As the countdown to the start of the 2018 league year commences, no potential free Agent target for the Bears has generated or will generate more debate than wide receiver Jarvis Landry.
He is arguably the best available player at the Bears’ biggest offensive need and his case for that title will grow stronger if and when the Rams’ Sammy Watkins is given the franchise tag. The Bears badly need help at the receiver position and Landry’s productivity and reliability could do wonders for them, but is he worth the monstrous price tag?
I take a closer look here, in the first of many profiles for available players who could upgrade the Bears’ roster.
At a quick glance, the nearly 25-year-old Landry undoubtedly deserves to be paid like a star. He is a three-time Pro Bowler (2016-2018), averaging exactly 100 catches around 1000 yards each season. He led the NFL in receptions this year to go along with nine touchdowns (a career high by a considerable amount) and there is a case to be made that his stats would be even more impressive had he been on a team with a stable quarterback situation.
He owns a pair of arguably the most reliable hands in the league (has never dropped more than three passes in a season despite consistently being one of the most targeted players in the league) and is especially good at converting key third downs for his team. He also has not missed one game due to injury, which given all the carnage in the NFL in recent years is a skill in itself.
Very few players bring his guaranteed production to the table.
So why are there questions about his value? First of all, in the 2017 season, he averaged 8.8 yards per catch. That’s not bad… for a running back, and his career average of 10.1 YPC is near the bottom of the receiver rankings as well. Landry is not a downfield target. He thrives on underneath routes, third downs, and making plays after the catch. All of these are very valuable skills but the lack of an over the top threat brings into question his ability to impact games as much as his stats say he does.
Landry’s room to improve as a player is limited. He does not possess elite height (5’11”) or speed (ran a 4.77 40 yard dash at the combine in 2014) and in the end, receivers that are relegated to slot duties only generally do not get paid the big bucks. There are questions about his character and somewhat inflated ego, as demonstrated by his temper tantrum and ejection against Buffalo in what could very well be his last game as a Dolphin.
Landry’s journey for a massive contract on the open market, which all indications say he will hit, can go one of two ways.
The first of which is that he’s paid what he wants. A four or five-year deal that gives him $13-15 million per year on average is what he’s seeking, and judging by his extremely frustrated response to Miami’s initial offers – he called them “disrespectful”, he likely will not get it if he stays in town.
If a different receiver-needy team is willing to submit an offer to his reported liking, the Bears should back off. The bottom line is that the type of skill set that he possesses is not one that his opponents have to build their game plan around, and a receiver who doesn’t have that ability isn’t worth top five money.
The second scenario should appeal to General Manager Ryan Pace and company.
There may not be any teams willing to pay Landry as a top-tier wideout, which as Bucky Brooks of NFL.com explained in January, is a real possibility. He talked to an AFC defensive coordinator and an AFC personnel director, both of whom agreed that Landry is a fine player but not a game wrecker. If that happens, Landry may be forced to take a one-year “bet on myself” type of deal to prove he’s worth the money he desires.
It should. Because it’s exactly what happened to Alshon Jeffery on the free agent market. The Bears can do what the Eagles did: capitalize on a player who overestimated their value. I would be more than willing to hand Landry a one-year incentive laden contract and see if he develops a rapport with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. If he does, a player of his skill set with his hands can become very useful for a young quarterback as a security blanket.
He’s not worth a top-five contract but if he doesn’t get that from a different team, the Bears should be prepared to pounce on an immediate upgrade.