The New York Jets need a spark in their wide receiver room, and they could find one in Sin City
With the NFL trade deadline just 11 days away, the New York Jets find themselves in an interesting position on the trade market.
In some ways, it can be argued the Jets should be sellers. They did just trade away Mecole Hardman and they have a few other expendable players who could be shopped (namely Carl Lawson). And with Aaron Rodgers probably out for the entire season, the Jets most likely are not going to be serious Super Bowl contenders, so some might suggest the Jets should load up for Rodgers’ return in 2024 instead of investing in a Rodgers-less team.
On the other hand, there are reasons to believe the Jets should be buyers.
Even without Rodgers, this is a team that has legitimate reason to believe it can make a run in the AFC. The Jets are 3-3 and sit just a half-game out of a playoff spot. They have wins over two of the league’s top four Super Bowl favorites (based on current FanDuel odds) along with a very narrow loss to a third team in that top four. Considering how they’ve performed despite an incredibly difficult schedule and various injuries, why shouldn’t the Jets believe they can make a run as the schedule eases up?
Most importantly, the Jets have witnessed signs of progress from quarterback Zach Wilson. The Jets will only go as far as Wilson takes them. With his recent improvements, there are real reasons to be optimistic that Wilson is on the verge of becoming the type of quarterback who can take New York to the playoffs.
And that brings us to the main argument in favor of why the Jets should be buyers at the trade deadline: supplementing Wilson’s development. If the Jets want to maximize Wilson’s odds of improving, they should spare no expense in strengthening the supporting cast around him.
To accomplish this goal, there are multiple areas the Jets could seek to upgrade.
The offensive line is a fantastic option considering the season-ending injury to Alijah Vera-Tucker and the uncertainty surrounding Joe Tippmann’s availability. Trading for an offensive lineman makes a lot of sense.
However, the Jets’ top priority should be upgrading their wide receiver position – perhaps the most underrated hole on the roster.
Of course, it always takes two to tango when it comes to proposing trades. You can’t just go around making offers for whoever you want like you’re using the Madden trade finder. Fortunately for the Jets, though, there is trouble brewing in Sin City – presenting the Jets with two very feasible trade options to pursue at the wide receiver position.
Raiders superstar Davante Adams is publicly complaining about his role in the offense, sending Jets fans into a tizzy.
Simple. Thank you brother https://t.co/vYiOGMyhQs
— Davante Adams (@tae15adams) October 19, 2023
While Adams is garnering the most attention, he is not the only wide receiver who is generating trade speculation. Hunter Renfrow has essentially been removed from Josh McDaniels’ offense. Renfrow has seen nine targets in six games and just played a career-low seven snaps in his most recent game. Reports indicate Las Vegas is open to dealing Renfrow.
ESPN insider says #Raiders have been willing to trade Hunter Renfrow “for the better part of the last year” but have been unwilling to absorb part of his contract to facilitate a trade…https://t.co/qEDZPrlDVG
— Raiders Beat (@RaidersBeat) October 20, 2023
This is a golden opportunity for New York to fill a sizable hole on offense and help accelerate Wilson’s development. Jets general manager Joe Douglas would be remiss if he did not at least make a phone call to Las Vegas about what it would take to get one of these players.
Adams is unquestionably the big prize, but if his price is out of control, it would still be a coup to fall back on Renfrow as a consolation prize.
First, let’s discuss why the Jets should explore adding a wide receiver at the trade deadline. Then, we’ll break down each of these two options, why they make sense, and what prices make sense for them.
Wide receiver is an overlooked problem for the Jets
Garrett Wilson is one of the best young wide receivers in football, but after him, the Jets have a lot of problems at this position.
Allen Lazard is the Jets’ No. 2 wide receiver at the moment. Personally, I do not think that is ideal. While Lazard is a fantastic blocker who has made some impressive catches this season, he is not an ideal No. 2 receiver because of his lackluster route running.
Lazard is playing 87% of the Jets’ offensive snaps this year but is only averaging 3.8 targets and 2.3 receptions per game. He makes the most of his targets, as he is averaging an impressive 9.1 yards per target, but the issue is that Lazard does not create separation at a high rate. This is what causes him to produce a low volume of targets and receptions despite a high number of snaps.
Lazard’s lack of separation skills as the Jets’ No. 2 receiver hurts the offense. There are plenty of reps where Lazard’s inability to separate forces Zach Wilson to continue through his reads. If the Jets face man coverage and Garrett Wilson is not open (whether he gets doubled or doesn’t win), the play is often dead in the water.
The chart below accurately summarizes what Lazard has shown on film this season. His above-average placement on the Y axis indicates he is doing a good job of maximizing his targets once the ball arrives (good at the catch point and good after the catch), but his significantly below-average placement on the X axis indicates he is doing a poor job of getting open.
After Wilson and Lazard, the Jets’ wide receiver room looks extremely thin. A unit that appeared deep going into training camp now looks barren. It all started with Corey Davis’ unexpected retirement prior to the season. Then, Mecole Hardman surprisingly turned out to be a complete non-factor in the offense and ended up getting traded just six weeks in.
Now, Randall Cobb is the Jets’ No. 3 wide receiver, which is an enormous problem. Cobb has been brutal this season, catching just 3-of-12 targets for 20 yards on 129 routes run. He ranks last out of 120 qualified wide receivers (min. 10 targets) with 0.16 yards per route run. Yet, Cobb has played 49% of the Jets’ offensive snaps. That’s a ton of wasted reps.
Undrafted rookie Xavier Gipson brings upside to the unit, but the Jets have been hesitant to utilize Gipson outside of gadget plays so far.
And… that’s about it. Now that Hardman is gone, the Jets are down to slim pickings beyond their top four of Wilson, Lazard, Cobb, and Gipson. The depth in case of an injury is alarming.
Wide receiver is an issue for the Jets – maybe even more so than the offensive line. The Jets need to add another weapon to stabilize the depth chart and put everyone in their ideal role.
Lazard has too much pressure on his shoulders as the clear-cut No. 2. Cobb is best suited to playing only a handful of third down snaps at most – he definitely shouldn’t be playing anywhere close to 49% of the snaps. Adding someone who can slide right into the top three of the depth chart would make the entire lineup look much better.
The lack of a second proven separator outside of Wilson is the unit’s biggest problem. Lazard brings great blocking and good skills at the catch point while Gipson is a shifty playmaker with the ball in his hands, but Wilson is the only player who can consistently beat one-on-one matchups. That makes the Jets a very easy offense to scheme against. Just take away Wilson and you’re golden.
New York needs another wide receiver who can win one-on-ones as a route-runner on a consistent basis. Either Adams or Renfrow would solve that problem.
As shown in the chart above, Adams and Renfrow are both above-average separators this season (not that you need any evidence that Adams is a stud in that department). Renfrow is on the low end when it comes to his production at the catch point this season, but considering he only has nine targets, that could be an aberration.
You know what Adams brings to the table. He’s an all-around star. Although he turned 30 earlier this year, Adams still appears to be at the top of his game. As for Renfrow, he is still only 27 years old and just two years removed from a season with 103 catches for 1,038 yards and nine touchdowns. Renfrow is a quality route-runner who brings the man-coverage-beating skills that New York’s wide receiver room currently lacks.
What would it take for the Jets to get one of these players?
Is Davante Adams realistic?
Adams, of course, is the dream prize. No overthinking is required to imagine how much he would benefit the Jets. If he joined forces with Garrett Wilson, they would arguably form the best wide receiver duo in the league. Both players possess all-around skill sets and would complement each other perfectly. They can run any route in the tree, snag difficult catches, and make plays after the catch.
It’s also easy to make the connection between Adams and the Jets due to Aaron Rodgers’ presence. Because of Rodgers, Adams would be an addition who could help the Jets beyond 2023. He’d likely be more than willing to come to New York and stay for the long haul. Adams could maximize the Jets’ odds of competing in 2023 and would still be around in 2024 and beyond to reunite with Rodgers, rekindling the elite connection they had in Green Bay.
But could the Jets actually get Adams?
That’s where it gets tricky. Trading for Adams sounds like a match made in heaven, but his contract makes things difficult.
Adams is in the second year of his five-year, $140 million contract, which includes $65.7 million guaranteed. Fitting him onto the cap sheet could be difficult for New York. Currently, the Jets have $5.75 million in cap space, per Over The Cap, which ranks 20th. In 2024, the Jets are currently projected to have $32.97 million in cap space, ranking 21st.
Adams is projected to have a $25.4 million cap hit in 2024. It rises to $44.1 million in 2025 and 2026.
We could spend all day diving into the nitty-gritty of how an Adams trade would work from a cap perspective, but I’ll spare you the boredom. The bottom line is this: Las Vegas and New York would have a lot to figure out just to make this thing work.
Then there is the discussion of Adams’ trade value. Las Vegas traded a first-round pick and a second-round pick in the 2022 draft to get Adams from Green Bay. You have to think the Raiders would like to at least recoup that value if they were to give up on Adams this early.
The Jets will have their first-round pick in 2024 since Rodgers will not hit the 65% snap threshold that was required to upgrade the pick, but they will still send their second-round pick to Green Bay. This means they do not have a second-round pick to trade until 2025.
Trading for Adams is an exciting proposition for the Jets. While not impossible, it would be quite difficult to pull off. Swinging a deal for Renfrow feels a lot more realistic.
Is Hunter Renfrow realistic?
Like Adams, Renfrow is under contract beyond 2023 and would be more than a one-year rental. Renfrow has a $13.1 million cap hit this season and is under contract for one more year; he is projected for a $13.7 million cap hit in 2024.
As indicated by the tweet shown earlier in this article, the Raiders have reportedly been hesitant to absorb part of Renfrow’s contract to facilitate a trade. This could make things difficult.
According to Spotrac, if the Raiders traded Renfrow this year, they would be on the hook for $18.26 million in dead money over the next two years. Based on what the reports are saying, it seems like the Raiders would want a trade partner to take on some of this money to trade Renfrow.
For New York, I think it would be worthwhile to eat some of that money to get a deal done. Renfrow is a solid player who has been miscast in Josh McDaniels’ offense. With his route-running skills, reliable hands (6 drops over the last 4 seasons), and playmaking after the catch, Renfrow would be an instant upgrade in the Jets offense.
Even with a downturn in his numbers since McDaniels arrived, Renfrow’s career production would still make him the clear-cut second-best wide receiver on New York’s roster.
Yards per route run, career:
- Garrett Wilson, 1.83
- Hunter Renfrow, 1.69
- Randall Cobb, 1.63
- Allen Lazard, 1.47
Drop rate, career:
- Garrett Wilson, 3.4%
- Hunter Renfrow, 4.2%
- Randall Cobb, 7.9%
- Allen Lazard, 9.0%
Missed tackles forced per reception, career:
- Garrett Wilson, 0.217
- Hunter Renfrow, 0.160
- Randall Cobb, 0.151
- Allen Lazard, 0.066
Renfrow is an ideal fit alongside the Jets’ weapons for many reasons.
With his route-running skills, Renfrow could become the Jets’ new secondary target in most passing concepts where the goal is to get a short-to-intermediate completion. Instead of reading Wilson-to-Lazard in a third-and-5 situation, Zach Wilson could read Wilson-to-Renfrow, which is much more likely to yield an open target. Lazard would become the third read (or fourth behind Tyler Conklin), lessening the negative impact of his separation woes.
Renfrow’s arrival could also benefit Lazard by putting him in a more ideal role for his skill set. Since the Jets would transfer many of Lazard’s short/intermediate routes to Renfrow, this would allow them to give Lazard more opportunities to make plays downfield, where he can maximize his size and strength. Vertical routes are where Lazard has done the most damage for the Jets this year.
Allen Lazard 2023 production by route type (Next Gen Stats)
- Go or Post (61 routes run): 5 catches on 6 targets for 106 yards, 1 TD – 1.74 yards per route run, 17.7 yards per target
- All others (133 routes run): 9 catches on 17 targets for 104 yards, 0 TD – 0.78 yards per route run, 6.1 yards per target
From an alignment standpoint, Renfrow would fit right into a Jets offense that likes to move its receivers around instead of pigeonholing them into specific roles.
Some might view Renfrow as a pure slot receiver, but he’s really not. While he certainly favors the slot, he is more than capable of lining up out wide and thriving from that position. He’s a versatile weapon who would give the Jets a multitude of options.
Back in his breakout 2021 season, Renfrow ran 36% of his routes from a wide alignment and 64% from the slot, and he was just as good from the outside as he was on the inside. Here is a comparison between Renfrow’s 2021 production when lined up out wide versus in the slot:
- Wide: 44 catches on 52 targets (85%) for 353 yards, 6 touchdowns, 0 interceptions (133.4 passer rating), +12.0% catch rate over expected, 0.35 EPA per target
- Slot: 55 catches on 72 targets (76%) for 643 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception (111.1 passer rating), +5.3% catch rate over expected, 0.42 EPA per target
Among wide receivers with at least 50 targets from a wide alignment, Renfrow ranked first in passer rating when targeted (133.4) and catch rate over expected (+12.0%).
Las Vegas’ decision to use Renfrow outside less often is one of the main reasons why he has not been as successful under Josh McDaniels. Since McDaniels took over, Renfrow has run just 13% of his routes from the outside.
Wilson and Lazard have both rotated between the slot and the outside this season. With Renfrow in the mix, the Jets would have another receiver who is capable of playing both positions, giving them the ability to throw a multitude of different looks at the defense.
All in all, I believe Renfrow would take the Jets offense to a new level in 2023 while helping to give Zach Wilson a better chance to succeed. Considering the potential value he’d offer, I think it would be worthwhile for the Jets to find a reasonable middle ground with Las Vegas on contract terms. Now that Davis and Hardman are gone, why not pony up a few extra million to strengthen the supporting cast around the quarterback?
As for trade compensation, it shouldn’t take much to get the deal done if New York can agree with Las Vegas on the contract terms. A fifth or sixth-round pick should get it done.
That’s just my take on it, though. We shall see if Joe Douglas and the Jets agree.
If the Jets can somehow make it work with Davante Adams, they should go for it, by all means. But in the more likely scenario where Adams is not on the table, they should think hard about making an offer for Renfrow prior to the October 31 trade deadline.
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