Posted 07/29/2011 at 09:28 AM
In the early hours of the NFL free agent frenzy wide receivers have captured a great deal of attention. Sidney Rice, Santonio Holmes, and Vincent Jackson are already off the board and those teams still looking for an impact player at the WR spot will need to act soon. Here is a look at the best receivers left on the market and the possible teams targeting them as well as the impact they could make.
Braylon Edwards: Edwards has had plenty of issues on and off the field but he is a serious deep play threat and statistically he has been a consistent producer even in offenses that are not reliant on passing the ball. With the Jets re-signing Holmes, Edwards will not be a priority and he looks like one of the best receivers on the market. Early rumors included the Redskins and the Bears but more recently the Cardinals, and perhaps the Vikings could be in the mix. Arizona lost Steve Breaston to the Chiefs and Minnesota lost Rice to the Seahawks so both will likely be targeting a WR. Washington re-signed Santana Moss and brought in Donte Stallworth while Chicago has been very quiet in the early free agent proceedings. Edwards will command a lucrative contract but he could have his best statistical years ahead of him in a more pass oriented offense than he played with in New York or Cleveland. He was a very high draft pick for a good reason but a team will need to be able to handle the baggage that he brings.
Malcom Floyd: With Vincent Jackson looking likely to accept the franchise offer with the Chargers, Floyd appears to be left to the open market. While not a burner, he has the size and athleticism to be a solid receiver in the right situation and given his lower profile and limited career statistics he will be cheaper option than what some of the other receivers have commanded. The Vikings have been mentioned as a possibility as have the Rams, and Ravens. The Panthers have also been mentioned as a possibility due to ties with coordinator Rob Chudzinski. While Floyd has just 134 career catches, he will be 30 by the opening week of the season so he presents a little more risk and this will more than likely be his last chance at a decent multi-year contract. Given the limited market Floyd will likely get overpaid and probably would not have great success if asked to be the #1 option on a team.
Randy Moss: Certainly among the more controversial players on the market, some team will likely take a chance on Moss even though he wore out his welcome with three teams in one season last year. The Jets have been rumored to be interested but they will likely wait out some of the other moves they are looking to make, notably the Nmandi Asomugha situation. Moss will certainly not be the first option for the teams looking for a WR and at least half the teams in the league will likely not even consider the possibility so Moss is a player that may end up with a less desirable deal and may not have a team until later into the preseason. Moss is 34 now, a key age for receivers to face a steep decline unless they are named Jerry Rice but he did show flashes of brilliance last season and was still incredibly productive in 2009.
Plaxico Burress: It is interesting that the teams that are showing the most interest in Burress appear to be his former teams, the Steelers and Giants. If Burress gets a nice contract he should owe a debt of gratitude to Michael Vick for showing that the prison route can be a success, on and off the field. The Eagles and Jets have also indicated some interest and if Burress lands on one of those four squads he could have a successful introduction back into the league as he will be in a successful franchise with plenty of other offensive weapons and a stable QB situation. Burress turns 34 in a few weeks so his days in the league are likely numbered but he is certainly saying all the right things in an effort to prove that his prison stint has left him more mature and hungry for another chance. Burress is probably less of risk than some of the other options as he will be content with a shorter incentive laden contract and at worst his size will allow him to be a solid possession and goal line receiver.
James Jones: Jones picked up a Super Bowl ring last season with the Packers but worked his way out of favor with the team with his inconsistency and the many key drops he had in big games. There is good depth in the Green Bay receiving corps so he is expendable and may be worth the risk for many teams at just 27 years old and with good experience in a successful offense. Jones has all the physical tools to be a very competent #2 receiver in the league. Minnesota has been linked to Jones although there has been a recent resurgence in talks that the Packers will make more of an effort to retain him with the urging of QB Aaron Rodgers. Chicago, Cleveland, and Cincinnati have also been mentioned as possible landing spots and with the WR market dwindling Jones could find he has more options than he realized.
Mike Sims-Walker: After a breakthrough 2009 season, injuries and ineffectiveness led to a very disappointing 2010 season with just 16 catches last season. Sims-Walker will not command a premium but he is just 26 years old and could be good value signing as a second or third receiver. Chicago has been the main team rumored in the mix as the Bears are likely is in the market for a taller receiver and a solid route runner could add a nice complementing piece to the Bears offense. Sims-Walker may need to wait until some of the bigger names are off the shelf if he wants to hold out for the best possible deal but he has enough upside to be worth a gamble for a number of teams.
Brad Smith: The former Missouri quarterback has been a valuable member of the Jets in a variety of roles even though his receiving numbers have taken a steep fall the last three years. Smith is still only 27 and he could be a versatile piece to an offense in the right situation. Chicago expressed early interest but appears to be losing ground in that picture although returning to the Jets appears to be off the table. Buffalo has made a recent push to add Smith so he could be staying in the AFC East and taking on a bigger role would likely be appealing to him after being buried deep on the Jets offense among the receivers.