2013 NFL Free Agency: Wide Receiver Rankings
With the NFL playoffs in full force and the focus soon to be shifting to April’s NFL Draft, it’s time to start prepping ourselves for the NFL free agency period. We’ve already bull-dozed through the free agent quarterbacks and running backs, and now we’re on to the top available wide receivers for this year’s free agency pool.
Wes Welker and Greg Jennings head the list, but there are quite a few guys teams will be targeting as upgrades and solid depth adds. Let’s analyze the top options:
1. Victor Cruz – New York Giants (RFA)
Cruz has the best combination of speed and play-making ability in this corps, and he’s also turned into a red-zone weapon. I don’t see the Giants letting him sniff free agency.
2. Mike Wallace – Pittsburgh Steelers
Wallace is probably the fastest receiver on this list, if not the entire league. Unfortunately, he’s really not the most consistent guy out there. However, he has immense potential and could be even more dangerous in the right system. I’m starting to think Pittsburgh might not be the right place, though. Kansas City could look to 60 Minutes if/when Bowe jets.
3. Wes Welker – New England Patriots
Welker wants a fat check, but the Pats want to pay him like a slot receiver. He has more value than that, so hopefully they meet somewhere in the middle. Welker belongs in New England.
4. Greg Jennings – Green Bay Packers
Jennings is a balanced talent who can still burn corners. The only real issue is he’s always got some type of injury and is coming off of a year that was ruined by a bad groin. He’s still an elite option, though, and will call for way more money than the Packers will be willing to hand out. Miami makes a lot of sense for Jennings.
5. Dwaye Bowe – Kansas City Chiefs
Bowe isn’t the most explosive guy, but he’s a great one on one receiver with great ball skills and he still has a lot to give to the game. He’s done in Kansas City, though, so the rumors of where he lands can start to fly. New York could make some sense, as the Jets don’t really have a consistent go-to option with his type of size and strength.
6. Danario Alexander – San Diego Chargers
He could be just a one-year wonder, but DX really proved himself with the Chargers in 2012, and could have played his way into a solid three-year deal somewhere. I think he’ll return to San Diego, as his chemistry with Philip Rivers was off the charts for a while there.
7. Danny Amendola – St. Louis Rams
Amendola battled some tough injuries in 2012, but otherwise did a good job in showing he has tremendous value and is more than a possession guy. He can do it all, and is going to get paid like it in 2013. I still think he stays in St. Louis, but New England could be looking at him as a cheaper Wes Welker.
8. Brian Hartline – Miami Dolphins
Hartline doesn’t score touchdowns and he’s more of a #2 than a #1, but he proved in 2012 that he can ball. Miami should know a good thing when they see it and retain him, and then go get a #1 to pair with him.
9. Julian Edelman – New England Patriots
Edelman proved his value and versatility in 2012, but once again dealt with injuries. That could mean he’ll have to suck it up and return to New England, as they’re the team that probably values him the most.
10. Brandon Gibson – St. Louis Rams
Gibson is still an inconsistent receiver with solid upside, but I don’t see him realizing that in St. Louis anymore. He could be a cheap option for the Chiefs to bring in to compete for a spot if Bowe leaves.
11. Andrew Hawkins – Cincinnati Bengals
Hawkins is a shifty and explosive slot guy who can do a lot of damage with the ball in his hands. He needs plays done up for him, though, and I’m not sure anyone outside of Cincy will pay a ton to take a chance on him just yet. I expect him back with the Bengals.
12. Emmanuel Sanders – Pittsburgh Steelers (RFA)
Sanders still has some good speed, but he has come up short when an opportunity has presented itself. He needs to work on consistency and staying healthy. Look for him to stick in Pitt for 2013 and then test the free agent waters in another year.
13. Randy Moss – San Francisco 49ers
Moss proved two things in 2012: that he’s not what he used to be, but that he’s not totally washed up, either. The fact is, the 49ers have never used him like he’s been traditionally used, so he could still have some magic left. I doubt he’s back with San Francisco, but a playoff team seeking a red-zone threat could bring him in if he decides to keep playing.
14. Johnny Knox – Chicago Bears
Knox sat out of 2012 with a back injury and his career could easily be over. However, he’s still young and apparently wants to play, so someone could get a deal for a solid burner with some upside. It’s pretty likely that he’s done in Chicago, though.
15. Donnie Avery – Indianapolis Colts
Avery was an inconsistent as ever with the Colts this year, but he did show he can still contribute and play at a high level in spurts. If he doesn’t return to Indy, he’ll easily latch on somewhere else as an explosive third option.
16. Donald Jones – Buffalo Bills (RFA)
Jones isn’t likely to be going anywhere as a restricted free agent this year. He’s probably hit his ceiling, but he’s not a bad number two receiver and has shown the ability to make plays.
17. Ramses Barden – New York Giants
Barden hasn’t had much of a chance to show what he’s got, but when he did start for the Giants he tore it up. New York could hold onto him as a project player, but he’s too talented to sit and rot. I like his potential if he can land with the right team.
18. Jerome Simpson – Minnesota Vikings
Christian Ponder says he wants Simpson back, but regardless of why Simpson was a free agent bust this year, the fact is that he was one. He’s pretty explosive but he doesn’t fit Ponder’s arm or the Vikes offense all that well. He may be forced to return, though, because his down year won’t have many teams chasing him down.
19. David Nelson – Buffalo Bills (RFA)
Nelson is a decent slot guy with good size, but he’s coming off of a knee injury and has hit his ceiling in the league. No one will try to get him during free agency, but he’s not immune to Buffalo cutting him either.
20. Austin Collie – Indianapolis Colts
I would rank Collie way higher if I wasn’t terrified that he’ll break all of his bones in 2013. I’m sure the Colts would love him back, but he’ll have to sign a non-guaranteed deal to an extent, and will need a good (and healthy) preseason to make Indy’s (or anyone’s) final roster. The guy is extremely skilled, but he just can’t stay healthy.
21. Devery Henderson – New Orleans Saints
Henderson is a one-dimensional speedster that is seemingly in decline. If the guy can’t be a rock star in New Orleans anymore, it’s hard to imagine him suddenly blowing up elsewhere. I only like his potential if he sticks with the Saints.
22. Braylon Edwards – New York Jets
Edwards has proven over the past two years that he’s just about done in this league. Maybe with another summer of rehab he can get back to a solid level, but there’s no guarantee the Jets or anyone else will fully buy into him again.
23. Jabar Gaffney – Miami Dolphins
Gaffney is slow and lacks explosiveness, but he’s a pretty reliable possession guy. Unfortunately, he didn’t show much in Miami and could be nearing the end of the road.
24. Louis Murphy – Carolina Panthers
The one thing Murphy did right in 2012 was stay healthy. He actually made some plays in Carolina, too, and could be called back next year. He’s not much more than a bit player and maybe a return guy these days, but he’s young and could still have value if he can stay healthy.
25. Mohamed Massaqoui – Cleveland Browns
Massaqoui is still an interesting talent with some potential, but he never paid off in Cleveland and will almost certainly have to attempt a career turn around elsewhere in 2013.