This is one of the most contentious debates for 2023
How much is an oft-injured, flawed No. 2 receiver worth?
That is one of the many questions the Jets will need to answer this offseason.
Corey Davis came into this season as the Jets’ No. 2 receiver, with Elijah Moore clearly ensconced as the No. 1. Following 2022, Davis is still the No. 2, while Moore has fallen to the slot receiver, a 2B or 3 of sorts. Garrett Wilson took control of the No. 1 spot.
It’s difficult to know what to make of Davis. After a brutal 2021 season, he bounced back enough not to be considered a total bust free-agent signing. His run-blocking remained elite and he made a number of crucial fourth-quarter catches throughout the season. However, he missed plenty of time with injury once more, had trouble with contested catches or throws that weren’t perfect but should have been caught, and disappeared for large parts of games.
Davis finishes 2022 with these stats in 13 games played:
- 32 receptions (76th out of 80 WRs, min. 50 targets)
- 58 targets (70th)
- 55.2% catch rate (76th)
- 16.8 yards per reception (4th)
- 9.2 yards per target (17th)
- 1.35 yards per route run (56th)
- 3.6 YAC/reception (T-41st)
- 47.4% contested catch rate (9-for-19, 37th, league average is 47.1%)
- 8.6% drop rate (59th, league average is 5.7%)
- 87.5% first down rate (1st)
- 0.000 missed tackles forced per touch (T-77th)
- 5 penalties (75th), 0.0120 penalties per snap (77th)
- 83.7 targeted QB rating (61st)
Many of those per-snap numbers are among the worst in the league, but taking into account the absolutely horrific QB play he endured, Davis’s 9.2 yards per target, 16.8 yards per reception, and 87% first-down rate means that he made his catches matter. He still can be an asset in the passing game despite his continued drop issues.
Davis’s catch rate becomes less meaningful when you realize that Garrett Wilson‘s was 59.7% and Davis’s average depth of target was 14.5 yards; the reality is that the inaccuracy and off-target rate of the Jets’ QBs skewed all the catch stats for the Jets’ receivers.
Going into 2023, Davis’s $11.2 million cap hit with only $668K in dead cap makes him an obvious cut candidate. Some Jets fans are going to clamor for his release, as the Jets are short on cap space and have many roster needs. However, given Elijah Moore’s disappointing season and the poor seasons of Braxton Berrios and Denzel Mims, the team already needs at least one more reliable receiver. Can they find better than Davis as a No. 2 WR for $11.2 million?
Furthermore, the free-agent receiver market is not particularly robust. Are the likes of Sterling Shepard (coming off an ACL tear), D.J. Chark, Allen Lazard, Jakobi Meyers, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Jarvis Landry, Mecole Hardman, or Darius Slayton any better than Davis?
As far as going the draft route, the Jets have now drafted a receiver within the first two rounds of the draft in three consecutive seasons. Garrett Wilson has been a stud and is the favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Elijah Moore looked like a budding star as a rookie but regressed in 2022. Denzel Mims showed potential as a rookie but has clearly demonstrated that he is not a viable receiving option. Do the Jets want to dip into the well a fourth time that high in the draft, particularly with needs at both tackle positions, safety, possibly guard and center, defensive tackle, and linebacker?
Now, Davis’s injury history is obviously a significant problem. He has averaged 13 games played per season since entering the league and has played 22 combined games in his two seasons with the Jets, leaving early in several of them. Paying $11.2 million for approximately 11-13 games played per season is a little steep.
Still, moving on just for the sake of moving on is not wise unless the replacement has a legitimate chance of being an improvement. In this case, it is difficult to say that this will be the case.
What the Jets can possibly do with Davis is to restructure his contract by extending him to spread out his cap hit. This is far more likely than cutting him, in my opinion. This way, the Jets can still take advantage of Davis’s run-blocking and veteran presence while reducing their liability when his inevitable injuries take place.
I’m in the “cut him” camp. The $11.2m can be better allocated elsewhere, whether it’s helping to sign a vet QB or paying Q or other FA (OL, LB, S).
I do appreciate the veteran presence in the locker room angle, but GW will have a year under his belt, and Elijah two.
As far as replacement, I like Lazard. Haven’t delved into production comparison, but eye-test wise he is comparable and probably will cost less.
Looking at the catch rate numbers lends some sympathy for Elijah…a bad QB will def cost a WR money!
Corey Davis should probably remain on the roster. He is not a liability on offense. Moreover, with different (better QB play) he might return to the form which caused the Jets to sign him in the first place. Plus, as you noted, the Jets have many other needs deserving of resources so I would put the money into upgrading other positions.