New York Jets still have options at wide receiver after Amari Cooper trade
The New York Jets‘ list of splashy options at wide receiver continues to dwindle. On Saturday, it was reported that the Dallas Cowboys had agreed to trade Amari Cooper and a sixth-round pick to the Cleveland Browns for a fifth-round pick and a sixth-round pick.
Trade is now officially agreed to, per source: Browns get WR Amari Cooper and a 6th, Cowboys get a 5th and 6th.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2022
Cooper joins Chris Godwin (franchise tag), Davante Adams (franchise tag), Mike Williams (franchise tag), and Calvin Ridley (suspension) as hypothetical big-fish Jets targets who have already come off the board.
Regardless, there are still plenty of good options for the Jets to improve their wide receiver unit.
Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns (trade/cut candidate)
Following the Cooper trade, it’s been reported that Jarvis Landry is likely to leave the Browns either through a trade or a release. The Jets have already been mentioned as a possible suitor.
Reported this yesterday, but worth reiterating after Amari Cooper trade: #Browns highly likely to release Jarvis Landry, whose cap hit is $16.6M in 2022.
— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) March 12, 2022
Following the Amari Cooper trade agreement, #Browns WR Jarvis Landry has permission to seek a trade, according to sources.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 12, 2022
Set to turn 30 in November, Landry’s days as a 1,000-yard receiver are probably behind him but he can still be a sure-handed underneath target.
In 2021, Landry caught 52 of 87 targets for 570 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games. He only dropped two passes, giving him a 3.7% drop rate that ranked 28th-best out of 110 qualified wide receivers.
Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys (free agent)
Only one wide receiver on the 2021 Dallas Cowboys roster has a season under his belt in which he averaged 75.0+ receiving yards per game.
It wasn’t Amari Cooper.
It wasn’t even CeeDee Lamb.
Nope – it was Michael Gallup.
Back in 2019, Gallup showed an incredible ceiling. In 14 games, he caught 66 passes for 1,107 yards (79.1 per game) and six touchdowns as a second-year player.
It’s been downhill since then. Gallup dipped to 52.7 yards per game in 2020 as he had to cede some targets to the incoming Lamb.
Now, Gallup enters free agency with his stock at an all-time low. He had an injury-riddled 2021 season in which he missed seven games with a calf strain and then later suffered a season-ending ACL injury in January. When healthy, Gallup averaged only 49.4 yards in nine appearances.
Gallup, 26, seems to have a strong chance of returning to Dallas. It was reported last week that he was close to signing a new deal with the Cowboys, and the space opened up by trading Cooper should help move things along.
Cowboys have been working on a new deal with free-agent-to-be WR Michael Gallup and a deal is considered “close,” per sources. There’s hope the two sides can get it done and keep Gallup in Dallas.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 4, 2022
If Gallup does become available, he offers an intriguing ceiling for the Jets or any team looking for wide receiver help.
Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals (free agent)
Contrary to Gallup, Christian Kirk enters the market with his stock at an all-time high.
Kirk, 25, just had a career year that saw him catch 77 of 103 targets for 982 yards and five touchdowns in 17 games.
The best part of Kirk’s breakout year was his performance in 50-50 situations. Kirk was credited by Pro Football Focus with 12 contested catches on 17 contested targets, a 70.6% rate that ranked 10th-best out of 110 qualified wide receivers.
Kirk is at his best in the slot. Moving him inside was a facilitator in his 2021 improvement. He ran 79% of his routes out of the slot in 2021, a career-high by an enormous margin.
Only Cooper Kupp (1,402 yards) had more receiving yards out of the slot than Kirk (772).
Russell Gage, Atlanta Falcons (free agent)
As I broke down here, Russell Gage would solve one of the Jets’ biggest issues at the wide receiver position in 2021: their inability to defeat man coverage.
The fourth-year man averaged 2.84 yards per route run against man coverage this past season, which ranked eighth-best out of the 68 wide receivers to face at least 20 targets against man coverage.
Gage’s target frequency against man coverage proves how good of a job he did at separating in man-to-man situations. He was targeted on 34.6% of his man-coverage routes, which ranked third-best out of qualified wide receivers behind only A.J. Brown (36.1%) and D.K. Metcalf (39.2%). To be trusted enough by your quarterback to get the ball that often in isolated matchups, you have to be getting open.
The 2021 season was a nice year for the 25-year-old Gage (who turned 26 in January). In 14 games, he caught 66 of 94 targets for 770 yards and four touchdowns, averaging a career-high 55.0 yards per game. It marked the third consecutive year in which Gage set a new career-high in yards per game.
Gage ranked 17th out of 110 qualified wide receivers with a stellar average of 1.96 yards per route run. That gives him legitimate 1,000-yard upside if he gets more reps. Of the league’s 23 wide receivers to hit 1,000 yards in 2021, 12 of them averaged fewer yards per route run than Gage.
Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears (free agent)
Set to turn 29 in August, Allen Robinson enters free agency with his stock at a low point.
Robinson has the best ceiling of any player on this list. With three seasons of 1,100+ yards under his belt, we know he can be a star. It’s just a matter of whether those days are over or if he has more star power left in the tank.
From 2019-20, Robinson ranked fourth in the NFL in receiving yards (2,397) and receptions (200) while placing 17th in receiving touchdowns (13). He was a stud, recording back-to-back campaigns with 150+ targets, 98+ receptions, 1,110+ yards, and 6+ touchdowns for the Bears. That’s “No. 1 receiver” type stuff.
But in 2021, Robinson came crashing down. In 12 games, he caught 38 of 66 targets for 410 yards and one touchdown. He set career-lows in yards per target (6.2) and yards per game (34.2).
Robinson is a high-ceiling, low-floor option. Perhaps he signs a one-year deal in an effort to improve his stock before hitting the market again next year.
D.J. Chark, Jacksonville Jaguars (free agent)
Like Michael Gallup, D.J. Chark’s appeal is based on the potential that he showed as a second-year man in 2019.
Back then, Chark caught 73 of 118 targets for 1,004 yards and eight touchdowns in 15 games.
Chark has declined since that breakout year. Over the past two seasons combined, Chark has caught 60 of 115 targets for 860 yards and seven touchdowns in 17 games.
The 2021 season came to an early end for Chark due to a fractured ankle in Week 4.
Still only 25 and set to turn 26 in September, Chark is another player on this list who offers a lot of upside.
Cedrick Wilson, Dallas Cowboys (free agent)
Cedrick Wilson possesses intriguing upside based on his outstanding efficiency in a limited role for Dallas.
Wilson played only 46% of Dallas’ offensive snaps across 16 appearances in 2021. Over that limited time, Wilson was able to snag 46 catches on 61 targets for 602 yards and six touchdowns.
With an average of 9.9 yards per target, Wilson ranked eighth-best in the category out of wide receivers with at least 60 targets, one spot behind Tee Higgins and two spots behind Cooper Kupp.
Wilson ranked 35th out of 110 qualified wide receivers with an average of 1.74 yards per route run. For perspective, that’s the same average as Corey Davis and Robert Woods had in 2021, while it’s only a hair behind Jaylen Waddle (1.75). There’s a chance he could be something special in a larger role.
You’ll want to play Wilson in the slot. He led all qualified wide receivers in 2021 with 90.2% of his routes being run out of the slot. Wilson carries a fairly slight 197-pound frame but is rather tall for the slot at 6-foot-2.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers (free agent)
JuJu Smith-Schuster joins Chark and Gallup as yet another young player who will aim to recapture the star potential he showed in the late-2010s.
At 22 years old in 2018, Smith-Schuster burst onto the scene with 111 receptions on 166 targets for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns.
Over three years since then, Smith-Schuster has caught 154 passes on 226 targets for 1,512 yards and 12 touchdowns. With those numbers coming over 33 games, he’s averaging just 4.7 receptions for 45.8 yards since 2019, a huge departure from his 6.9 receptions for 89.1 yards in 2018.
Smith-Schuster just averaged career-lows of 3.0 receptions and 25.8 yards in a 2021 season that ended after five weeks due to shoulder surgery in October. He actually returned for Pittsburgh’s Wild Card playoff game but only recorded 26 yards on five catches.
This market is loaded with high-ceiling young players who have fallen short of their potential over the past few years. Nobody matches that description better than Smith-Schuster.