We have some big names that are set to hit the market this offseason. It is very early and there are questions that need to be answered, but a few of these guys will definitely stay with their current teams. Remember, even if you are franchise tagged, it gives that team the right to work out an extension or even trade you.
Wes Welker (New England)
Sure, he had 2 hands on that pass across the deep middle of the field in the Superbowl. Sure. if the ball hits you in the hands that should be a catch. But it wasn’t and that stuff happens to the bets of them, even if Brady’s pass wasn’t so perfect. Welker racks up 100+ catches every season. There will be plenty of teams expressing interest to pry Welker away as the playmaker in the slot, but he has it made in New England.
Vincent Jackson (San Diego)
Vincent Jackson has had his off the field issues with alcohol. This past season he had a few nagging injuries, but he did play through them for the most part. He is considered a top target with game breaking ability, but GM A.J. Smith has an ego (if not more than the player). The fit works out and Jackson is a Pro Bowl caliber player, but I think he will get paid to catch passes elsewhere. He could rejoin some former Chargers coaches that are now in Carolina. Imagine V.J. lining opposite Steve Smith with TEs Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey inside, all running routes for Rookie of the Year Cam Newton, while stretching the field for the ground game between Deangelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. The Panthers will be getting LT Jeff Otah back from injury as well to give Newton more time in the pocket. Although I believe Carolina to be V.J.’s best destination, at least 20 other teams will be interested if he hits the market.
Dwyane Bowe (Kansas City)
Kansas City was a playoff team a year ago, after winning the AFC West. This season, they fired head coach Todd Haley, lost QB Matt Cassel and RB Jamaal Charles to injuries, and were only one game short of the playoffs. By the way, the Chiefs were the only team to beat Green Bay in the regular season (only one other team beat the Packers). This team is keeping their star wideout from LSU. He is a playmaker across the middle and down the field. Whether he is franchise tagged or signs an extension, the rest of the league can keep dreaming because he isn’t going anywhere.
Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis)
Reggie Wayne has featured in the Lucas Oil Dome for the past decade. He has connected with Peyton Manning on a Pro Bowl level throughout the years. At 33 years of age, his play was still there despite playing on a 2-14 Colts team looking to rebuild. And you rebuild with youth. Wayne will get a short-term deal between $7-9 million per season. New England instantly comes to mind when discussing veteran receivers. If they pursue him he can be had, because he won’t be returning to Indianapolis. Imagine Wayne across from Boldin, with Torrey Smith in the slot in Baltimore. He did go to Miami where Ray Lewis went and Ed Reed was his roommate. Plus former head coach Mike Caldwell is now their quarterbacks coach.
DeSean Jackson (Philadelphia)
What a versatile playmaker he has been for Philadelphia. He is a threat to score any time he touches the football, offensively or on special teams. In a year where his situation was magnified and he struggled a little bit, he was still the Eagles’ most productive target through the air. Contrary to popular belief, Jackson continues to be the best receiver in midnight green (despite his weaknesses). There is no question about the team’s direction as far as contending for a Superbowl, but placing proper value on this unique talent could result in a franchise tag. If in fact he hits the market or gets traded, this rare talent would flourish in a place like New Orleans.
Marques Colston (New Orleans)
He will get some looks elsewhere, especially since signing Drew Brees to an extension is the top priority. OG Carl nicks is also a free agent, but that situation is up in the air. Ultimately, I don’t see New Orleans tagging Colston. Drew Brees has plenty of gas left in the tank and a long-term deal should get done to keep this reliable target inside the Superdome.
Stevie Johnson (Buffalo)
So far, so good for Stevie Johnson in Buffalo. He has performed well the last 2 seasons and will receive a decent payday. He has flourished in Chan Gailey’s offense, and has found success going up against All-Pro, Darrelle Revis. I don’t see him getting franchise tagged, and we saw how Ryan Fitzpatrick went downhill after signing an extension. Buffalo could certainly use Johnson. If they let him go, they will be big players in free agency and the draft for some receivers. Some teams with interest include Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Miami.
Brandon Lloyd (St. Louis)
A journeyman wide receiver that is known for his sensational hands. Brandon Lloyd played for Denver and St. Louis last season. He has played for San Francisco, Washington, and Chicago. He be 31 by next season and is in a similar situation to the aforementioned Reggie Wayne. With Lloyd, it remains to be seen if he wants a paycheck or if he wants to win. He will absolutely gain interest. If he wants to make the playoffs, again, New England comes to mind. Tampa Bay and Jacksonville could be desperate for any type of help. Tennessee could use Lloyd’s service with a returning Kenny Britt.
Mario Manningham (NY Giants)
Mario Manningham stepped up in the Superbowl, and we have seen this play out before (Santonio Holmes). There are countless examples when individuals benefit after winning a Superbowl. The rest of the league tries to take whatever they can from a winning formula and a good player. Manningham is still a raw player. He has shown glimpses of playmaking and stretching the field with his speed. A lot of people would be very surprised if he returned to the New York Football Giants, with Hakeem Nicks and victor Cruz having big seasons. Super Mario could land a starting gig and put up good numbers elsewhere, perhaps in Buffalo with Stevie Johnson. Maybe Bill Belichick snags him and continues the youth movement, hoping defenses focus the rest of Brady’s Bunch and leave him with a beatable matchup.
Laurent Robinson (Dallas)
After shuffling through 4 teams in 5 seasons, he found a role in Dallas with Tony Romo. After his rookie season in Atlanta, he lost his spot. Robinson played for the Rams and moved on to San Diego after fracturing his leg. He was cut by the Chargers in training camp and Dallas brought him in later that week. Robinson worked the slot as a downfield threat for the Cowboys, even starting for Miles Austin who missed a few games. Perhaps he found a role and a home in Jerry world, but you can bet that a handful of teams will offer him more money and playing time. Intriguing destinations are Houston and Detroit.
Robert Meachem (New Orleans)
If New Orleans wants to keep Robert Meachem, he will likely be staying put. But the things is, he has been inconsistent and doesn’t appear to be a starting receiver. He has tendencies of fading despite all these other weapons in a Saints uniform. Maybe the franchise likes him and retains him, but I see him latching onto a younger team. Maybe he goes back to Tennessee where he played for the Volunteers once upon a time.
Eddie Royal (Denver)
Another guy in the mold of DeSean Jackson. He returns kicks, punts, plays wide receiver, and gets an occasional handoff. He would be a value commodity for any team really, but at the right price. He won’t break the bank, and could flourish in the slot in Denver or anywhere else for that matter. If he and Denver want to work things out, they certainly can and they should. Royal forms a young and cent receiving core with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. I do think he winds up in a different uniform because Denver could use more help at the position, but it may be challenging to get a veteran to buy into blocking like these guys did last season. If Eddie Royal plays for another team, he could surprise some people and be a “new” household name (New York Giants, New England, New Orleans).
Jermichael Finley (Green Bay)
Finley has made the world of difference in Green Bay, when he is playing at a high level. He has been inconsistent despite flashing versatility and dominance. Green Bay is a franchise that builds and believes in the draft, but I don’t see them allowing him to walk this season. He is looking for a longer-term contract, but Green Bay wants to keep him short-term since his value is debatable. The most likely outcome here is a franchise tag for 2 simple reasons: (1) Former offensive coordinator, Joe Philbin, is now the head coach in Miami, and (2) former director of player personnel, Reggie McKenzie, is the new GM in Oakland.
Fred Davis (Washington)
Tricky scenario here. Fred Davis was suspended for a violation of the substance policy. He also has a versatile teammate in Chris Cooley who has gas in the tank and may allow Washington to replace his role with a cheaper player. Cheaper, in a sense that Davis will be sought after by quite a few teams which will up his price. there is a possibility that he gets franchise tagged or signed to an extension to remain with the Redskins. But there are teams that will offer him a nice payday, such as Chicago, St. Louis, and Minnesota. Pittsburgh could be a dark horse destination for his services.
Scott Chandler (Buffalo)
Scott Chandler had a good season for the Bills, and they will certainly do whatever they can to keep the young tight end. He is the quarterback’s best friend and the primary redzone target. Chandler is a good blocker and has good hands while finding the seam in a defense. Unless some team covets him and blows him away with a deal he can’t refuse, expect him to be in Buffalo for years to come.
For a complete list of free agents: http://www.footballsfuture.com/2012/fa/wr.html