Top 17 free-agent receivers


It's a beautiful time to go on the hunt for a wideout.

For teams that failed to restock the position during last May's receiver-rich draft, this year's crop of free-agent talent is decidedly juicy.

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Even after Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant were slapped with the franchise tag, names like Torrey Smith and Jeremy Maclin would all become instant starters on new teams.

Not all these players will make it to market, but our list is bound to grow. Andre Johnson will soon be freed, while other potential cuts include Dwayne Bowe and Mike Wallace.

Below are our top free-agent wide receivers, including our best fits for the top 5:

The top four

1. Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens

"I think we're going to have to take it on the chin and move on," Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said of the team's fading chances to re-sign Smith. The Baltimore pass-catcher recorded career lows in receptions (49) and receiving yards (767), but teams will come calling for an athletic wideout who can stretch the field as a home-run hitter.

Free-agent fit: There isn't a lot of landing-spot buzz around Smith, but how about Carolina? The Panthers desperately need speed at the position and could pair Smith alongside last year's rookie sensation Kelvin Benjamin. That would fill a need for the team while giving Cam Newton a true deep threat.

2. Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles refused to slap the franchise tag on Maclin, but the sides have shown interest in working out a new deal. We don't expect Maclin to come cheap, though, after last year's 85-catch, 1,318-yard outburst. With only Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff behind him, Maclin looms as a priority for a Chip Kelly-led team that jettisoned DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy in back-to-back offseasons.

Free-agent fit: "Both sides have made it known that we both want each other back, so the rest of it is in God's hands," Maclin said, adding: "I want to be here." Clearing cap space with the trade of McCoy and release of Trent Cole, the Eagles are the most logical fit for a player who has thrived in Kelly's system.

3. Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers

Let's start here:

Tomsula told Around The NFL last month that the Niners "absolutely" want to re-sign the wideout, but we don't buy it. Crabtree has topped 1,000 yards just once in six seasons since San Francisco grabbed him with the No. 10 overall pick in 2009. While the team would probably like to keep him at a bargain price, we haven't seen the same speed from Crabtree since he tore his Achilles' tendon two offseasons ago.

Free-agent fit: If the Niners don't re-sign him, how about the Dolphins? After dumping Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson -- and potentially Mike Wallace -- Miami could use a reliable veteran target for Ryan Tannehill.

4. Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars

Shorts has averaged 58 catches for 771 yards per season over the past three years on a Jaguars team lacking consistency under center. After Jacksonville used last offseason to restock the position with Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, Shorts is on the way out. His long history of soft-tissue injuries is concerning -- and will limit his market value -- but Shorts will find work.

Free-agent fit: The Browns need veteran help at wideout to fill the void left by Josh Gordon. Shorts is a Cleveland native who played his college ball at nearby Mt. Union. If the Browns don't nab Hartline, Shorts makes sense as a solid No. 2 to pair with a highly drafted rookie wideout.

The best of the rest

5. Kenny Britt, St. Louis Rams
6. Hakeem Nicks, Indianapolis Colts
7. Denarius Moore, Oakland Raiders
8. Brian Hartline, Miami Dolphins
9. Harry Douglas, Atlanta Falcons
10. Eddie Royal, San Diego Chargers
11. Jerrel Jernigan, New York Giants
12. Jacoby Jones, Baltimore Ravens
13. Ted Ginn, Arizona Cardinals
14. Nate Washington, Tennessee Titans
15. Mike Williams, Buffalo Bills
16. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts

Britt revived his career with a solid year in St. Louis. Look for the Rams to bring him back. ... Nicks played well down the stretch and showed long-lost speed, but he won't command starting money. ... Moore is an enigmatic tease. ... Hartline is bound to find work as an affordable secondary target. ... Jones and Ginn are already drawing interest as reliable return men. ... With just 30 catches over the past two seasons, Williams was a major disappointment in Buffalo. ... Has Wayne reached the end?

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