Today it’s the wide receivers that we look at. Like the running backs, there are a number of very good players available. With so many teams around the league in need of playmakers, expect there to be fierce competition for the top free agents at this position.
1. DeSean Jackson – Eagles
With tensions high between Jackson and Eagles management, it’s highly possible that Jackson will hit the free agent market. There is the possibility that he’s given a franchise tag, as Philadelphia seek to put off signing the diva wide receiver to a big deal, but Jackson is unlikely to co-operate if that happens. Should the Eagles part way with him, Jackson will be sought after by many teams not only for his lightning speed and elusiveness as a receiver, but also for his considerable skill as a kick returner. Expect Jackson to look for a team where he will be the unquestioned #1 wideout.
Possible landing spots: STL, CHI, WAS, OAK, SF, JAC, MIN, TB, CLE, BUF
2. Vincent Jackson – Chargers
Vincent Jackson has also had his issues with his team resulting in a ten week holdout in 2010. However, Jackson has said he still wants to sign with San Diego long term. Should the Chargers find his asking price too high, expect there to be interest from teams willing to take a chance on him similar to what we saw with Sidney Rice a year ago.
Possible landing spots: CHI, OAK, SF, STL, JAC, MIN, CLE, BUF
3. Wes Welker – Patriots
Wes Welker is the definition of being a product of the Brady/Belichick system. He has thrived in the Patriots offense and in 2011 had his best season to date with an amazing 1,569 yards and 122 receptions including the astonishing 99 yard TD he scored against Miami in week 1. Many wonder if Welker will even test free agency, as he has it so good playing in Foxborough, but if Welker feels he’ll be less needed with Gronkowski and Hernandez on the scene he may test the waters. Should he do so, expect interest to be high but muted somewhat given that Welker is a slot receiver who’ll likely never be as good as he is in New England.
Possible landing spots: PHI, CLE, SF, HOU, JAC, MIA, ARI, TB, NO, CIN, BAL, DET
4. Dwayne Bowe – Chiefs
Bowe is what I like to call a Bulldog receiver. He can look really ugly some days but he’ll get in there and get physical with his opposition and come up with big plays. Bowe is extremely talented but inconsistent and has yet has failed to truly live up to the potential he showed at LSU, which made him a first round pick for the Chiefs in 2007. There is doubt as to whether Bowe will be available as he is one of the few big weapons Kansas City has. Having said that, the Chiefs drafted wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin in the first round in 2011 so clearly the writing is on the wall.
Possible landing spots: STL, CHI, WAS, JAC, SF, OAK, BUF, CLE, MIN
5. Reggie Wayne – Colts
It is a measure of how strong the free agent class is that Wayne is ranked so low here. However, it is also due to age. At 33, Wayne is nearing the end of his career and can no longer command the respect from defensive backs that he once did. This was shown true during the 2011 season in which the Colts nearly went winless and Wayne was almost powerless to stop it. Having had less than 1,000 yards receiving for the first time since 2003, it appears that Wayne has been exposed without the presence of Peyton Manning and this, along with his age, hurts his stock enormously. Expect him to sign a relatively inexpensive deal – and don’t be surprised if this means he is back with the Colts in 2012.
Possible landing spots: IND, TB, PHI, JAC, SF, CLE
6. Marques Colston – Saints
Colston is a pure physical receiver who will play hard to get to the ball and then run through defenders who don’t tackle him well. He’s talented and has done well under Drew Brees. So why so low? Injuries, inconsistency and problems with his ball handling skills have plagued Colston throughout his career. I’d be inclined to say he stays with New Orleans, but with fellow receiver Robert Meechem also a free agent this year, there is a possibility that the Saints choose to go in a different direction.
Possible landing spots: NO, STL, TB, PHI, JAC, SF, CLE
7. Brandon Lloyd – Rams
Lloyd has finally shown his ability in the past couple of years. However, both of these years he has done best in a Josh McDaniels system in Denver and St Louis. With McDaniels moving onto New England and the prospect of having Tom Brady throwing to him, it is expected that Lloyd will follow McDaniels once more and be a Patriot in 2012. If he doesn’t, he will almost certainly re-sign for the Rams.
Possible landing spots: NE, STL
Restricted – Mike Wallace, Danny Amendola
Watch out for – Mario Manningham, Steve Johnson, Robert Meechem, Plaxico Burress, Mike Sims-Walker