New York Jets – Initial Thoughts On Wide Receiver Position

Joe Caporoso with initial thoughts on free agent wide receivers and the New York Jets likely to be back in 2014

One of the positions the New York Jets desperately need to upgrade at this off-season is wide receiver. There is a tremendously deep class of talented pass catchers in the NFL Draft, which we will get into heavily the next three months here at Turn On The Jets. However, I wanted to quickly review my thoughts on the current Jets receivers who will be back in 2014 and on potential free agent targets for the team. As always, leave your opinions down in the comment section or shoot them over on Twitter.

2013 Wide Receivers Who Won’t Be Back

Santonio Holmes

2013 Wide Receivers Who Will Be Fighting For Roster Spots

Greg Salas: An intriguing receiver who made some plays in the middle of the season (8 receptions on 13 targets,  143 receiving yards, 17.9 yards per catch). Clearly Marty Mornhinweg saw something he liked in Philadelphia and now has him back in his offense in New York. Salas has a nice combination of size (6’2, 209 pounds) and speed but has bounced around the league for a reason. It will be interesting to see if he can put together a productive summer and make a big enough impression to stick on the roster. From the limited tape I’ve seen on him, he needs to be more consistent with his route running and fighting through physical coverage. Salas also logged 21 special team snaps last season. If he can further develop a role there, it increases his chances of sticking around.

Clyde Gates: The Jets seem to like his speed and potential. However, we’ve seen the same book on Gates the past two seasons. He has inconsistent hands, no ability to attack the football, a weak feel for running routes and finding soft spots on the defense and ultimately looks like a fast guy who has no concept of how to be a NFL receiver. Salas probably has more long term potential. It would not be surprising if we’ve seen the last of Gates in New York.

Saalim Hakim: A pure burner who played a little offense and special teams in the final few games of the season. He will be fighting an uphill battle next summer.

Stephen Hill: Yes, Stephen Hill. Before the alarm bells go off in the comment section, Hill is more than likely to stick on the roster as a 5th or 6th receiver. The team invested a second round pick on him only a couple of seasons ago and there is still intriguing size and speed there. However, Hill could easily find himself buried behind Jeremy Kerley, David Nelson, a high draft pick and a free agent signing on the depth chart and offers no special teams value, which 5th or 6th receivers usually need to do. There won’t be a ton of hesitance to release Hill or look at trades for him from this staff, who didn’t draft him if he continues to struggle with consistency on the field and his health. We saw much of the same from Hill in year two that we saw in year one. He had one monster game against one cornerback from the Bills and did just about nothing besides that. Hill cannot handle physical corners, doesn’t attack the ball at the highest point and struggles with overall consistency catching the football. Is his NFL career hopeless? That is an overstatement but if you think he is hitting the switch and turning into a capable every down player next season, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

2013 Receivers Who Will Be Back

Jeremy Kerley: Maybe I’m overstating it slightly but I think you if you swapped out Jeremy Kerley and Wes Welker in Denver the production wouldn’t be all that different. The point is Kerley would truly flourish with consistent quarterbacking, a pair of weapons outside of him and a strong pass catching tight end. Despite having none of that the past two years, he has been productive and remains a rarity on the Jets: a solid, good all-around offensive football player. Considering they will be breaking in a new draft pick and a new free agent, Kerley will likely function as a hybrid slot/#2 receiver for most of next season, as he does have the ability to line up outside. With a hopefully improved Geno Smith and better weapons around him, 2014 should be a big year for Kerley. Hopefully, the Jets extend his contract now and don’t let him hit the open market.

David Nelson: Played very well for the team down the stretch this season. Nelson is a versatile, consistent receiver who isn’t flashy but is more than adequate as a 3rd or 4th receiver. He is capable of stepping in to start for a week or two if there are injuries. It was a savvy decision to lock him into a two year deal. Depth is important and Nelson provides that.

Potential Free Agent Targets

Golden Tate: An ascending player who projects to plateau as a very good 1B receiver. He is tough, knows how to attack the football, and runs exceptionally well after the catch. Tate can also provide very good production on punt return. Obviously, John Idzik is familiar with him from their time together in Seattle. If Percy Harvin can get healthy this post-season, it increases the chances of Seattle letting Tate walk. The Jets should take a long look at Tate and see what the price tag shakes out to being.

Eric Decker: Most think he will return to Denver but if he does leave, is certainly worth consideration. It is fair to wonder how productive he will be away from Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas yet Decker has good physical tools (6’3, 214 pounds) and is a very, very good route runner. Decker is another guy who projects to plateauing as being a solid 1B receiver.

Jeremy Maclin: Similar to Decker, it sounds like he will be returning to his current team. Maclin might have been able to be had on the cheap coming off an injury. He is an explosive player but he still needs to work back from his surgery. If he doesn’t go back to Philadelphia, he already knows Marty Mornhinweg’s offense and would provide an immediate big play element to the Jets offense.

Emmanuel Sanders: A somewhat disappointing 2013 season may lower his price tag on the open market. Sanders has good speed but is inconsistent catching the football and with his route running at times. Personally, I think he is a clear cut below the three players listed above but will come at a friendlier price tag. Sanders may be better suited to be a number 2/3 part time receiver than a full time player on the outside.

James Jones: Similar to Decker, fair to wonder how he’ll produce away from his elite quarterback. He did have solid games with Matt Flynn under center this season, which will help his value on the open market. Jones is a bigger target than Sanders and is more of a natural big play receiver. Despite both likely being in the same contract range, Jones should be the preferred target.

Julian Edelman: Floating under the radar in this FA class. We pushed hard for the Jets to consider him last off-season but the Patriots smartly retained him and looked what happened. Edelman runs crisp routes, catches everything thrown at him and makes plays after the catch. He is also a very good punt returner. He is a good enough football player to move around the formation and not just be confined to the slot.

Anquan Boldin: At this point of his career, he may want to go to a more “proven” contender than the Jets but he wouldn’t be a bad option on a 1 or 2 year deal. Boldin can still be productive and would be an ideal teammate for a rookie receiver and Stephen Hill.

Hakeem Nicks: Declining production on the field, an inability to stay healthy and attitude issues. He feels like the type of player somebody like the Raiders will vastly overpay and he will never live up to the contract. I’d stay away.

Kenny Britt: Can’t stay healthy and can’t stay out of trouble. I wouldn’t bring him back to New Jersey and give him any type of commitment.

Dexter McCluster: Intriguing gadget player who would bring versatility to Jets offense and special teams.

Jacoby Jones: Hasn’t proven he can be a #2 receiver yet but an explosive kick returner and can bring big play capability to an offense.

Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the VP of Social Media at Whistle Sports

  • Sean F.

    Hakeem Nicks is only 25. He’s a beast when he’s healthy. I think he has alot of good years left and would be perfect. Probably can come cheaper due to his down year.

  • Joe Caporoso

    Over the past 2 seasons: 109 receptions on 202 targets, 794 yards receiving per season, 3 total TDs, 4 missed games, attitude issues…I’ll pass

  • Matthew P

    I believe Maclin or Tate would be perfect fits for this team. Either of them paired with Kerley are real solid 2 and 3s. Im giving Hill one more season to show me something, if not cut him. We DESPERATELY need that Calvin Johnson-esque receiver to grab those jump balls and make big plays. Either FA or the draft we MUST come up big with one of these guys. I have faith in Idzik, he cares, and wants to see this team win.

    Only time will tell

  • Lidman

    Nicks won’t come cheap. There is a market for a #1 WR: NE, NYJ, Balt, Indy, Tenn, Oak, Wash, StL and Car all come to mind. I don’t know what all their cap situations are, but all it takes is one: see Miami and Mike Wallace.

    As for Hill, Joe, you are probably right that he won’t live up to his lofty draft slot, but early on I thought he played well in the 1st NE game, made tough catches, over the middle, on the gw drive v Atl and made a great grab, and held on, after getting drilled by Polamalu.

    Remember, ‘Collision Low Crossers’ when Ryan was describing Kenrick Ellis (“there are than many guys that size on the planet”)? Simialarly, there aren’t that many guys that tall and fast on the planet. Go look at the number VJax put up his first 3 full seasons and remember when this guy was a bust:

    That said, this is a position of need and should be addressed at least twice in the draft, as well as investigating trade and FA options. I don’t seeing adding Golden Tate, at 5’10” to a WR group that already has J Kerley. Tate gets a lot of big plays, off of R Wilson broken plays. I continue to look at the top 20 WR, by yardage the large majority are big guys. I don’t want to tie up a lot of cap space in a guy like Tate.

  • The dude abides

    Nicks would be a Tanny FA pick up thats for sure. Ugh I pray the jets don’t go for him. He’s 25 going on 40 with the way his play is descending. I would love me some Decker and or James Jones. With these options in the FA kinda makes me think Jets should go Oline in the draft. Idk whats out there in the draft in terms of O line though, or FA for that matter.

  • murdock

    i dont see alot of these guys coming to NY,, maybe edelman,, decker, minnesota , clean cut boy, wont come here,,nicks can still play and is motivated to stay local,, that would be my guess, and we only get one, so dont be choosy

  • Frank

    Best route for 2014 is to get one good quality route runner (Maclin,Tate, Decker) and invest a few picks into WR’s. Looks like we’ll have 11 or 12 picks this year, so spending 1 or 2 on WR’s is not a big investment with such a huge need. No sense in breaking the bank for flashy free agent receivers, when there are other void’s (Safety,OLB, Cornerback) that need to be filled with that dinero.

  • Dan


    -Edelman would be a good-to-great pickup but I don’t see the Patriots letting him go with so much uncertainty surrounding their receivers.

    -Tate’s after-the-catch ability makes him a very intriguing prospect in a west coast system and easier to evaluate away from his very good qb.

    -Aside from having one of the coolest names in the NFL, Dexter McCluster, is at the very least an electric special teamer. Put him in the right place and I think you could get a lot out of him.

  • Lidman

    I respect Edelman, but do NYJ fans not believe Kerley would be as effective in that offense, with Brady?

    As for Tate, his career high for receptions is 64,this year. W/Russell Wilson. Kerley has 56 last yr, and 43 this tr, missing 4 games. Sorry, I don’t see how Tate is. Big difference maker.

  • Bruce Harper

    1. It will be very easy to upgrade at WR, but Idzik has to overcome his natural inclination to pay less and get us a real weapon.
    2. What you said about Hill is not an overstatement. He is a freakish athlete but he cant seem to get open. What is scary is that his numbers actually IMPROVED this year over his rookie year. So it’s not like he doesn’t have chemistry with Geno. He’s not really a football player. In two years, he has a total of 397 against TNNB (teams not named Buffalo.) He had two TDs in his first game and has since had 2 more TDs. Lets not do another Ducasse! Just cut players who can’t play. Also, was anything wong with David Nelson? He was good!

  • Bobby H.

    The draft is filled with pro-ready receivers. The Jets should look closely at both Clemson receivers, Martavious Bryant and especially Sammy Watkins. He is worth moving up to get, after his showing in the Orange Bowl. Kelvin Benjamin also deserves a hard look.

  • Steven Windeler

    This has turned out to be a perfect draft for our needs, along with our bevy of picks. I’ll be upset if we don’t take at least one full sized WR, and a TE in the first 3 rounds. Then another full sized flanker by the fourth,and a returner/slot guy later. I count 15 WRs that should have a 2nd round or higher grade. That means there should be great value in the middle rounds. Receivers are a crapshoot, and we need to play the odds. Hill is a great athlete, but he just doesn’t seem to have the instincts. I’d also go all in for Bolden, or Macklin. Then sign a FA guard or two, and a 3rd down back. If we do all of this I think we’re an instant contender.

  • KAsh

    Going into the draft with Hill/Nelson, FA wideout, and Kerley as your top three guys seems like a decent option. That way, you are not forced to draft a wide receiver, although it is advisable. For the free agents, after Maclin and Tate, I would look into Britt. The injuries are the big turnoff, but nothing fixes an attitude like getting fired or makes it vanish faster than producing on the field. After all, no one can claim that Tate does not have attitude; it is just called “swagger” when it is directed at opponents and comes with an impressive box score.

  • Mark Phelan

    Don’t you think a stud at TE will make life for the WR’s so much easier?

    Let’s teach Hill something other than a crossing and/or post pattern.

    #1 priority for new WR: limber hamstrings please!

  • Geronimo

    Off topic, but it has been awhile since the Jets had a good TE. I have to say I’m tired of it…

    Mitchell, Brady, Becht… A few other guys… Mulligan… Oh man…

    Damn it all to hell. How long has it been?

  • Geronimo

    Keller too…

  • Lidman

    Kash, what are Tate’s ‘impressive box scores’?

    One of the many criticisms of S Hill (most of them deserved) is: ‘take out his games v Buffalo and look at how much worse his stats look’. This is very true.

    Well when you take out Tate’s 2 games v St Louis, this year, where he accounted for 20.3% of his receptions, 24.7% of his rec yardage and 3 of his 5 TDs and again, I don’t see how this guy is such a game changer. He beats up on Janoris Jenkins.

    Kerley 42 games, 128 rec, 1664yds 6 TDs
    Tate 58 games, 164 rec, 2195yds 15 TDs

    One guy has had Russell Wilson throwing to him for the last 2yrs and the PA threat of Marshawn Lynch. The other guy..we all know.

    Sorry, if you have to guarantee Golden Tate, a 5’10” mid 4.5s guy, 10-15mm guaranteed, I’ll pass and pay Kerley half that, in guarantees.

  • Harold

    Nicks, Maclin or Anquan Boldin. Whoever is left having to settle for below market deal I would grab them. Obviously Maclin is most likely to be that guy so he is my most likely. Then Nicks and finally Boldin in likely hood of signing.

  • David

    Here’s my thing on the WR’s: If you look at the NFL this season, there were a bunch of WR’s, ones that I wouldn’t necessarily call “elite” who had pretty good seasons and it begs the question, “Is it really the WR’s or is it our inconsistent QB situation?” For example:

    1)Kendrall Wright (TEN)– 94 Rec. 1,079 yards, 2 TD’s

    2)Harry Douglas (ATL)– 85 Rec. 1,067 yards, 2 TD’s

    3)Julian Edelman (NE)– 105 Rec. 1,056 yards, 6 TD’s

    4)Keenan Allen (SD, rookie)– 71 Rec. 1,046 yards, 8 TD’s

    5)Michael Floyd (ARZ)– 65 Rec., 1,041 yards, 5 TD’s

    6)Brian Hartline (MIA)– 76 Rec. 1,016 yards, 4 TD’s

  • Lidman

    Wright and Floyd are former 1st round picks, who are developing. Douglas was really force fed the ball b/c of injuries to Jones and White, Edelman replaced Welker and was Brady’s only consistent target this year. Allen was a 1st round talent who fell b/c of injury issues, at Cal, in ’12. Hartline is one of those guys who simply worked to become a decent NFL WR..ala Chrebet or Welker.

    Geno was a rookie, so expecting him to lift the play of below avg WR seems a bit unfair, to me.

  • David

    But Lidman, are you going to call any of those guys “elite?” It isn’t like we are talking Calvin Johnson, Josh Gordon, or someone of that nature.

    I think the whole WR thing is an excuse for underachieving players on the NY Jets.

  • KAsh

    David, no one is elite after just one 1,000 yard season. Those receivers were surrounded with elite or HoF talent, with the exception of Hartline in Miami, who just became the go-to receiver for Tannehill. All of those receivers had a good season and some are maybe developing into elite players. But to think that our offensive problems can solve themselves is plain optimistic.