From Tyreek Hill to Deebo Samuel, the Jets did their homework on all the big names but stuck to the draft
General manager Joe Douglas swung and missed.
The New York Jets may very well have won.
While the second sentence contains an opinion and speculation, it is one widely shared by Jets fans.
If the Gang Green faithful had been told in mid-April that they would not only be okay but actually happy that they had not traded for any of the top receivers available, they would have mocked the informer mercilessly.
Still, let’s take a look at what actually transpired with each receiver and compare it to the Jets’ current room to assess the position the team is in now compared to what it would have been with each of these guys.
This move got all the rest of them rolling. Well, really Christian Kirk’s four-year, $72 million free agent signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars got it started. Kirk, who is not thought of as a No. 1 target around the NFL, made the real stars at wide receiver turn and take notice.
When Aaron Rodgers re-signed with the Green Bay Packers, it was assumed that he knew Adams was returning to Lambeau. A few days later, the stunning news came down: Adams was heading to Las Vegas to reunite with his college quarterback, Derek Carr.
The price for the 29-year-old Adams was steep: first- and second-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. Those picks were Nos. 22 and 53 overall. To add to the expense, Adams signed a five-year, $140 million dollar extension with his new team, a $28 million average annual value that reset the receiver market.
The Jets were most likely never in on Adams, primarily because of the combination of his age, draft expense, and required financial commitment. There were some Jets fans who had ordered Adams Jets jerseys for 2022, but those were a few outliers. Joe Douglas never entered the batter’s box on this one.
Tyreek Hill was perhaps the Jets’ most serious attempt at acquiring a true No. 1 receiver. When the news broke on March 23 that the Chiefs had allowed The Cheetah to seek a trade, it sent shockwaves throughout the league. The Jets and Miami Dolphins immediately emerged as the two candidates for the speedster’s services.
Many Jets fans began dreaming of having the most dynamic receiver in franchise history to pair with second-year QB Zach Wilson. When the report hit that Joe Douglas’s offer was accepted by the Chiefs, the frenzy hit its peak.
It came crashing down.
As has happened so often in the history of the Green and White, they were outdone by a rival. Hill was heading to Miami, where he signed a four-year, $120 million deal. His $30 million AAV exceeded Davante Adams’s. Reportedly, negotiations with the Chiefs broke down once Adams reset the receiver market.
In return, Kansas City received a first-round pick (No. 29), second-rounder (No. 50), and fourth-rounder, as well as fourth and sixth-round picks in the 2023 draft. Douglas had reportedly offered two second-round picks as part of a package that was of comparable (or perhaps higher) overall value.
Tyreek has done a fair amount of chirping since the trade. He has repeatedly talked up the accuracy of his new quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, even saying he preferred Tua to Patrick Mahomes. However, he outright admitted that the money was what brought him to Miami.
Tyreek Hill talks Chiefs exit at Dolphins intro presser: "It's tough. But (when) somebody comes to you with a lot of money, it changes"https://t.co/GHBB52rFtv pic.twitter.com/JN6JyTF88P
— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) March 24, 2022
In retrospect, considering Hill’s age, the amount it took to get him, and the attention and pressure he has brought upon himself and his quarterback, the Jets may be happy to have dodged a bullet. The choice to pursue Hill was curious to begin with considering the team’s emphasis on building culture through character.
Overall, the combination of draft capital traded and money invested was too steep for a Jets roster that is not quite ready to win now.
As the draft approached, reports came out that the Titans and their star 24-year-old receiver, A.J. Brown, were close to $10 million apart in contract negotiations. Brown was clearly disgruntled and requested a trade.
The Eagles traded the No. 18 and No. 101 overall picks to the Titans in a draft-night deal to acquire Brown. They also signed Brown to a four-year, $100 million contract extension to pair him with Devonta Smith as a lethal one-two receiver combination.
The Jets reportedly checked in on Brown. Perhaps it was the asking price that had them balk, although they were apparently willing to offer a first-round pick for another one of the receivers on this list. Maybe it was his injury history. More likely, the Titans were most inclined to trade Brown out of the conference.
This one may have stung a bit for some Jets fans. The No. 10 overall pick may have been enough on its own to secure Brown. But given his injury history, it was not terribly difficult to move on considering the Jets had already selected Garrett Wilson with that No. 10 pick.
After the draft situation settled, Commanders WR Terry McLaurin was still waiting to get his. McLaurin is one of the more underrated superstar receivers in the NFL, having put up multiple 1,000-yard seasons with quarterback turnover more rapid than that of the Jets franchise.
At the end of June, McLaurin’s wait finally ended. The Commanders signed him to a three-year, $71 million extension, an AAV of $23.6 million that was in line with the production differences between him and his contract predecessors.
There were no serious indications that the Jets looked to acquire McLaurin. His name had been bandied about in media speculation, but no actual reports of talks came about. McLaurin’s re-signing with Washington made the most sense for both sides.
D.K. Metcalf’s name was hotly debated around the time that the Seahawks traded Russell Wilson to the Broncos. The move seemed to signify that Seattle was rebuilding, and Metcalf’s desire for a new contract was not in line with a rebuilding team. Still, Seahawks GM John Schneider insisted that they had no plans to trade Metcalf.
It is unknown exactly how seriously the Jets engaged Seattle in talks. Although the 24-year-old freak of nature was an attractive lure for the Jets, it does not seem as if any talks for Metcalf were anywhere close to fruition. Following the draft, it became pretty clear that Metcalf would remain in Seattle.
Finally, right as training camp began, the Seahawks agreed to a three-year, $72 million extension with their star wideout.
This discussion drew the most intrigue for Jets fans. Prior to the draft, there was ample discussion that the Jets would offer the No. 10 overall pick for Deebo Samuel, the wide-back for the 49ers who was coming off a breakout season that was both impressive and unique.
Samuel was attractive to teams as a dual receiving and rushing threat. However, his reported beef with San Francisco was that he did not want to be used as a running back, thereby shortening his career and earning potential. That was what led to his trade request.
Reports surfaced on the night of the draft that the Jets offered the No. 10 overall pick for the matchup nightmare, but 49ers GM John Lynch turned it down. The Jets went on to select Garrett Wilson.
On Sunday, Ian Rapoport reported that the standoff between the 49ers and Samuel is over.
This was not easy. From a trade request to totally rebuilding the relationship. But agent Tory Dandy and #49ers brass deal with it all. In the end, no trade. Samuel gets paid. And everything works out. https://t.co/uG4JTVyGkm
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 31, 2022
Samuel’s three-year, $71.55 million deal has $58.1 million guaranteed. It also allows him to hit free agency again at age 29 and potentially cash in again.
Although the Jets clearly liked Deebo, this one, like Tyreek Hill, did not work out for them.
Before the draft, there was thought that even with one of the best receiver prospects out there, the Jets’ receiver room might be incomplete. After having drafted Garrett Wilson, though, the team’s top four are young, athletic, and potentially scary: 2021 second-rounder and breakout candidate Elijah Moore, second-year Jets WR Corey Davis, Wilson, and dual-threat WR/PR Braxton Berrios. Meanwhile, former second-round pick Denzel Mims looms as a possible fifth option.
The Jets did not have a lot of cap space to work with, and Joe Douglas has filled out this roster masterfully while refusing to compromise on the team’s future. It would take an optimistic fan to believe that the Jets are ready to contend for the Super Bowl, but Douglas kept the balance of the goal to play “meaningful games in December” while still allowing the team financial flexibility for the future.
All in all, the team and its fans are excited to see the 2022 iteration of the receiving corps, which is as stacked and deep as it has been in recent memory. Their front office did not mortgage the future while still building the promise of the present.
That’s all that fans could ask for.
Great column, Rivka. Garrett Wilson is not the sure thing the other players are, but for what they cost in draft picks and cap space he could become something comparable to those players and they could address other needs.
Even if he does not become the star those other players are, Wilson + the money they retained will probably end up better long-term for the team. The Jets believe in Elijah Moore.
Thanks for a solid article and run down of the WR deals.
I’m still all-in on Mims becoming an important contributor for us. I sincerely hope we keep him (only carry two QB’s).
I do think the Jets will end up carrying two QBs, but not for Mims’s benefit. Rather, they have a defensive line crunch and would like to keep as many of those guys as possible.
Still, at this point, I think it’s more likely than not that Mims will be the WR5 or WR6. It’s improbable that the Jets will cut him, and I don’t think they’d trade him for anything less than a 4th round pick, which they won’t get unless Douglas works some more Blake Cashman/Chris Herndon magic.
The ones you win you don’t get in! Build through the draft as successful teams have done. They are lucky with the players they have at wide receiver and other positions. Nice job building the roster now it’s the coach’s turn! Can’t wait! Just extend THIS season!
Looking at these contracts, Corey Davis is a bargain!
Well, to be fair, Corey Davis is not nearly as talented as any of these guys. But if the Jets can get close to his 2020 level of production out of him this season, his contract will definitely be a bargain.
Great run down, I thought Samuel was the best option and figured the Jets wouldn’t need to use him so much as a runner. I like the Wilson pick, it’s the guy I wanted, but there is no substitute for experience. I think you are correct in the end it probably worked out for the best. I have always liked the idea of Zach “growing with” a WR on in this case 2. Let’s hope the day comes when the problem is, what to do at WR because Wilson and Moore are so good they may not be able to pay both of them.
Agreed. That would be a great problem to have.
Definitely feel as though we dodged a bullet. Those contracts are outrageous and not a good fit for us long term. I am more content with us letting our WR mature on rookie deals.
Yep, exactly. If the Jets really were a WR away, I would have said to do it. But they needed so many more pieces that tying up their salary cap and giving up valuable draft assets did not make sense.