Days before an uncertain offseason officially begins, the Jets locked up a part of their future.
Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa signed a four-year, $36 million extension Friday, with $20 million guaranteed, according to a source. The 26-year-old was set to be a free agent but will now be teaming up with Sam Darnold for the foreseeable future.
“I’ll make the joke: I have a young quarterback I can mold,” Enunwa said with a laugh in the locker room — amid congratulations, pleas for money from his teammates and Jamal Adams letting dollar bills fly close by — after signing the contract. “No, but seriously, I think Sam is an amazing player. As a receiver, that’s who you want to play with. We have so much talent around at every position. I’ve been here for so long, this is what I know, and this is what I’ve come to love. I want to continue growing with this team.”
Enunwa, who was a favorite target of Darnold’s early in the season, will miss Sunday’s season finale against the Patriots because of a high-ankle sprain — his second of the season, one on each ankle — but he rebounded from a neck injury that cost him all of last season by catching 38 passes for 449 yards and a touchdown in 11 games this year.
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Enunwa is now one of only two wide receivers officially under contract for the Jets next season, the other being Charone Peake, who mostly plays on special teams. Robby Anderson will be a restricted free agent while Jermaine Kearse is in line to hit the open market.
“Quincy is a key part of our foundation, and we are thrilled that this contract will keep him here for years to come,” general manager Mike Maccagnan said in a team release.
Enunwa was the Jets’ sixth-round pick in 2014 out of Nebraska and began his career on the practice squad. He made the active roster in 2015 while catching passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick before playing a full season in 2016 for the only time in his career, catching 58 passes for 857 yards and four touchdowns.
A bulging disc in his neck required season-ending surgery last August, knocking him off track, but Enunwa said he never lost faith a day like Friday would be possible.
“I think I just put my head down and tried to practice perseverance,” Enunwa said the same day his teammates voted him to win the Jets’ Ed Block Courage Award. “For me, I’ve dreamt of this day. All it did was give me more incentive, more motivation to make this day happen. I’m just excited.”
Starting next season, Enunwa said he will be mindful of how he plays, balancing his rugged style of fighting for every yard with keeping himself healthy enough to stay on the field.
“I just kind of have to know when a play can’t be made,” Enunwa said. “I just know, even [Brandon Marshall] told me a few times, ‘You got to learn when to get down.’ So as I grow, as I become a better player, a smarter player, I’m still going to make the big plays. … But I just got to know when somebody’s on my ankles, it’s probably not smart to keep trying to drag them.”
There are still plenty of questions facing the Jets this offseason, the most pressing being who will be their head coach, with Todd Bowles expected to be fired by Monday. But Enunwa said the potential coaching change didn’t factor into his decision.
“I didn’t really want to think about any of that stuff,” Enunwa said. “Just thinking about the team itself was kind of my focus. My brothers and whoever comes in, whether it’s continued coaching staff or a new coaching staff, I’m just excited for the future.”
— additional reporting by Brian Costello