second-round picks in this year’s draft. Their 35th overall pick (550 points) and 38th overall pick (520 points) combine for a worth of 1,070 points. Maybe they throw in something like a future fourth-round pick to match the value of Jabrill Peppers.
So, our hypothetical trade offer is as follows: the 35th and 38th overall picks and a 2023 fourth-round pick for D.K. Metcalf.
It’s also important to note that the Jets would eventually have to sign Metcalf to a new contract that will likely be worth more than $20 million per year (the Chargers’ Mike Williams set the market when he signed a three-year, $60 million extension today).
Now that we have a price in mind, it’s time to take a lot at Metcalf’s on-field performance and figure out whether he is someone the Jets should consider pursuing.
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Positive: Touchdown production
Metcalf can be relied upon to give your team a boatload of scores. He’s been a consistent touchdown producer since his rookie year.
Since 2019, Metcalf is tied for fifth in the league with 29 receiving touchdowns. He has increased his total every year, rising from seven as a rookie, to 10 in 2020, to 12 in 2021.
Metcalf is a threat to score from any distance, although it’s in the intermediate and deep ranges where he is at his most dangerous. He’s got nine touchdowns from 0-10 yards out (tied for 16th among all players since 2019), nine touchdowns from 11-20 yards out (tied for 1st), and 11 touchdowns from 21+ yards (tied for 2nd).
Overall, Metcalf has 20 career touchdown receptions from more than 10 yards out. That’s the most such touchdowns in the NFL since 2019, three more than second-ranked Tyreek Hill and A.J. Brown.
Positive: Beating man coverage
One of the biggest issues for the Jets’ wide receivers in 2021 was their inability to win against man coverage. New York needs wideouts who can create their own offense went left on an island.
Few receivers are more dangerous in one-on-one situations than the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Metcalf.
Metcalf averaged 3.27 yards per route run against man coverage in 2021, placing sixth-best out of 68 qualified wide receivers. He caught 23 of 38 targets against man coverage for 317 yards and seven touchdowns, which ranked as the second-most man-coverage touchdown receptions behind only Mike Evans (8).
Over the past two seasons combined, Seahawks quarterbacks had a passer rating of 118.2 when targeting Metcalf against man coverage, completing 49 of 82 targets for 726 yards, 13 touchdowns, and two interceptions.
Obviously, you expect Russell Wilson to post numbers like that regardless of who he is throwing to and when, but even Geno Smith benefited from Metcalf’s ability to win against man.
Across his three starts, Smith completed 4-of-5 passes to Metcalf against man coverage for 41 yards, two touchdowns, and two additional first downs with zero interceptions (140.4 passer rating). That’s certainly a tiny sample size but it’s uber efficiency nonetheless.
Few things help a young quarterback as much as a wide receiver who can consistently overmatch his defender in man-to-man battles. Metcalf does that as well as anyone in the NFL right now. Zach Wilson would benefit mightily from having a mammoth target he can trust to just go up and get it when things get dire.
Metcalf has never missed an NFL game. It’s important to feel confident about a player’s availability when you make a lofty investment in him, and Metcalf checks this box as well as he possibly can.
Concern: Down year in 2021
Despite scoring 12 touchdowns, Metcalf had a surprisingly unspectacular 2021 season for the most part.
Metcalf played in all 17 games and was targeted 129 times but could only turn those targets into 75 catches (58.1% catch rate) and 967 yards (56.9 per game / 7.5 per target). For comparison, he only averaged 2.2 more yards per game than Corey Davis.
That was a major step back from Metcalf’s 2020 season. In 16 games, he was targeted an identical 129 times and caught 83 passes (64.3% catch rate) for 1,303 yards (81.4 per game / 10.1 per target).
The good news is that Metcalf’s dip can largely be attributed to Russell Wilson’s finger injury in Week 5. With a healthy Wilson through the first five games of the season, Metcalf caught 25 of 38 targets (65.8%) for 383 yards (76.6 per game / 10.1 per target). He was producing at essentially the same level as the previous year.
Metcalf’s production then began to slide during Wilson’s three-game absence. It continued to drop following Wilson’s return, a stretch in which Wilson was clearly less than 100% and played some of the worst football of his career.
Does D.K. Metcalf make sense for the Jets?
With Chris Godwin and Davante Adams getting the franchise-tag treatment and Calvin Ridley drawing a one-year suspension for gambling on the NFL, the market for top-tier wide receivers has quickly thinned.
If Metcalf truly does become available (there’s no reputable indication that he is – it’s all speculation right now), he becomes the best option on the market when you consider the combination of his age, production, and durability.
The Jets would be unwise to not at least inquire about Metcalf if the Seahawks start taking calls for him.
Zach Wilson is entering an all-important second year as New York’s franchise quarterback. The Jets cannot afford to take any half-measures with his development. They’ve got to do whatever they can to give him the absolute best chance to succeed. Making an aggressive trade for a great wide receiver like Metcalf is a smart way to accomplish that goal.
While relying on the draft for offensive supporting cast talent would be more cost-effective than a trade (both in terms of cap space and draft picks), it would also be immensely riskier from a short-term impact perspective. For every Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson, you get a bundle of busts like Kevin White, Laquon Treadwell, John Ross, or Jalen Reagor. The list goes on and on.
Can the Jets really afford to put Wilson’s development in the hands of a rookie wide receiver? What if the guy they draft to round out their wide receiver unit proves unable of playing at a high level in Year 1? That would leave the Jets looking foolish for not taking Wilson’s supporting cast more seriously as they watch him wade through his second year getting bogged down by a rookie.
Trading for star veterans is expensive for a reason – you’re paying for the certainty that an established NFL player brings to the table in comparison to a completely unproven draft prospect. The Jets know D.K. Metcalf is a stud NFL wideout who would help Zach Wilson. They do not know if Drake London, Garrett Wilson, Treylon Burks, or any other draft prospect is capable of helping Zach Wilson.
I think paying up for Metcalf would be worth it for New York.
As it pertains to the Jets, it is worth mentioning that there might be scheme fit questions regarding Metcalf. New York’s offensive scheme under Mike LaFleur is known for emphasizing route-running, quickness, in-breaking routes, YAC-facilitating routes, and other skills of this nature. Those things aren’t Metcalf’s bread and butter. He primarily wins vertically and outside the numbers through his sheer physical dominance, gaining most of his yards through the air rather than YAC.
Only LaFleur and the Jets know for sure whether Metcalf can be squeezed into their scheme effectively.
Good coaches know how to mold their scheme to fit uber-talented players, so it would be disappointing if the Jets passed on Metcalf simply because of scheme. With that being said, scheme fit is extremely important to maximize a player’s talent, so if LaFleur and the Jets believe Metcalf flat-out does not fit what they want to do and there is no way to make it work, then it’s a fair reason to not pursue him.
Ultimately, I would argue that going after Metcalf with an aggressive trade offer would be smart for the Jets so long as they believe he can fit their offense and that they are prepared to ink him to a long-term contract.