FLORHAM PARK — Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley isn’t worried about the Jets possibly trading him, though that move seems unlikely at this point, for several reasons.
“Nah, I don’t think about none of that stuff,” Kerley said Monday. “Whatever happens is what happens. I’m not worried about it one way or another. My job is to play football. That’s something I’m going to do here or wherever I’m at.”
Kerley entered this summer as the Jets’ No. 3 receiver, a fixture in the slot in recent years. But the Jets have given second-year pro Quincy Enunwa more time as the No. 3 receiver this preseason.
There are a couple reasons for this.
The coaches needed to take a longer look at Enunwa, who spent almost all of last season on the practice squad. Todd Bowles and Co. obviously liked what they saw from Enunwa, who really had no film to evaluate from last season.
Also, Enunwa is a bigger player than Kerley — 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, compared to Kerley’s 5-foot-9 and 188 pounds. Enunwa can be a more effective blocker out of the slot, functioning as sort of a hybrid receiver/tight end.
Remember, one of the Jets’ top two tight ends, Jace Amaro, is out with a shoulder sprain and might not be ready for the Sept. 13 season opener against the Browns.
“He’s kind of a tweener,” Bowles said of Enunwa. “It gives the opposition a problem as to what they’re going to play in the game, whether it’s base or whether it’s sub.”
A team’s base defense typically has bigger players. A substitute/nickel package generally uses smaller, faster players who can better defend a likely passing play.
If the opposition uses the sub package, Bowles said, Enunwa “can go ahead and block some of the smaller guys,” if the Jets decide to run the ball or throw to another receiver.
“If it’s base, hopefully he can outrun some of the bigger guys,” Bowles said. “He’s a kind of interesting guy that can do both, so we’re trying to maximize all of the use we can get out of his talents.”
Because of the unique skills Enunwa can offer, it makes sense that the coaches wanted to get a thorough evaluation of him this summer. By all accounts, he has fared well.
None of this means Kerley is finished with the Jets.
First, he is a proven player — much more so than Enunwa. Kerley — who has 166 catches, 2,073 receiving yards, and seven touchdown catches in four seasons — could still see significant action as a slot receiver and punt returner this season, once he returns from his concussion.
“Whatever is asked of me, that’s what I’m going to do,” Kerley said. “Wherever that takes me, is where it takes me. I’d actually say [this was] one of my better camps. I feel like I’ve definitely gotten myself better. I’m not shy of competition. I’ve never been shy of competition. I’m not just a competitor in football. I’m a competitor at life.”
The concussion, which he sustained in preseason game No. 2, against the Falcons, sidelined him for last week’s game against the Giants. The concussion’s timing wasn’t great for Kerley, since he’s been battling for playing time with Enunwa.
“It’s unfortunate that it happened when it did happen,” Kerley said, adding that he would “definitely” be ready for Week 1. “I’m almost there [with recovering from the concussion]. I’m trying to get on the field as fast as I can, man. I’m feeling a lot better.”
Not only is Kerley a good and proven enough player to still have a role for the Jets in 2015 — regardless of how the coaches decide to use Enunwa — there is also a financial aspect to Kerley sticking around Florham Park.
Last season, he signed a four-year contract extension that included $5.4 million in guaranteed pay. He is under contract through 2018. His guaranteed pay included a $3 million signing bonus and his $2 million salary in 2015.
It would be foolish for the Jets to cut Kerley right now. If they did, he would count $4.4 million in dead money against their 2015 salary cap — his 2015 salary, plus the $2.4 million of remaining pro-rated signing bonus. Kerley’s cap hit if he’s on the Jets’ roster in 2015 is $2.6 million.
If the Jets traded Kerley, his dead money cap hit would drop to $2.4 million, since his new team would take on that $2 million in salary for 2015 (which would also be his cap hit with that new team). But a trade of Kerley would save the Jets just $200,000 in cap room for 2015 ($2.4 million, compared to $2.6 million).
Getting rid of Kerley now wouldn’t make a lot of sense, since he has a fairly low trade value, and also not a monster cap number in 2015 (that $2.6 million). He’s a solid enough player, but it’s not like he’s a star outside receiver who would command a lot in a trade.
The Jets’ new coaching staff and front office ought to take this season, evaluate Enunwa and Kerley, and then weigh their options. Remember, Enunwa hasn’t done anything in an NFL game yet.
Plus, Kerley’s dead money next season, for a cut or trade, will drop to $1.8 million, compared to a cap hit of $3.1 million if he’s on the team. So that’s when the Jets could really start saving cap space by moving Kerley.
Of course, there’s always the possibility Kerley puts together an impressive season in 2015, and it’ll seem foolish that anybody was even talking about this stuff.