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In buyer's market, veteran receivers could be in for reality check

When free agency and trading finally gets under way, there should be bit of a gold rush for the available quarterbacks. But right behind the QBs is a significant storyline developing around the wide receivers.

There are seven older wideouts with credentials, and even a few probably headed to the Hall of Fame some day, that are expected to be available in free agency or trade. But how many teams are really going to be interested with all of them 32 years of age or older?

"It doesn't appear there will be a lot of money on the market for the older wide receivers, and if you need a veteran you will get one at your price or move on to the next one," one front office executive told me. "No one will trade for one because they are expecting them to be released."

The seven receivers -- Santana Moss, Randy Moss, Chad Ochocinco, Steve Smith (Panthers), T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Terrell Owens and Plaxico Burress have -- have played for 19 different teams over the course of their careers. That number is sure to rise in 2011 with all of them likely looking for work again. And they face the cold reality this offseason that 28 wide receivers were taken in the 2011 draft -- 11 among the top 83 players.

One GM I spoke with expects at least another three or four veteran wide receivers currently under contract to join that group because their 2011 salaries aren't in line with their production and he expects them to be cut loose at some point. On top of that, if free agency includes four- and five-year veterans, then receivers like Sidney Rice will trump all of them. It looks like a buyer's market.

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Which recent deals relate to these kinds of players? Owens' 2010 deal with the Cincinnati Bengals (one year, $1.5 million with $2 million in incentives) could be the high end for most of the seven, and the one-year, $775,000 deal Houshmandzadeh did with the Baltimore Ravens will likely be the reality. Both deals are a far cry from the $7 million Smith is scheduled to make in 2011 or the $6 million Ochocinco is due.

If the lockout goes into the summer, then veteran experience -- especially with young quarterbacks -- could become a premium and team interest should rise. But I doubt the money will rise.

I could see a team like the Raiders being interested in Smith. I wonder if the Patriots would consider giving Burress a shot. Santana Moss is rarely talked about, but he had the best production of this group in 2010, had the most third-down conversion receptions, and isn't a headache.

"We will probably hold off early and evaluate the youngsters," one GM who might need a veteran receiver told me. "If they aren't ready, we will grab a guy from (the list of seven) on a deal that makes sense for the short term, but we are not interested in a locker-room problem, which narrows the group."

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