New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas typically loves spending money on undrafted rookies after the NFL Draft, and 2023 was no different.
Among the UDFA signings on April 29 was deep-ball wide receiver T.J. Luther out of Gardner-Webb University. The Athletic’s Zack Rosenblatt and uSTADIUM confirmed the Luther addition, which was initially reported on by NFL insider Aaron Wilson.
“Jets adding Gardner-Webb wide receiver T.J. Luther, beating out several NFL teams to sign him to [an] undrafted deal with [a] hefty guaranteed base salary, per a league source,” Wilson informed.
This prompted a reaction from FanSided’s The Jet Press, who voiced: “Jets apparently paid top dollar to sign Gardner-Webb WR T.J. Luther. 4.45 speed at 5-foot-11, 189 pounds.”
New Jets WR T.J. Luther Known for Overwhelming Speed & 1,000-Yard Campaign
Luther is coming off a breakout season in 2022 — hence his popularity on the open market. According to ESPN, the collegiate wideout accumulated 1,166 receiving yards as a fifth-year senior off 63 catches. He also accounted for eight touchdowns and an 18.5-yard average through the air.
From 2018 through 2021, Luther was less of a focal point, however, splitting time between Wofford and Gardner-Webb. Over that four-year span, he only totaled 1,249 receiving yards combined, although his per catch average usually hovered somewhere around 18 yards or more (23 yards per reception at Wofford from 2018 through 2019).
Clearly, Luther is a home run threat, and that’s what NFL Network scouting expert Lance Zierlein described him as ahead of the draft, projecting him as a seventh rounder or priority UDFA.
“The highly competitive Luther showed off his vertical chops on a regular basis at Wofford and Gardner-Webb,” Zierlein detailed. “He possesses NFL-caliber athleticism and ball skills to develop. He can overwhelm opponents with his speed but might not have the skill set to beat NFL press coverage at this time. He’s fluid getting through route breaks but will need to expand his [route] tree as a pro. Luther has a chance to be drafted on Day 3.”
As an added bonus, Luther is another rookie with kick return potential. Zierlein noted his “ability to cultivate” on returns, and Sports Illustrated’s Draft Bible confirmed that he was Gardner-Webb’s primary kickoff return man in 2021.
“He returned seven kickoffs for 179 yards and an average of 25.6 yards per return,” S.I. wrote — which is very good. They also spoke on a “102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown” at Wofford in 2020.
If you were looking for a Jets comparison, Luther is most similar to free agent acquisition Mecole Hardman — a burner with plus ability as a returner. He’ll look to impress in camp, pushing pass-catchers like Denzel Mims, Irvin Charles, Diontae Spencer and Malik Taylor for either a roster spot or a role on the practice squad.