Around the League  

 

Free agency primer: Top 10 wide receivers

This year's free-agent class is lacking a marquee attraction at wide receiver such as Mike Wallace, who was in high demand before earning the richest contract on last offseason's open market.

Eric Decker, widely ranked as the top wideout available, isn't even viewed as a No. 1 receiver by the organization that has watched him up close and personal for four seasons.

With Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper returning to Philadelphia, expect more teams to address the position in a draft class viewed as one of history's deepest -- particularly at wide receiver.

Here's a look at the free-agent picture for wide receiver.

In a class of their own


1. Eric Decker, Denver Broncos
2. Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants

Decker might not be a legitimate go-to receiver, but Alshon Jeffery and perhaps Roddy White are the only second fiddles with a better combination of talent and production. Decker's 32 touchdowns over the past three seasons are more than any wide receiver, save Dez Bryant and Calvin Johnson.

You'd have to look pretty hard to find a less impressive 896-yard season than the one Nicks turned in last season. Showing a lack of playmaking ability from start to finish, he failed to find the end zone even once on 101 targets from Eli Manning. Having just turned 26 years old, Nicks is worth a flier to see if he can recapture the dominant form he showed in leading the Giants to a Super Bowl XLVI victory.

Solid starters


3. Golden Tate, Seattle Seahawks
4. James Jones, Green Bay Packers
5. Julian Edelman, New England Patriots
6. Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh Steelers

Seahawks management has made it clear that re-signing the do-everything Golden Tate is a priority. ... The Packers are content to let Jones test his market value for the second time since 2011. Sort of a poor man's Boldin, Jones lost a step in 2013 due to a midseason PCL sprain. ... Edelman deserves long-term security after finishing fourth in the NFL in receptions. That doesn't mean he can repeat his New England production in a lesser offense. ... Sanders is good with the ball in his hands, but he's better suited to the slot than outside.

Borderline starters with questions


7. Andre Roberts, Arizona Cardinals
8. Sidney Rice, Seattle Seahawks
9. Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans
10. Ted Ginn, Carolina Panthers

Don't sleep on Roberts, who offers a skill set similar to Tate's. The Cardinals receiver can be every bit as productive as Edelman in the right offense. ... Rice once possessed No. 1-receiver talent, but he's a red-flag injury risk coming off an ACL surgery on top of previous concussion and hip woes.

A true reclamation project, Britt has been a tease and a coach-killer to date. Once viewed as a future stud, he was one of the worst players in the NFL last season. ... For much of last season, Ginn was the most dangerous playmaker among Panthers wide receivers. It's no coincidence that the position is a major team need in 2014.

Best of the rest


Lance Moore, Brandon LaFell, Dexter McCluster, Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant, Jacoby Jones, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford, Mario Manningham, Devin Hester, Jerome Simpson, Damian Williams, Nate Burleson, Danario Alexander, Domenik Hixon, Josh Morgan, Santana Moss, Brandon Tate, Louis Murphy and Robert Meachem

Teams with the biggest need


New York Jets, Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs

Match made in heaven: Hakeem Nicks, Carolina Panthers


General manager Dave Gettleman was in the Giants' front office when Nicks was drafted after starring at the University of North Carolina and Independence High School in Charlotte. With Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn reaching free agency -- and Gettleman still evaluating Steve Smith's future -- a homecoming for Nicks makes plenty of sense.

Most overrated: Julian Edelman


When does one of the NFL's most underrated athletes become one of its most overrated free-agent prospects? When teams give him too much credit for volume for simply filling the offensive void left by Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and a trio of injured wide receivers last season. Injury prone throughout his five-year career, Edelman landed a one-year deal worth just $1.15 million with no guarantees last offseason. If you didn't want him for $2 million last season, why fork over $5 million to $6 million annually this time around?

Most underrated: Golden Tate


Capable of playing outside or in the slot, Tate led all starting receivers last season in Pro Football Focus metrics such as forced missed tackles, yards after the catch per reception and punt-return efficiency. His counting numbers have been artificially deflated in the NFL's run-heaviest offense. Everything Edelman is billed to do well, Tate does better. There's some Hines Ward to his game.

The latest edition of the "Around The League Podcast" works through our top 101 free agents and responds to some heat from Donte Whitner.

Fan Discussion

NFL News
CONTENT
15