Denzel Mims stood behind a microphone on Friday at Jets training camp and stated he wanted to be a starting wide receiver in 2022.
“That’s my only goal,” Mims said.
The question is whether he can achieve that goal as a member of the Jets.
Mims has had a rocky two years with the organization since general manager Joe Douglas drafted him in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. COVID-19 wiped out the offseason of his rookie year and Mims, coming out of Baylor, needed some polishing and would have benefited from those spring practices.
The coach who drafted him, Adam Gase, was fired after his rookie year and Mims got off to a bad start with the new coaching staff after a bout of food poisoning cost him most of the spring practice in 2021. That led to a lost second season for Mims that featured him being inactive, buried on the depth chart and then missing time due to COVID-19.
Mims spent this past offseason getting into better shape and the Jets’ coaches have raved about the work he put in. He has had some strong days in training camp, showing up more in the first two weeks of camp this year than all of last summer.
“A long way, a long way,” head coach Robert Saleh said of how far Mims has come in a year. “I’ll even tell him he’s still got more in the tank, but he’s much improved from a year ago.”
The Jets now face a dilemma with Mims. Since drafting him, here is what they have done at wide receiver: sign Corey Davis in free agency, draft Elijah Moore in the second round, re-sign Braxton Berrios and draft Garrett Wilson in the first round. All of that leaves Mims as the No. 5 receiver at best. He also does not play special teams, despite Saleh’s wishful thinking that he will add that to his game.
It is pretty simple. Mims does not feel like part of the Jets’ long-term plan. Yes, they could hold onto him as insurance for an injury. But trading him seems to be the best thing for both sides.
Let Mims get a fresh start somewhere else where he can actually compete to be a starter and not get mainly third-team reps, as he does in Florham Park. Douglas should be able to get a late-round pick for Mims, who is only two years removed from an eye-popping 4.38 40-yard dash before the draft. At 6-foot-3, with a huge catch radius, Mims has gifts that can’t be coached. Surely, there is a team out there that liked him in the draft and would send the Jets a pick for him. The Patriots just got a 2024 seventh-round pick for N’Keal Harry. Mims has one more year left on his contract than Harry does.
One of Douglas’ strengths as a GM has been getting good returns in trades. I fetched a fourth-round pick for Chris Herndon, a sixth-round pick for Blake Cashman and two first-round picks for Jamal Adams, the stunner of all stunners.
Now, he needs to see what he can get for Mims, who answered questions about his work ethic this offseason.
“He doesn’t make excuses,” Saleh said. “He’s grinding. He’s approaching it like a professional and for that I’m grateful.”
Teams lose wide receivers to injury every day in training camp. The Broncos lost Tim Patrick for the year this week. It’s hamstring-pull season. Douglas should be on the phone with any team that has an injury at the position.
The Jets can afford to trade Mims. They have a deep receiving corps for the first time in a long time, with Davis, Moore, Wilson, Berrios and Jeff Smith, a favorite of the coaches. Mims was asked how he sees himself fitting in.
“Hopefully, I see myself on top,” I said. “I feel like I put in enough work to be there. That’s the coaches’ decision but I’m going to continue to work my tail off and do everything I can.”
Mims might still be able to be a starter in the NFL, but that is not happening with the Jets. It’s time to move on.