The Jets signed slot receiver Jeremy Kerley to a four-year extension, the team announced Tuesday. The Jets did not disclose financial terms, but a source told Newsday the contract is worth $16 million, with $5.4 million guaranteed.
"Being a Jet is something I'm truly proud of,'' Kerley, a fifth-round pick of the Jets in 2011, said on the team's website. "They gave me an opportunity and took a chance on me. I just feel like it was pretty much love at first sight.''
Despite his small stature, the 5-9, 188-pound receiver has proven to be one of the most dependable players in Rex Ryan's locker room. But his extension comes at a curious time, considering the Jets' 1-6 record and their use of available salary-cap space to date.
After sitting on more than $21 million during training camp, general manager John Idzik has made two moves with receivers in less than a week. The announcement of Kerley's deal comes only four days after Idzik traded for former Seahawk Percy Harvin.
Idzik denied that the acquisition of the controversial Harvin had anything to do with public pressure or criticism of his inability to field a winning team.
"Pure and simple, bringing a player in like Percy is to help our offense,'' Idzik said Monday. "He's an explosive player, he's a dynamic player. I think he can help our offense . . . I think you bring a player like Percy in, he can help everybody that way.''
The Jets' hierarchy clearly thinks highly of Kerley, who was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.
In 2013, Kerley served as the security blanket for rookie quarterback Geno Smith, leading the team in receiving yards (523) after Santonio Holmes missed five games because of injury and Stephen Hill struggled. Kerley has 150 receptions for 1,865 yards and seven touchdowns in 49 games (20 starts).
"I kind of figured playing hard and doing the right things, everything would fall into place,'' Kerley told the website. "To have an extension and play four more years here, it's a blessing. It's a relief off my shoulders and really off my family's shoulders.''
This season, Kerley has 22 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown, but he's had three TDs overturned because of penalties and a timeout call late in a Week 2 loss to the Packers.
Despite his pass-catching skills and reliability on third down, Kerley's role has diminished in recent weeks. He has only seven receptions for 60 yards in the past four games. Nevertheless, his versatility never has been a question.
"He's a guy that's shifty,'' Ryan said last month. "He can return punts. He can do all that. He knows the Wildcat. He's just a versatile player. But now he's also a complete player. He can line up in regular personnel. He's a good blocker. He does all those types of things.
"He's an unselfish guy."
Next, Idzik will have to decide the long-term futures of running back Bilal Powell (a fourth-round pick drafted the same year as Kerley), linebacker David Harris and star defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, who is signed through 2015 but wants a long-term deal.