Stay or Go: Should Jets bring Braxton Berrios back?

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Braxton Berrios treated image, two versions one in green uniform one in white
Braxton Berrios treated image, two versions one in green uniform one in white

The Jets made efforts to bolster their wide receiver group last offseason, adding free agent signings Corey Davis and Keelan Cole and second-round pick Elijah Moore to a group that already included the veteran Jamison Crowder and promising youngster Denzel Mims.

As a result, Braxton Berrios wasn’t expected to be much of a factor on offense this year, although most experts felt he had a good chance to be back in a return specialist role.

In training camp, Berrios had good chemistry with Zach Wilson as a few players missed time. He continued to take advantage of opportunities for playing time due to injuries during the season and ended the year with a career-high 46 catches. In addition, he excelled in his return role and was named as an All-Pro after leading the league in kickoff return average.

So, should the Jets keep Berrios?

Why Berrios should be back

Wilson struggled to develop chemistry with some of his receivers but was at his best when he really started to get on the same page with Davis, Moore, and then Berrios. Mims and Cole had disappointing years and Crowder's contract is up, so it’s possible Berrios could be a more integral contributor in 2022 and beyond.

Although Berrios’ value increased over the second half of the year and an extension could prove expensive, the extra value his special teams contributions provide should help to justify this cost.

If a player like Adam Humphries, a productive slot receiver who isn’t as good as Berrios on returns, can earn $9 million a year and a player like Andre Roberts, who is a comparable return man but doesn’t do much on offense these days, can earn $3 million, you can potentially fill both roles with a guy like Berrios. Hopefully for the Jets, this can be achieved at a lower cost than $12 million per season.

One other factor that adds to Berrios’ reliability is that, on a team that has suffered numerous injuries over the past few years, he has been durable. Although he missed the 2021 season finale, it was the first game he missed in three years. Also, the coaching staff has praised his attitude, leadership, and grasp of the offense.

Aug 29, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Braxton Berrios (10) against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 29, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Braxton Berrios (10) against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Why Berrios shouldn’t be back

As noted, Berrios’ value went up considerably over the second half of the season -- and there are certain to be other suitors that will believe the levels of production he displayed while given considerable playing time could be sustainable, even if his role was increased. His next contract is therefore going to be expensive, and not without risk.

Any team that invests in Berrios will likely do so with the intention of giving him a bigger role than he’s had with the Jets so far. While his production has been consistent whenever he's been given opportunities, there is always the risk of diminishing returns. It’s possible, for example, that he won’t be quite so durable if his offensive workload is doubled -- or that he could become less effective in the return game if dedicating most of his time to the offense.

For the Jets specifically, there might be a concern that a lot of his production at the end of the season came on plays that Moore would have been making had he been in the lineup. While both players have some versatility, could there be some overlap or redundancy here that makes the move less impactful in the long run?

Braxton Berrios is the very rare player New York took from New England's scrap heap and turned into a valuable contributor. He has a career-best 38 receptions in 2021 and leads the league with 30.7 yards per kickoff return. Syndication The Record
Braxton Berrios is the very rare player New York took from New England's scrap heap and turned into a valuable contributor. He has a career-best 38 receptions in 2021 and leads the league with 30.7 yards per kickoff return. Syndication The Record

Verdict

A rebuilding team with the financial resources that the Jets have should not be letting important and talented players like Berrios leave, even though he only started to show his true worth consistently down the stretch.

If Berrios does leave and ends up somewhere he can be used in a full-time role on offense, the indications are that he could rack up some big numbers, which would more than justify that kind of financial outlay. However, there is some projection involved, so it’s not a move without risk.

After his strong second half of the season, fans should be prepared for him to be more expensive than they previously would have expected. However, even if the Jets end up having to give him a deal approaching $10 million per season, he should probably stay.