Home | Articles | Analytics | How NY Jets can build the perfect free agent WR combo

How NY Jets can build the perfect free agent WR combo

Odell Beckham
Odell Beckham Jr.

Going big is not a requirement for the New York Jets to solve their WR problem

The start of legal tampering is only two days away, and all eyes in Florham Park are on the quickly dwindling wide receiver market. With names like Mike Evans, Tee Higgins, and Michael Pittman Jr. already off the board (in addition to the Raiders seemingly squashing any chance of a Davante Adams trade), the New York Jets are already running out of options if they’re looking for a star wideout to pair with Garrett Wilson.

Calvin Ridley is still set to test the market, and there are some intriguing names who could potentially be acquired via trade, including Mike Williams and Courtland Sutton. All hope is not yet lost.

However, with so many other teams expected to pursue the same players, the financial and/or trade costs of these options could skyrocket to levels that the Jets cannot afford to match due to their litany of holes. For that reason, the Jets may end up looking at the lower tiers of the wide receiver market to address their lack of depth at the position.

In my opinion, I think the Jets’ best solution at wide receiver would be to sign two veteran players who can combine to replicate the impact of a star receiver for a lower cost. The ideal way to do this would be to add two players with differing skill sets that complement one another.

I foresee the Jets seeking to add one short-range/slot receiver and one deep-range/vertical receiver. Together, these two players can fill most of the holes that plagued the receiver room in 2023. If they play well enough, they could combine for the same production that New York would have hoped to get out of a star, saving cap space and/or draft picks all the while.

It’s possible the Jets could sign one receiver and wait until the draft to add more, but after Aaron Rodgers notoriously struggled to build chemistry with young receivers during his final season in Green Bay, I think Rodgers is going to push the Jets to fill out the room with as many veterans as possible. This is why I see the 2-WR free agency plan as a very realistic possibility.

Without further ado, here are four free agent wide receivers who I believe would be strong fits for what the Jets are looking for at the position. We’ll sort them into two groups: short/slot receivers and vertical receivers. The Jets should aim to add one player from each group.

Short/slot

Tyler Boyd

Rivka Boord already did an extensive breakdown on Boyd that you can check out here. The bottom line is that he is an experienced, steady slot receiver who has been providing the Bengals with reliable short-game production for his whole eight-year career.

Boyd is not your typical slot receiver at 6-foot-2 and 203 pounds. He uses his big frame to box out defenders for tough catches over the middle. Boyd has a career contested catch rate of 50.5%. The league average for wide receivers is usually around 42-45%.

In addition, Boyd has tremendous hands. He only has 22 drops in eight seasons while making 513 receptions. His career drop rate of 4.1% is well below the 2023 league average (6.5%).

Boyd is going to turn 30 this November and is coming off his least productive season since 2017. These factors could lower his price range into a ballpark that makes sense for the Jets. Pro Football Focus projects Boyd will earn a two-year deal for $8.3 million per season, while Spotrac values him at $8.7 million.

That is an ideal price range for the Jets. At that cost, they could sign another similarly valued receiver and still end up allocating less cap space to the position than many star receivers would cost by themselves – particularly Calvin Ridley, whose market is probably going to explode now that he is the clear-cut WR1 on the open market.

Boyd’s production dip in 2023 is concerning, but the Bengals’ entire offense struggled due to Joe Burrow’s injuries and a poor offensive line. Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins also had down years, which makes Boyd’s decline less concerning. Boyd remains an intriguing fit for the Jets’ slot role.

Kendrick Bourne

I broke down Bourne in-depth here. Like Boyd, Bourne is another player who has provided reliability in the short game throughout his career.

Bourne isn’t a pure slot receiver like Boyd is. Boyd has played 81% of his career routes out of the slot while Bourne’s rate is just 36%. Bourne offers great outside/inside versatility. Still, despite his tendency to align outside quite often, Bourne does most of his work in the short range. His career average depth of target is only 9.8 yards, not far off from Boyd’s 8.8.

Bourne offers average hands (6.4% career drop rate), slightly above-average contested catching (47.6% career contested catch rate), and above-average YAC (5.1 career YAC per reception). He also graded as an above-average separator in 2023 according to this PFF chart. He is a solid player in many aspects.

Yes, Bourne may be an extremely un-flashy player at (soon to be) 29 years old with a 4.68 forty time, but he is a jack of all trades even if he is a master of none. Bourne can step right in and do his job better than at least half of the league’s receivers in just about all aspects of the short-to-intermediate game. That would be a huge upgrade for a Jets team that dealt with league-worst WR production outside of Garrett Wilson.

Bourne’s age, lack of flashy traits, low ceiling, and recovery from an ACL injury (which he will return from this summer) will likely lower his value to a number that is appealing for what he brings to the table. PFF is projecting him at $7 million per year while Spotrac has him at $4.8 million. If he falls somewhere between those two numbers, Bourne is an enticing short-game option for the Jets thanks to his ability to perform at a reliable level in many aspects of the position.

Vertical

Odell Beckham Jr.

Odell Beckham Jr.’s market got out of hand in 2023. The Ravens overpaid him at $15 million to pry him away from the Jets at the last minute, and they did not get their money’s worth. Beckham finished with 35 receptions for 565 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games.

While he did not live up to his contract, it’s not as if Beckham showed himself to be a washed-up player who no longer has value. At the right price, I think he can still be a useful player for any NFL team, including the Jets.

Beckham’s lack of volume was the main reason his 2023 stat line ended up being disappointing, as he only managed to catch 2.5 passes per game, a career-low. However, Beckham was an efficient big-play producer when called upon. He averaged a career-high 16.1 yards per reception and generated either a first down or a touchdown on 42.2% of his targets, which is better than his career average of 39.3%.

Most of Beckham’s production with the Ravens came through the air. Beckham averaged 11.7 air yards per reception, which ranked 11th out of the 82 wide receivers with at least 30 receptions. He was one spot ahead of D.K. Metcalf (11.3) and one spot behind Mike Evans (11.8).

The OBJ of old is long gone, but this version of the former 12th overall pick can still provide value as a low-volume, high-efficiency downfield threat. This would make him a perfect fit alongside someone like Boyd or Bourne with the Jets.

After a disappointing year in Baltimore, Beckham’s price should drop to a level that is more realistic. PFF projects he will sign for $7 million on a one-year deal. I see him landing in that ballpark.

If Beckham lands around the $7 million mark, the Jets should absolutely look to see if he’s still as interested in coming to New York as he was last year.

Josh Reynolds

Reynolds, who recently turned 29, has established himself as one of the league’s most efficient complementary receivers since he joined the Lions in 2021.

Since joining Detroit, Reynolds has caught 97-of-159 targets for 1,393 yards and 10 touchdowns. That’s over 38 games, but from a per-target standpoint, it looks like the stat line of a star receiver. While Reynolds isn’t good enough of a separator to demand targets all game long on a weekly basis, he comes through when he gets his opportunities.

Like Beckham, Reynolds did a lot of his damage through the air. Among 82 qualified WRs in 2023, Reynolds ranked 15th with 10.9 air yards per reception, four spots behind Beckham. Reynolds was especially dominant in the intermediate range (10-19 yards downfield), catching 21-of-32 intermediate targets for 380 yards and four touchdowns.

Reynolds is not a burner, but he uses his 6-foot-3 frame to make tough catches down the field at a tremendous rate. This is something Reynolds wasn’t great at earlier in his career with the Rams, but he’s figured out how to maximize his size over the past two seasons, and it’s the main reason he became such a key part of Detroit’s offense. Since 2022, Reynolds has snagged an incredible 14-of-22 contested catches (63.6%). His career rate prior to 2022 was 36.5%.

Reynolds has always offered steady hands, owning a career drop rate of 5.2%.

PFF is projecting Reynolds to earn $5.3 million per year while Spotrac has him at $7 million.

If the Jets can come away with any combination of Bourne/Boyd plus Beckham/Reynolds for a combined cost of around $15 million per year or less, I think it would be a phenomenal outcome. It would be a wise usage of cap space that leaves ample room for improving the offensive line, and the Jets would be three-deep at wide receiver with veterans whom Rodgers can trust.

Most importantly, with these specific players, the Jets would be adding complementary skill sets that make the offense well-rounded. A vertical threat like Beckham or Reynolds can force defenses to back off and yield space underneath, creating more room for a short threat like Bourne or Boyd to operate. The compatibility would allow for excellent per-target efficiency out of both players – Rodgers can pick and choose who to target based on what the defense gives him.

And if all goes well, having not one but two successful complementary receivers would prevent defenses from double-covering Garrett Wilson, allowing him to carve up one-on-one matchups all game long.

Want More Jet X?

Subscribe to become a Jet X Member to unlock every piece of Jets X-Factor content (film breakdowns, analytics, Sabo with the Jets, etc.), get audio versions of each article, receive the ability to comment within our community, and experience an ad-free platform experience.

Download the free Jet X Mobile App to get customizable notifications directly to your iOS (App Store) or Android (Google Play) device.

Sign up for Jet X Daily, our daily newsletter that's delivered to your inbox every morning at 8:00 a.m. ET.

Add Jets X-Factor to your Google News feed and/or find us on Apple News to stay updated with the New York Jets.

Follow us on X (Formerly Twitter) @jetsxfactor for all the latest New York Jets news, Facebook for even more, Instagram for some of the top NY Jets images, and YouTube for original Jets X-Factor videos.

Related Articles

About the Author

More From Author

Comments

3 2 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
0
REPLY TO THIS ARTICLE HERE:x
()
x