There are varying levels of talent at wide receiver in the NFL. This is an obvious statement, but one that I feel compelled to stress before writing that Josh Reynolds is flirting with the end of his NFL career this week. It’s not to say that Reynolds is a bad receiver, and definitely not that he won’t be picked up by a team in the coming days, but only that in an expanding pool of talented young wideouts, Reynolds may have become obsolete faster than most of us had expected.
It’s a fate that will befall many others at the position in the coming years.
On Tuesday, Josh Reynolds asked for his release from the Tennessee Titans and they complied. Reynolds is now on the waiver wire and if he’s not claimed by 1 PM PT, he will become a free agent just months after signing a fully-guaranteed one-year deal for $1.75 million. After catching 52 passes for 618 yards and two touchdowns with the LA Rams in 2020, Reynolds was targeted just 13 times with the Titans, catching 10 passes for 90 yards over the five games he was active.
WR Josh Reynolds asked for, and was granted, his release from the #Titans today, source says. He signed as a free agent this offseason before they traded for Julio Jones. Reynolds, 26, heads to waivers, where claiming teams will owe him only $500k the rest of the way.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) November 9, 2021
A fourth round pick in 2017, Reynolds has already outpaced many of his peers and gone above and beyond reasonable expectations. Consider the other wideouts drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft:
- Ryan Switzer
- Jehu Chesson
- Chad Hanson
- Josh Malone
- Mack Hollins
- Dede Westbrook
Only Westbrook has more catches and yards, but barely. Reynolds has more catches, yards, and touchdowns than the other five receivers on that list combined.
However, when opportunities knocked in 2018 and 2020 because of an injury to Cooper Kupp, then the trade of Brandin Cooks to the Houston Texans, Reynolds only cracked the door open, leaving the chain on. Despite getting 81 targets in 16 games last season, Reynolds never became the deep threat option that Sean McVay was probably hoping for and his numbers were underwhelming enough to only get that one-year offer for less than $2 million.
Instead of finding himself in a boat with Chris Godwin (84 targets, 65 catches, 840 yards, and seven touchdowns in 2020), Reynold’s production and threat as a receiver falls more in line with names like Jakobi Meyers, Greg Ward, Laviska Shenault, and Damiere Byrd.
You should argue that there is definitely usefulness there, but it’s the type of usefulness that becomes harder to justify on anything other than a mid-to-late round rookie contract. After all, Josh Reynolds was that player to the LA Rams for four years. The Rams decided that they didn’t want to just repeat the formula with Reynolds, they’d rather fortify the positions reinforcements with Tutu Atwell, Jacob Harris, and Ben Skowronek. Or J.J. Koski.
Essentially, the issue facing Reynolds—and many like him—is that not even his $1.75 million salary is low enough to consistently justify paying him over a fifth round rookie who is also a physical marvel, a deep threat, but younger and cheaper.
The good news for the Rams, if they choose to reunite with Reynolds this week, is that he is only owed $500k for the rest of the season. With Atwell and Harris on injured reserve, McVay could bring back a player who is intimately familiar with everyone and everything already and maybe if there’s another injury he could help a little bit.
However, does that reunion make a ton of sense? LA already knows that Kupp, Robert Woods, and Van Jefferson are the top three wide receivers, with Jefferson essentially being a direct replacement of Reynolds in the offensive snap count. The backups, Koski and Skowronek, do more for the team than just provide receiver insurance; Skowronek is the team’s top gunner on punts and Koski could be the primary returner.
So while a signing of Odell Beckham, Jr. might be one to directly impact the passing game—and nothing more—a signing of Reynolds does make me wonder, “Why?”
Instead, it seems like Josh Reynolds would be a better fit with a team that has a need for a player who needs targets. Reynolds will be a free agent again in 2022 and he doesn’t want “10 catches, 90 yards” to stick on his resume when he’s looking for a job that, believe it or not, might be hard to find and keep through training camp.
Plenty of fans around the NFL are still into the idea of Josh Reynolds in that team’s offense and that does make sense:
OBJ watch is officially on. But Josh Reynolds watch shouldn't be far behind. https://t.co/AD3DhQLrOS— Ross Jackson (@RossJacksonNOLA) November 9, 2021
Preemptive "yes" on if the Lions should claim Josh Reynolds— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) November 9, 2021
Anyone catch Josh Reynolds at DETROIT METRO AIRPORT (DTW) yet? Asking for a depleted wr room.— and I never slice. (@bushwood_c) November 10, 2021
If Josh Reynolds reaches the Falcons on the waiver wire today, they should 100% pull the trigger - his salary is lunch money, he fits the need at X perfectly and there’s no long-term obligation with a big contract to worry about - would be a great fit!— Luke Carr (TD4LC) (@LukeCarrNFL) November 10, 2021
Chris Long is into the idea too. But maybe he’s more thinking for the Eagles now.