The New York Jets must search for value on the free agent WR market
With Corey Davis and Braxton Berrios being potential cap-casualties, the New York Jets could be in the market for a wide receiver this offseason. Bringing back Davis could be a possibility, but due to his injury concerns, the Jets might look elsewhere.
This offseason’s free agent wide receiver market isn’t the greatest, but there are a few names that could help the Jets’ offense. We’ll look at five names that could find themselves in Green & White to start the 2023 season.
5. Allen Lazard, Green Bay Packers
Allen Lazard isn’t a flashy name but he continues to produce.
Unlike the next three players listed, Lazard isn’t a great deep threat. What he is, however, is an incredibly versatile player. Lazard has the ability to line up anywhere on the field, whether that be in the backfield, in the slot, in-line, or out wide. He also has a knack for the endzone with 14 touchdown receptions over the last two seasons.
Lazard is fifth on this list for a reason, and that’s because there is no ‘wow’ factor. You know what you’re getting with him. Lazard reminds me of JuJu Smith-Schuster in that he’s a reliable player, especially in clutch situations. However, he is not an elite separator against man or zone coverage.
With all that being said, if the Jets were able to land Aaron Rodgers, Lazard could be a name linked to the Jets. Familiarity is huge with Rodgers – just look at Randall Cobb – and the versatility Lazard provides could be useful for the Jets’ offense.
4. DJ Chark, Detroit Lions
DJ Chark has shown the potential to be an elite wide receiver. Back in 2019, he made the Pro Bowl in just his second season, catching 73 passes for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns with the Jaguars. The biggest problem with Chark has been injuries, as he has missed 22 games over the past three seasons.
Chark excels at intermediate routes, has an incredible catch radius on deep balls, and has the ability to beat man and zone coverage at nearly a 70-percent clip.
Chark has never played a full season in the NFL. To me, he’s similar to a (slightly) younger version of Corey Davis.
With Davis possibly gone and Chark falling short on his prove-it deal in Detroit, it’s possible that Chark could find himself on the Jets for a fairly cheap contract.
Chark’s injury history is a valid concern, but if he’s able to stay healthy, he has the potential to be an elite WR.
3. Mecole Hardman, Kansas City Chiefs
Mecole Hardman was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs with the 56th overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft. While he’s won two Super Bowls with the Chiefs, he’s been nothing more than an afterthought in a disappointing tenure.
Hardman has put up underwhelming receiving numbers in Kansas City, but he’s graded out fairly well in Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception, a WR-grading tool that I consider one of the best in the industry.
Now, I don’t consider Hardman to be an elite WR going forward. But with his 4.33 speed, he could open up the Jets’ offense, especially if offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett implements a form of the K-Gun offense.
It’s unlikely Hardman returns to the Chiefs in 2023. His projected market value is $10.3 million at Spotrac, which is a little steep, but it’s unlikely he commands as much as suggested. For the right price, he could be a solid addition to the Jets.
2. Darius Slayton, New York Giants
Darius Slayton has had an interesting career. After starting out strong as a rookie (48 catches, 740 yards, and eight touchdowns), his sophomore year saw stagnation as he nearly mimicked his rookie season with 50 catches for 751 yards and three touchdowns.
Then, for some reason, he was put in the doghouse by then-coach Joe Judge. Despite the inexplicable lack of playing time, Slayton never complained, even though as a fifth-round player, it could have signaled the end of his career.
After the 2021 season, Judge was fired, and Slayton was reinserted into the lineup following a litany of problems with the Giants’ WR group. Slayton continued his steady career production, catching 46 balls for 724 yards and two touchdowns.
Slayton has proven to be a big-play receiver dating back to his rookie season, where he had over a 60.7% success rate on Go routes. His deep prowess could be huge for the Jets’ offense.
Perhaps it’s his draft pedigree (Slayton was taken in the fifth round in 2019). Perhaps it’s the lack of “jump” in production after his rookie season. But Slayton is overlooked far more often than he deserves to be.
Like Mecole Hardman listed above, I don’t expect Slayton to be an elite receiver. Unlike Hardman, however, Slayton does have the potential to be more than a replacement-level player. On top of that, his projected Spotrac market value is incredibly cheap at $3.5 million per year (though I believe he gets a larger contract this offseason).
1. Jakobi Meyers, New England Patriots
Signing Jakobi Meyers seems unlikely for the Jets, but he is easily the best wide receiver on the open market this offseason. While the other names on this list are potential WR3 options, Meyers could be more of an Elijah Moore replacement rather than being the third wheel in the Jets’ passing attack.
Meyers has been an incredibly underrated separator throughout his career, even prior to his 2022 “breakout” campaign. The numbers below are from the 2020 season.
Jakobi Meyers finished with a 72.6% success rate vs. man coverage last year, placing him at the 80th percentile. Solid scores against man and zone as well. Really underrated separator that #ReceptionPerception has ranked higher than consensus.
— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) August 20, 2021
Meyers can play inside and out, but played a majority of his snaps in 2022 in the slot.
Acquiring Meyers would not only add a great receiving element to the offense, but it’d allow the Jets to move on from Elijah Moore (if that’s their plan going forward) without hindering the passing attack.
Being in a not-so-pass-happy Patriots offense, Meyers’ production has gone under the radar. The Jets will be hoping that lack of hype equals a lower cost on the open market.
Not to be ridiculous, but what do you think about targeting Kenny Golladay as a low-cost replacement for Corey Davis? Clearly the last two years have gone terribly, but the Jets will have a need (and snaps) for a bigger receiver in run-first sets — not sure how he is as a blocker, but I’m guessing there aren’t many better options that are younger than 30 and would cost <$3mm.