Around the NFL  

 

Cap cuts could infuse receiver market with star power

Print

Teams desperately in need of an upgrade at wide receiver are in luck this offseason.

This 2015 class is shaping up as a buyer's market, thanks in large part to a bevy of productive veterans potentially saturating the free agency process.

Even if Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas draw the franchise tag, as expected, our list of the Top 25 free agents includes Randall Cobb, Jeremy Maclin and Torrey Smith. Another pair of wide receivers, Michael Crabtree and Cecil Shorts, will be ranked in the top 50.

That's already a stronger pool than last year's, which included Eric Decker and Hakeem Nicks as big names.

By the start of the new league year on March 10, eight more high-profile wideouts could become available if they refuse to restructure their contracts.

1. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals: Scheduled to earn $15 million and occupy a prohibitive $23.6 million against the cap, Fitzgerald has been discussing a new contract with the Cardinals. The front office has put the onus on him to restructure in team-friendly fashion. Prior to a November MCL sprain, Fitzgerald generated a five-game stretch as impressive as any since his 2011 season. At 31 years old, he remains capable of No. 1 receiver production.

2. Percy Harvin, Jets: Will the new regime deem the mercurial, oft-injured Harvin worth $10.5 million plus the loss of a fourth-round draft pick? Doubtful. General manager Mike Maccagnan can cut Harvin without owing a dime or suffering a cap hit. Harvin, 26, still boasts game-breaking run-after-catch ability, but hasn't put together a half-season of good tape since late October of 2012.

3. Brandon Marshall, Bears: Marshall's $7.5 million salary becomes fully guaranteed if he's on the roster by the third day of the league year -- March 12. He received no assurances about his future after meeting with the new regime. Marshall turns 31 next month and is coming off a disappointing season. Perhaps more importantly, the recent scuttlebutt out of Chicago is that his behavior rankled teammates and coaches last year. The rumor mill has connected the veteran receiver to former coordinator Marc Trestman, who landed in Baltimore.

4. Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers: Jackson was perhaps the most popular name at last season's trade deadline. He recently turned 32 years old and carries a $12.2 cap number for 2015. That number will likely have to be lowered for a rebuilding team with a litany of needs. The Eagles, Seahawks and Chiefs were among the teams interested in Jackson last October.

5. Mike Wallace, Dolphins: Due $9.85 million in 2015, Wallace's Miami future is up in the air after his self-benching in the season finale. The 28-year-old one-trick pony recently met with general manager Dennis Hickey, but nobody in the front office is willing to state that Wallace will be brought back for another season.

6. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs: Already one of the NFL's most overpaid players over the past two years, Bowe is due an untenable $10.75 million. Thanks to a one-game suspension to start last season, that salary is no longer guaranteed, allowing the Chiefs to cut bait on an alleged No. 1 receiver who failed to find paydirt even once in 2014.

7. Greg Jennings, Vikings: Jennings, 31, is slated to earn $8.9 million while counting $11 million against the cap. That's a lot to pay for a wide receiver who hasn't topped 1,000 yards since 2010 and was outplayed by Charles Johnson down the stretch. Because the Vikings can save $9 million, Jennings makes sense as a post-June 1 cut.

8. Marques Colston, Saints: Colston is due $6.9 million and is set to count nearly $10 million against an already tight Saints cap. After a disappointing, mistake-filled season, he's going to have to accept a pay cut to return to the Big Easy.

In addition to the established wide receivers listed above, NFL teams will be window-shopping for another strong group of draft prospects on the heels of last year's record-setting rookie class.

NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock just produced his Top 5 ranks for each position, featuring West Virginia's Kevin White and Alabama's Amari Cooper at wide receiver. Our friends at College Football 24/7 also released a list of wideouts and tight ends to watch at next week's NFL Scouting Combine.

As depressing as teams might find the quarterback market this offseason, the wide receiver options are as plentiful as ever.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast breaks down the top 25 free agents and reacts to the latest news. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

Print