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Why Cut Jerricho and Consider Derrick Mason?
New York Jets Salary Cap Page


Why Cut Jerricho and Consider Derrick Mason?

I caused a little bit of a stir with a few comments I made the other day about how I didn't think Cotchery really fit in with the Jets anymore and he could be playing for his job. He's a very popular player and been a great guy for the organization, and is one of the few skill guys we have been able to watch grow up since Wayne Chrebet's rise to stardom in the late 1990's. So I think it upset some people to say that Jerricho maybe wasn't needed here anymore. As it turned out either Cotchery felt the same way and asked for his release or the team felt the same way and approached him to cut his pay. Now Cotchery is no longer a Jet, so let's take a look back and see just why things got to this point.

Cotchery signed a modest contract with the New York Jets after he came out of nowhere in 2006 for 961 yards and looked to be on the verge of stardom. The Jets protected themselves in the event that the season was a fluke, but Cotchery proved that he was the real deal when he improved in 2007 to 1,130 yards in just 15 games. It was everything the Jets hoped for. The team had a perfect receiver for the system. One that could run after the catch, go up or lay out and catch the pass, and most importantly be a number 1 on the lower end of the payscale. He did all of this with a semi-injured Chad Pennington and rough around the edges Kellen Clemens at QB.

The next year the Jets went out and brought in Brett Favre to play QB. Cotchery was expected to thrive in the offense with Favre. It started out great with a bomb in Miami to get the Jets and Favre on the scoreboard, but never really grew from there. They had their moments but his stats plummeted from 75 yards a game to 54 yards a game. One thing about the Jets is that they are not very patient with their players. They are very aggressive in free agency and in the draft. Once they identify a possible weakness they write you off quickly. The entrance of Rex Ryan as head coach only made them more aggressive in 2009.

I think the Jets felt Cotchery had hit his ceiling as a receiver and quickly wanted to find other options. The flirtation with WR Braylon Edwards to become the Jets new number 1, began early in 2009. He eventually replaced Cotchery as the primary target in the offense even though the two were gaining similar yards per game. Cotchery got further demoted in 2010 when the Jets made the move for WR Santonio Holmes. His stats fell dramatically and he was no longer catching the football when it hit him in the hands. He seemed distracted and continued to battle small injuries. He had been reduced to only being involved in the offense on third downs with over 41% of his receptions coming on third downs, compared to only 30% the previous three years. He was an afterthought in the offense and he knew it.

It didn't get any better this summer. Signing WR Plaxico Burress had to be the last straw for Cotchery. He wasn't even going to get to compete for his old job. The Jets handed it to a guy that spent the last two years in prison. The Jets then began contract negotiations with WR Derrick Mason, an older player with a similar skillset for what the Jets envision from the third WR. Whether the interest was real or it was a powerplay to get Cotchery to accept a reduced salary is something we will never know. There is clearly no room for Mason and Cotchery on the team and anything said by the team to the contrary is just lip service. So Cotchery got his release and will get a chance to look elsewhere and I think all Jets fans hope he still does well somewhere else in the NFL.

The question now is can Mason replace Cotchery in the offense? First lets look at Cotchery's contribution to the team in the games he played:

Year % Team
Comp
% Team
Yards
% Team
Rec. TDs
% Above
Avg YPR
% Team
1st downs
2007 27.8% 40.7% 14.3% 78.1% 31.5%
2008 20.5% 26.0% 22.7% 36.4% 23.1%
2009 29.8% 38.8% 27.3% 48.8% 37.9%
2010 16.4% 15.7% 13.3% -5.2% 17.4%

The two trends I think the Jets noticed is that when the team wanted to go more vertical in both 2008 and 2010 Cotchery wasn't that effective. While that was by design in 2010 it wasn't in 2008. The offense simply went elsewhere and I think that was somewhat alarming to the team. He was a nuce safety blanket for the much more conservative play in 2007 and 2009, but the Jets don't want to be a conservative team.

Regardless of who the Jets sign they are not losing anything off Cotchery's 2010 contribution, but there is a chance that was an aberration. They could certainly live with something similar to what he did in 2008, especially since he comes cheap. The question is could Derrick Mason provide that? Lets look at his role on the Ravens.

Year % Team
Comp
% Team
Yards
% Team
Rec. TDs
% Above
Avg YPR
% Team
1st downs
2007 30.2% 35.8% 38.5% 28.9% 34.3%
2008 30.7% 36.9% 31.3% 32.5% 40.8%
2009 22.7% 30.1% 33.3% 46.0% 29.4%
2010 19.8% 24.0% 28.0% 28.2% 25.1%

The first thing that jumps out to me is that Mason has clearly trended downward the last two years and that was getting looks as a number 2 in the system. Since the arrival of Joe Flacco, Mason became less and less important to the offense. The addition or WR Anquan Boldin did not see him gaining added yards after the catch or getting open for more short first downs. He was essentially exactly what he was in 2009 without a star alongside him. So there is no big upside here and if anything there is downside to him.

So why are the Jets interested in him? The areas where he shows consistency I think are something the Jets are looking for. He is accounting for 30% of his teams TDs every year and has had 7 the last two seasons. The Jets are a terrible red zone team and Cotchery's best year is not even equivalent to Mason's worst year. Cotchery is essentially a 2-3 TD a year player.

The Jets also know that Mark Sanchez is not a very accurate QB. He probably never will be. Cocthery's best asset is to run short across the field, catch the football, and run with it. That doesn't fit great with Mark's game and they have Holmes to run a deeper version of that role anyway. When you look at Mason he is more of a settle down in the zone and catch it player. His yardage is not predicated on a QB getting him the ball in stride.

Over 70% of Mason's receptions go for a first down the last three years. With the exception of 2009, in which he had some big sideline catches, Cotchery has typically had 60% of his passes going for a first down. That means J-Co is likely pulling in a number of receptions where he goes nowhere. Clearly that makes Cotchery the higher reward player, but the Jets don't need that anymore. They need a guy that sets up 11 yards down the field and catches a pass while standing there. That's more important to them than a guy running 8 yards down the field with a chance to scamper for an additional 7 yards on a good play.

Surprisingly Mason's YPR is very similar to Cotcherys. His three best years in that regard were 13.39 YPC. Cotchery's were 13.38. Going back to the last point, Cotchery scrambles to get those yards while Mason just sits on those routes, so in terms of opening the offense up deeper Mason could have more of a presence. Both are good 3rd down receivers with 30% of their receptions coming on third down in a normal year. That's the sign of good hands, a smart player, and someone the QB trusts. So I can see how Mason intrigues the Jets.

Assuming the Jets do acquire Mason it would seem as if he is a decent fit to replace Cotchery in the offense. The upside is not there if someone were to get injured or suspended, but he should fit perfectly within the offense. The only question is his age. He is clearly diminishing so you have to wonder if you can drag that one last year out of him or not. If not this might be a wash with the 2010 Cotchery and the Jets will have some serious backpedalling to do to justify the decision to dump Cotchery.

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