Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL.
New York Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill has been pretty secure in his job, being a former second-round pick with a world of athletic potential. His performance, however, has not matched that potential.
That's why it came as no surprise when ESPNNewYork.com's Rich Cimini speculated on Tuesday that the Jets should either cut or trade Hill. The Jets would be lucky to get anything better than a conditional draft pick for him, despite his physical gifts, but Cimini quotes an AFC personnel executive who may feel differently.
"I think there would be some interest [in a trade]," the personnel executive said. "There aren't a lot of free-agent wide receivers out there, so it's supply and demand."
There are some teams that could use help at wide receiver—the Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Browns, and St. Louis Rams are just a few that come to mind—but knowing what we know about Hill, and knowing that he is firmly on the bubble and could be cut in the next few days, why would any team be willing to give up any of those ever-so-valuable draft picks for a receiver who has shown so little in the NFL?
The Jets clearly don't feel he is that important, otherwise he wouldn't be competing with the likes of Greg Salas and Clyde Gates for a job.
|Jets wide receiver depth chart|
|Player||Height||Weight||Year in NFL|
In a vacuum, Hill's development has stunted. The 6'4", 215-pound receiver ran a 4.36-second 40-yard dash and a 6.88-second three-cone drill at the 2012 scouting combine. Those are tools that should help him gain separation from opposing defensive backs.
That has not happened, though, with Hill catching just 46.4 percent of the balls thrown in his direction according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Even when he has a clean shot to make the catch, he has failed to do so and has dropped 16.7 percent of catchable passes in his career (passes that have hit him in the hands).
Of course, nothing in football happens in a vacuum—not when there are 21 other players on the field.
In that respect, let's say this in Hill's defense: It's been a tough row to hoe for any wide receiver in a Jets uniform over the past two years. In that span, Jets quarterbacks have combined for 55.3 percent completion, just shy of six yards per pass attempt, 27 touchdowns, 41 interceptions and a 64.8 passer rating.
|Jets passing game, 2012-2013|
Those numbers are grossly out of line with the league averages in that span, and overall the Jets' passing offense has finished ranked no better than 30th since Hill entered the league.
Second-year quarterback Geno Smith is expected to take a step forward this year, but he can't do so with receivers who can't get open. The Jets have plenty of other receivers who excel in that area. In fact, it could be argued that Eric Decker was signed to be the receiver Hill never became: a big-bodied boundary pass-catcher with a solid physical skill set and refined route-running skills.
With David Nelson nestled on the other side, Jeremy Kerley in the slot and Jalen Saunders and either Salas or Gates rotating in, the Jets have a deep group of pass-catchers (although not particularly top-heavy).
The Jets have not had much talent at the wide receiver spot in the past couple of years. This is a brand new situation for them, where they have too much depth to justify keeping a receiver who has plateaued.
Hill was thrust into a role as the Jets' top "X" receiver as a rookie, when he still had much to learn and wasn't ready to be a key cog in the offense. He may still not be ready for such a role, but it's possible that Hill could flourish in new surroundings.
That being said, it's foolhardy for the Jets to expect or even hope that they would get anything in return, given the path Hill's career has taken. That's especially true given the fact that the writing is on the wall for his future with the Jets, and a potential suitor may not have to wait more than a few days to sign him off the street.