How Jets' Garrett Wilson bounced back from 'worst year' of life

Graziano: Rodgers has not made a contribution to winning with Jets (2:15)

Dan Graziano, Bart Scott and Mike Greenberg react to Aaron Rodgers skipping the Jets' mandatory minicamp. (2:15)

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- By the end of last season, New York Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson was the embodiment of a certain popular advertising slogan: He needed to get away.

Frustrated by another losing season and openly critical of the offense (and, by extension, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett), Wilson called it "the worst year of my life." So he got out of the New York area and, among other places, visited Italy and Arizona, where he spent some time meditating in the desert. He called it a great way to disconnect.

"It was Zen, man. It was chill," he said after a recent practice. "I had to get my feet back under me and my head right."

Everything seems right as Wilson prepares for his third season, which could have a huge bearing on how the rest of his career plays out.

Wilson, the first Jets player since Keyshawn Johnson (1998-1999) to record back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons, has proven himself as a WR1. Now the trick is to take it up another notch or two, showing he can be considered among the NFL's elite. With the market for wide receivers exploding recently, he could set himself up for a massive pay day.

"He's got all the makings of a star receiver," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "We feel like if we can both stay healthy that we can accomplish a lot this year. But it's going to be important we communicate."

Rodgers and Wilson spent their first offseason together building a rapport before Rodgers went down with a torn left Achilles last September on the fourth snap of the season. So began a quarterback merry-go-round, the story of Wilson's young career.

In two seasons, Wilson has caught passes from six different quarterbacks, none of them named Rodgers. The list consists of Zach Wilson (95 receptions), Joe Flacco (27), Mike White (22), Trevor Siemian (19), Tim Boyle (12) and Chris Streveler (3). Except for Rodgers, they're all gone.

Wilson stands alone among his peers in this respect: Of the 18 wide receivers with 1,000 receiving yards in each of the last two seasons, he's the only one to make at least one reception from six quarterbacks. Davante Adams, Brandon Aiyuk and Amari Cooper had five quarterbacks apiece. On the flip side, Stefon Diggs enjoyed the ultimate consistency -- only one quarterback. Wilson longs for that.

"If we can find a way to stay upright out there and keep Aaron on his feet, I'm excited for that and everything that comes with it," said Wilson, who is on his third position coach and second coordinator.

The quarterback instability is out of his control, but it's still a source of frustration. So is the losing -- a 14-20 record. This is a new experience for Wilson. In three seasons at Ohio State, he went 31-4. Asked about his goals for 2024, he pointed to team success.

"Winning games and winning in the playoffs," Wilson said. "I'm confident that we do that. ... We're going to score points, and I'll have something to do with it. We all will, so I'm excited."

Wilson was frustrated at times last season, sometimes letting it seep out for public consumption. It fueled speculation about whether he wants to stick around for the long haul if the tough times continue.

There's also the Rodgers factor. What if the 40-year-old quarterback retires next year or the year after? The Jets drafted Jordan Travis in the fifth round, but it's too soon to anoint him the heir apparent. A question mark at quarterback is a scary proposition for any top receiver.

Asked late last season about his long-term future, Wilson told ESPN, "I don't know what the future holds. I know I'm here for four or five years" -- the length of his contract. He has two years remaining on his rookie deal, plus a fifth-year option. He will be eligible for a new contract after the coming season, which is when things could get interesting.

Since the end of the season, eight receivers have signed new contracts that average at least $23 million per season, topped by Justin Jefferson's $35 million per year extension with the Minnesota Vikings. Three of the eight got new deals after their third season -- Jaylen Waddle ($28.3 million average annual value), DeVonta Smith ($25 million AAV) and Nico Collins ($24.3 million AAV).

The Jets never have extended a former first-round pick after three years -- Pro Bowl defensive tackle Quinnen Williams had to wait four years -- which sets up a potential issue next offseason if Wilson pushes the matter. And he might not be the only one looking for a new deal.

Cornerback Sauce Gardner and defensive end Jermaine Johnson will be eligible for new deals, as well. Like Wilson, they were drafted in the 2022 first round. Running back Breece Hall, a 2022 second-round pick, also will be eligible.

Wilson is driven and goal-oriented. He'd love to pull a Mike Evans and reel off 10 straight 1,000-yard seasons, establishing himself as the picture of consistency.

"He's as advertised," receivers coach Shawn Jefferson said. "This kid can be exactly or whatever he wants to be. You talk about that 'it.' He has it."