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 EVP of Content at Whistle Sports