When free agency begins next month, no position appears to be as deep as wide receiver: Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston, Reggie Wayne, Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, Stevie Johnson, DeSean Jackson, Plaxico Burress and Super Bowl XLVI hero Mario Manningham could all potentially hit the open market. Which wideout offers the most bang for the buck?
Lloyd could be a steal, especially for the PatriotsBrandon Lloyd has already proven he can post league-high stats with Josh McDaniels and be a true vertical threat in that offense. ... And that was with Kyle Orton throwing the rock.
No reason to think he couldn't be a free-agent steal, specifically if he ends up in New England, reunited with McDaniels as his offensive coordinator. Oh, and this Tom Brady guy is the quarterback there. And the middle of the field is packed with guys like Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski taking up space, creating all kinds of room on the outside.
Lloyd won't be nearly as expensive as some other options out there and he already knows the offense and concepts. Not a bad gamble to me.
Roll the dice on young, talented JohnsonI'm going to take Buffalo free agent Stevie Johnson. I think Vincent Jackson is the best long-term investment, and Wes Welker is the best short-term bet, but if the question is dollar-for-dollar, take the 25-year-old Johnson in the $7-8 million range.
Johnson has his issues, certainly. He'll need to rein in his outsized personality, which hurts his team at times. He also has an issue with drops, which could be part of a larger focus problem.
But those things are correctable. He's young, has posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, has size, can get in the end zone, and can get deep. And if you really want proof of his potential, consider this: Darrelle Revis had more trouble covering Johnson than any other receiver in the league the past two years.
Again, I'm not saying Johnson is the best on the board. But if you want to buy at a moderate price, and have the chance for a big payoff, this Buffalo Bill is where you roll the dice.
Colston would shine as a Ram or NinerMarques Colston has been one of the most underrated players in the NFL for years. Yes, he benefits from playing in the Saints' receiver-friendly system with an incredibly accurate quarterback, but he's also a great route runner with sure hands.
He's not a No. 1 wideout in every system, but in the right scheme -- at the right price -- he'd be a huge impact player. I could see him being a really nice fit in St. Louis or San Francisco.
It's all about quantity, not quality, at wide receiverI'm going to go the opposite way of everyone else, I'm sure. I don't give a big contract to ANY free-agent wide receiver. There's too much risk of a guy getting happy and not producing once you put huge money in his pocket. And when that's $10 million or more? It's not worth it. I try to build like the Packers and Saints: get as much quality depth as possible, so my No. 3 and 4 guys cause mismatches against opposing defenses. I think a lot of teams are going to try to follow this method so they don't get burned.
If I needed to upgrade my WR corps, I'd do it as cheaply as possible. Reggie Wayne is 33. He's seeing the end of his NFL career coming, but he still has pride and a lot left in the tank. I go for a middle-of-the-road contract to get him. I also give Danny Amendola a decent deal if he's healthy. Harry Douglas showed some promise when he filled in for Julio Jones, and he wouldn't cost a lot either. Early Doucet has flashed a little in Arizona, and he piques my interest. I could get two or three of them for two or three years each for what it would cost to sign Vincent Jackson or Wes Welker or Marques Colston or Dwayne Bowe. It's all about collecting quantity at WR now.
V-Jax clearly best option, but fantasy value could dipDoes anyone really think Welker won't be back with the Patriots? I'd also be shocked if Colston isn't back in the Big Easy. With Reggie Wayne and Plaxico Burress past their prime, I'd have to say Vincent Jackson is the receiver most likely to give a team the most bang for its buck. At 29, he still has plenty of productive NFL years left and offers No. 1 talent. While I do worry about his fantasy value if he leaves the Chargers (and Philip Rivers) for a team with a lesser quarterback, Jackson is clearly the best option for teams looking to upgrade at his position.