The free agency period for the 2014 season begins at 4:00pm on Tuesday, March 11th.
Today’s preview focuses on some of the league’s best available free agent pass catchers in the wide receivers.
Here is a list of select wide receivers who are slated to become unrestricted free agents at the start of the new league year. These players can re-sign with their current teams at any time and can begin to negotiate with other teams today.
Kenny Britt/WR/Titans (6’3, 223lbs) – Relations between the former first round pick out of Rutgers and the Tennessee Titans became frayed last season and it led to Britt being almost non existent from a production standpoint last year. He only caught 11 passes for 96 yards. It’s been a rocky career for Britt, as off field incidents and debilitating injuries have slowed down a once promising career. Through five seasons, he has 157 receptions for a total of 2,450 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Eric Decker/WR/Broncos (6’3, 214lbs) – A member of Denver’s “Four Horsemen”, Decker put up some ridiculous numbers despite possibly being option #4 in the passing game for the Broncos high-powered offense behind Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas. Last season, the four-year veteran out of Minnesota put up a gaudy line of 87 receptions, 1,288 receiving yards and caught 11 touchdowns for Denver last year. Of course it helps that he had Peyton Manning throwing him the ball. He’s caught a total of 172 balls and 24 TDs the past two seasons with the soon to be Hall of Famer behind center. Decker is a receiver who can play in the slot or outside and can also fill in in the return game if necessary. (UPDATE 3/12: Eric Decker has signed with the New York Jets.)
Julian Edelman/WR/Patriots (5’10, 198lbs) – With Wes Welker leaving in free agency last year, someone was going to need to step up in the slot for the New England Patriots. That man was Edelman, as pint-sized wideout out of Kent State became Tom Brady‘s primary target in the 2013 season. Last year, Edelman caught 105 passes for 1,056 yards, good for the 4th highest reception total in the NFL. Edelman is the type of player who excels primarily from the slot, as his diminutive size and agile route running makes him a threat in that critical 10-15 yards downfield zone. (UPDATE 3/15: Julian Edelman has re-signed with the New England Patriots.)
Ted Ginn/WR/Panthers (5’11, 185lbs) – Originally labeled as a pure return man from his days with the Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers, Ginn carved himself a niche being a big play receiver in Carolina during the past year. His route running and receiving fundamentals has greatly improved since he entered the league in 2007. Ginn was more of a third or fourth option with the Panthers, catching 36 passes for 556 yards and five touchdowns, and could fill that exact role this upcoming season for a team. (UPDATE 3/13: Ted Ginn Jr. has signed with the Arizona Cardinals.)
James Jones/WR/Packers (6’1, 208lbs) – Since entering the league in 2007, the 6’1 Jones has been a model of consistency for the Packers. The seven-year veteran has averaged more than 600 yards per year, and caught 310 balls and 37 touchdowns in his career. He entered more of the spotlight the past few seasons, becoming the third and sometimes second option for Aaron Rodgers behind Jordy Nelson. Two years ago, he caught 14 touchdowns, and last season, he set a career high in yardage with 817. (UPDATE 3/17: James Jones has signed with the Oakland Raiders.)
Hakeem Nicks/WR/Giants (6’1, 208lbs) – The five-year veteran out of North Carolina started his career fast with Big Blue, posting two 1,000-yard seasons with the Giants in his first three seasons. But more recently, Nicks’s penchant for big catches and playmaking has fallen off. After posting 24 touchdowns his first three seasons, his production has dropped off considerably, only scoring three times the past two years, and not scoring at all last year. Nicks has the prototypical measurables and raw talent to be a #1 receiver, but his under-performance last year may hurt him in what is a competitive receiver market. (UPDATE 3/14: Hakeem Nicks has signed with the Indianapolis Colts.)
Sidney Rice/WR/Seahawks (6’4, 202lbs) – A former #1 receiver that has been struck down with injuries as of late, Sidney Rice is coming off a rough 2013. Only playing half the season for the Super Bowl champs, Rice was bothered by hip injuries and concussions, and then tore his ACL. The last time Rice played at a true #1 receiving level was in 2009, when he caught 83 passes for 1,312 yards and 13 touchdowns. His skills are a long way off from that, but he could be used a veteran influence somewhere in a young receiving corps.
Andre Roberts/WR/Cardinals (5’11, 195lbs) – Roberts may not have gotten the publicity of his fellow Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, but Roberts quietly put together a nice season for a non starting receiver. Roberts caught 43 balls for 471 yards and two touchdowns, and in the right scheme, could have somewhere between the success of fellow slot receivers Julian Edelman and Emmanuel Sanders. (UPDATE 3/11: Andre Roberts has signed with the Washington Redskins.)
Emmanuel Sanders/WR/Steelers (5’11 180lbs) – Sanders filled the void left by Mike Wallace last season for the Steelers, and did a decent job doing it in his first season as a major contributor for Pittsburgh. Sanders, who is more a slot receiver, caught 67 passes for 740 yards and six touchdowns. He’s very good with the ball in his hands, but sometimes has trouble separating because of his size. (UPDATE 3/16: Emmanuel Sanders has officially signed with the Denver Broncos.)
Jerome Simpson/WR/Vikings (6’2, 190lbs) – The freakishly athletic Simpson may be most known front flipping into the end zone several years ago, but there’s more to the Coastal Carolina product than that. To go with his incredible athleticism and great leaping ability, Simpson has the penchant for the big play, averaging 15.1 yards per catch in 2013. Last year, Simpson only started half the Vikings games (playing in all 16), but still put up 48 catches for 726 yards and a touchdown with a revolving door of quarterbacks at the helm in Minnesota. He could be a low cost option for a team hoping for a high potential outside threat. (UPDATE 3/14: Jerome Simpson has re-signed with the Minnesota Vikings.)
Golden Tate/WR/Seahawks (5’10, 202lbs) – The man whose role exploded because of Sidney Rice’s injury in Golden Tate had a great season for Seattle, posting both career highs in catches (64), and yardage (898), to go along with 5 touchdown catches. Tate can play both in the slot and out wide, and is a physical blocker as well. Tate also served as Seattle’s primary punt returner last year. (UPDATE 3/12: Golden Tate has signed with the Detroit Lions.)
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