The honeymoon is over for New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh after a six-game losing streak ended a potential playoff run in 2022.
Now, it could be postseason or bust next year and to get there, he and general manager Joe Douglas will have to make some tough decisions this spring and summer. With several roster needs — including an established quarterback — and not as much cap space as in previous offseasons, cuts are coming and underperforming veterans are the target.
With that thought in mind, Jets X-Factor film analyst Michael Nania broke down every potential roster cut in 2023, ranking them based on likelihood. In the end, his most probable cap casualty was wide receiver and 2021 All-Pro returner Braxton Berrios, who was not nearly as good after re-signing with the franchise last March.
Jets Analyst Rips ‘Sunk Cost’ Braxton Berrios, Recommends Release
“Braxton Berrios is the most likely player on the entire team to either be released or restructured,” Nania began. “There is no imaginable way Berrios returns with a whopping $8.2 million cap hit after the wildly disappointing season he put forth.”
He continued, reasoning: “Berrios’ dead money total of $3.2 million makes me think the Jets might try to get him back on a reduced cap number. If they are going to be paying him $3.2 million anyway, I could see them trying to get him to agree on a deal that brings him back at a minimal cost if they love him that much. However, I think it is more likely the Jets just accept the sunk cost and happily take the $5 million in savings.”
Just about everyone wanted Berrios back for his ability as a returner and offensive safety net last year, but the All-Pro tag upped his value. In the end, Douglas gave in to fans and rewarded his former waiver claim gem.
Unfortunately, the contract blew up in Gang Green’s face. After a career-season in 2021 as both a returner and slot receiver, Berrios’ encore performance was 145 receiving yards and a miserable 56.3% catch rate. He also dropped back down to earth with average returning numbers after an insane 30.4 yards per kick return a season ago (23.1 this year, zero touchdowns).
Berrios did have two rushing touchdowns and 91 yards on the ground, but aside from that, it was a forgettable campaign. With a new play-caller coming in, the shifty slot-man might not be a scheme fit on offense anymore which makes him an above average returner making a $5.5 million base salary ($8.2M cap hit) in 2023.
That’s what many would call being grossly overpaid. Nania obviously agreed.
“After how he played in 2022, it’s questionable whether he is even rosterable on a league-minimum contract,” the Jets X-Factor writer criticized, concluding: “Paying him $3.2 million to go away seems to make more sense than keeping him around at that price or higher.”
Jets Analyst Comes to Unexpected Conclusion on Potentially Cutting WR Corey Davis
Speaking of veteran wide receivers that could be cut, Corey Davis is a popular one around the NYJ community. The former first-round pick of the Tennessee Titans has never lived up to expectations whether in Nashville or New York.
Heading into 2023, many fans have already begun crossing his name off their depth chart with a big red sharpie. Not so fast, cautioned Nania, listing Davis in the “toss-up” section of his article.
“In the final year of a three-year deal, the Jets can release Davis with almost no dead money while clearing $10.5 million in space,” Nania explained. “I’m just not entirely sure the Jets will view it as worthwhile to release Davis. Can they replicate his impact with $10.5 million?”
The veteran wideout does have an understated impact in the run game as a blocker, and Saleh’s coaching staff appears to love his leadership around youngsters like Elijah Moore, Garrett Wilson and Denzel Mims. Having said that, could Davis be replaced by a more affordable role player?
“In a booming wide receiver market, Davis’ 2023 cap hit of $11.2 million is reasonable. It is currently poised to rank 30th among wide receivers and will drop quite a few spots down the list once more contracts are signed this offseason,” Nania continued, making a solid case that this was a steal of a contract by Douglas.
He pointed to less productive wide receivers like Russell Gage and DJ Chark around the league that are making just as much money, or close to it. In the end, Nania concluded that Davis is “properly paid,” calling him an “elite run-blocker” and a solid third-down receiver that has been hampered by poor quarterback play.
However, the Jets X-Factor film expert did admit that cutting him is still a possibility because of the new offensive coordinator and Davis’ durability issues. “If New York cuts ties with Davis, this will likely be the main reason why,” he stated confidently.