Potential Jets Free-Agent Target Suffers Torn ACL, Creating Catch-22

Chris Godwin

Getty Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin has suffered a torn ACL.

Over the past few weeks, one fact has become painfully clear for the New York Jets — this wide receiver core isn’t nearly as good as we thought it was.

The Jets are tied for sixth in dropped passes this season with 19, according to NBC Sports, and while Corey Davis and Elijah Moore certainly had their fair share, this group has been a shell of outside without them.

Denzel Mims and Keelan Cole among others have been asked to step up and play larger roles and neither has been up to the task, getting totally shut down by man coverage in recent games. The past two weeks in a starting role, Mims has zero catches off four targets and Cole has been slightly better going two for 36 off eight targets.

Joe Douglas needs to find receivers that will help elevate his rookie quarterback but these weapons have actually hindered Zach Wilson at times — which leads us to the 2022 free agency period.

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Fan-Favorite Target Loses Value

Next year’s free-agent class is stacked at wide receiver, including big names like Davante Adams, Odell Beckham Jr., Allen Robinson, Antonio Brown, Michael Gallup, Mike Williams and more.

One of the most highly coveted targets on that list is 2020 Super Bowl champion, Chris Godwin. Unfortunately, NFL insider Adam Schefter revealed some sad news today that could hamper his earnings.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers playmaker has torn his ACL, ending his season in 2021.

Jets fans, in particular, were high on Godwin because of how his skill set seemed to fit the Mike LaFleur system. The 25-year old is a guy that worked wonders with Jameis Winston in 2019 (1,333 receiving yards) and has been just as reliable with Tom Brady the past two seasons.

He’s a versatile weapon that can work out of the slot just as well as he can on the outside, with smooth route running and a catch rate of 77% or higher the past two years.

There’s no telling if Godwin would have hit the open market — the Bucs franchise-tagged him last offseason — but if he did he would have had to pop up on Douglas’ radar. If this roster added a solid tight end and one more potent receiver alongside Davis and Moore, it could really take off under LaFleur and Wilson.

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Injury Risk Presents Scary Predicament

Not every player fits this LaFleur scheme — think Mims. Godwin’s lateral ability as a pass-catcher and his strength as a blocker seemed to link up with what the Jets do best, and not every option in free agency does.

For example, I’m not sure a vertical/red-zone threat like Robinson or Williams helps as much in this offense.

The Jets could look for the answer in the draft and target a dynamic prospect like Jameson Williams, Garrett Wilson, Drake London or Chris Olave (among others), but that would likely require one of their two first-round picks and Douglas has many needs to fill.

Godwin was also more of a sure thing, which brings us to our catch-22.

Douglas’ 2021 free-agent class was decimated by injuries. Out of the top nine impact signings the Jets GM made this offseason, only two have appeared in 10 games or more and three didn’t make it past Week 1 (Carl Lawson, Vinny Curry, Lamarcus Joyner).

He cannot afford to strike out in 2022 and injury risk has to become a major consideration in evaluating free-agent talent next year. Sometimes these absences are a product of bad luck but other players have a history.

Lawson had two torn ACLs before the Jets signed him, Tyler Kroft only registered a full season twice (out of seven seasons in the NFL), Tevin Coleman has dealt with injuries his entire career, and Joyner is 31 years old. Even a player like Sheldon Rankins — who has stayed healthy for the most part — came with plenty of risk.

I get it, not every athlete is itching to come to the Jets so sometimes you have to settle for the imperfect candidate. Still, the 2021 free-agent nightmare makes it tougher to convince this frugal GM to shell out big bucks on a wide receiver coming off a torn ACL.

Godwin has now missed two or more games the past three seasons (four in 2020). Pro Football Focus listed him as their third-ranked free agent in 2022 before his injury, projecting that he’d earn four years, $70 million ($17.5 per year) on the open market.

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