Best Available Free Agent Wide Receivers – 2017 NFL Offseason

By Ha Kung Wong 

Twitter: @FBGarbageTime

The 2016 NFL season is done.

The New England Patriots have won their fifth Super Bowl and the Atlanta Falcons failed to win their first.  We’ve already discussed why Matt Ryan should have taken a knee to win the Super Bowl, and whether the Patriots actually won it, or if it was actually the Falcons that lost it (spoiler alert: The Patriots won it).  And you’ve probably seen our commentary on where the 2016 Patriots stand in comparison to past teams.  But for NFL nuts like us, there really is no “done”.  In fact, for some of us, like Boris “Bubs” Malloy of My Top Sportbooks, we’re already breaking down the odds and picks for Super Bowl 52 (spoiler alert: I actually agree with his thoughts).  But there’s a lot to get through before we even arrive at the beginning of the 2017 NFL season, like the upcoming NFL Combine the NFL Draft and, even before that, free agency.

The March 9 free agency period is just around the corner, and there are plenty of teams out there still considering whether they want to bring certain free agents back or whether to let them test the waters.  And since there’s so many, let us help you keep track by discussing who we think are the best available potential free agent wide receivers this offseason.

Alshon Jeffery

Alshon Jeffery

2016 Stats: 13 games, 821 yards, 2 TDs

Drafted in 2nd round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Alshon Jeffery made a name for himself his sophomore season, totaling 1,421 receiving yards and 7 TDs, adding 105 rush yards for good measure, and getting his first Pro Bowl berth.  At the time, the Chicago Bears thought they’d found they’re franchise WR1 for many years to come.  But since then, Jeffery has played in all 16 games of a season only once, and has never topped those receiving or rushing yards.  In his last two years, in between nagging knee and hamstring injuries as well as a 4 game PED suspension, he’s only averaged 10 games played with 814 receiving yards, 3 TDs and 0 rushing yards.  Extrapolate out to a full 16 games and that’s pretty darn good (thought not as good as his Pro Bowl season), but hoping for 16 games is a real gamble.  Entering his 6th year, Jeffery remains a huge question mark.  And it seems unlikely that the Bears are willing to take that gamble and spend another franchise tag on him.  So should other teams take the plunge?

The one thing Jeffery can control is avoiding further suspensions.  Jeffery attributed his 4-game PEDs suspension to taking a “recommended supplement to combat inflammation.”  To his credit, he did take “full responsibility” for not being more careful, so at minimum, teams shouldn’t worry about this being a repeatable offense.

On the other hand, missing games due to injury is much harder issue to control, but being careful and keeping in shape is good way too offset that risk.  Bears GM Ryan Pace stated that he believes Jeffery “did a good job taking care of his body this year.”  It’s mostly anecdotal, but it appears to have been reflected with less games missed due to injury.

One possible landing spot for Jeffery, if the Bears decide not to re-sign him, is with the Philadelphia Eagles.  Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports has noted that “several league sources anticipate” the Eagles making a run at impending free agent Alshon Jeffery.  It’s clear that the Eagles need to find a true WR1 to pair with their franchise QB, Carson Wentz.

Update – March 9

The Bears apparently still are in the hunt.  Will $13M per year be enough?  Might depend on the length of the contract.

Update – March 9

And it turns out that $14M is the magic number as Jeffery joins the Eagles.

DeSean Jackson

DeSean Jackson – AP Photo

2016 Stats: 15 games, 1005 yards, 4 TDs

DeSean Jackson spent 6 years with the Philadelphia Eagles, making the Pro Bowl 3 of those years.  He then moved on to Washington and basically blended in with the furniture.  It’s not that he hasn’t been productive, he just hasn’t been “D-Jax” of Eagles fame.  And now he’s going to be a free agent.

Jackson has said he’d like to re-sign with the Redskins:

“My family and my house, I have everything here and I don’t want to be in a transaction and move. Hopefully we can make it work.”

The real question, though, is whether the Redskins are interested in re-signing Jackson.  Right now, it appear the Redskins are planning to move on.  But if does end up in free agency, he won’t want for suitors.  Apparently, his old team, the Eagles are interested in a reunion and the Los Angeles Rams, who need serious WR help to see if Jared Goff has potential to be the future, have also shown interest.   There’s also been mention that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may be interested in making a run at casting Jackson opposite Mike Evans and giving Jameis Winston a legit deep option.

Update – March 4

Looks like the rumors are picking up that D-Jax may be a Buccaneer sooner rather than later.

Update – March 7

It appears that the Patriots and the Cowboys are also going to make a run at signing D-Jax.

Update – March 9

And there you have it.  Jameis Winston wanted him and the Bucs needed a receiver to pair with Matt Evans, so this makes all the sense in the world.

Pierre Garcon

Pierre Garcon – Getty Images

2016 Stats: 16 games, 1041 yards, 3 TDs

Pierre Garcon broke into the limelight in Indianapolis with Peyton Manning, but it really wasn’t until he joined the Washington Redskins that he had his first 1000+ receiving yard season in 2013.  And although he didn’t have another 1000+ receiving yard season again until this past year, he has been the model of consistency in that he’s played all 16 games in each of his last 4 years, and has never had less than 752 yards over that time.

Regardless, it appears the Redskins may let him walk, as Brian McNally of 106.7 The Fan reports that the Redskins have yet to open contract talks with Garcon.  It’s still early yet, as talks don’t normally pick until the NFL Combine.  With 2 free agent WRs, it would be surprising if the Redskins let then both go, but they did draft Josh Doctson in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

If the Redskins do let Garcon walk, the Washington Post reports the Rams, Eagles, Bears, Cowboys and 49ers are all expected to explore signing him, with the Rams perhaps the most likely landing point with Sean McVay fan taking over as head coach in Los Angeles and in serious need of WR help.

And Garcon won’t come cheap, as he made around $8 million last year and will likely command upwards of $9 million a year in the open market.  And although Garcon wants to come back to Washington, he’s more than willing to take the best offer available.

Update – March 4

There also rumors that Garcon won’t be back with the Redskins.

Update – March 8

And now it looks like the 49ers are looking to sign Garcon.

Update – March 9

And now it’s a done deal.  Garcon reunites with Kyle Shanahan.

Terrelle Pryor

Terrelle Pryor

2016 Stats: 16 games, 1007 yards, 4 TDs

Terrelle Pryor, who only had 2 receptions prior to this year, managed to break out in a big way playing all 16 games of the regular season with 77 receptions for the Cleveland Browns.  The converted QB-to-WR is starting to look like a cornerstone to the rebuilding Browns, and has made it clear that he “wants to stay in Cleveland”.  At this point, it would be surprising if the Browns let Pryor walk, but it’s been recently reported that the Browns won’t be using the Franchise Tag on him.

Pryor would be one of the top free agent wide receivers available if the Browns let him get away, and is looking to collect around $10-11 million per year.

Update – March 6

Looks like the Giants, Titans, 49ers and Eagles are all looking at taking a run at Pryor.  Not of that is a surprise, particularly for the 49ers or Eagles as two of the most WR needy teams in the NFL.  Apparently, the Steelers may be interested as well.

Then again, maybe the Steelers aren’t interested, at least not at his current potential asking price.

Update – March 10

Doesn’t mean that the Redskins won’t sign him, but it looks like he’ll have another day to continue looking.  He’s likely the best left available WR free agent, so he should have plenty of suitors.

But after losing out on both Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, the Redskins do manage to sign Pryor to a one-year deal.

Kenny Stills

Kenny Stills – USA Today Photo

2016 Stats: 16 games, 726 yards, 9 TDs

Traded from the New Orleans Saints to the Miami Dolphins in 2015, Kenny Stills has grown in Adam Gase’s system from a part time player to full time starter and legitimate deep threat, almost doubling his 2015 yards and tripling his 2015 TDs.

He’s not a WR1, but he’s only 25 and has been difference maker and important component of the Dolphins passing attack.  Re-signing Stills appears to be one of the Dolphins top priorities, but they also have to worry about Jarvis Landry and also have some built-in depth with DeVante Parker.

If Stills gets a chance to test free agency, there’s already been reports that the Philadelphia Eagles will pursue him, which makes sense in light of their lack of receiving options to pair with potential franchise QB Carson Wentz.  If nothing else, this may create a bidding war that may price out the budget strapped Dolphins.

Another option may be going west to either the Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers or San Francisco 49ers, all of which could consider additional WR options in free agency.  In addition, the Miami Herald reports that Stills “likes the West Coast” and an offer from an AFC West or NFC West team “could be attractive.”

Beat reporter Adam Beasley thinks that Stills could get a four-year, $40 million contract with around $15 million guaranteed.

Update – March 8

Looks like the Dolphins are still working on Stills, but he has plenty of other suitors.

And now he’s been re-signed with a 4 year $32M contract with $20M guaranteed.  Another WR off the market:

Kenny Britt

Kenny Britt – Denver Post Photo

2016 Stats: 15 games, 1002 yards, 5 TDs

Ah, Kenny Britt.  After solid 2009 and 2010 seasons with the Tennessee Titans, who drafted him in the first round, Britt looked like he was on his way to true NFL Pro Bowl status.  But then, in the early part of the 2011 season, Britt tore both his ACL and MCL and has never been the same since.  Until, perhaps, 2016 where Britt had his first 1000 yard season and was the first 1000 yard WR for the Rams since Torry Holt in 2007.  But will this be enough for the Rams to keep him?

Unfortunately for Britt, there’s been a complete changing of the guard in Los Angeles, and the Rams are looking to rebuild around last year’s first round pick, Jared Goff.  Sure, they badly need WRs, but it appears they may look at the draft or other veteran options, since ESPN Rams reporter Alden Gonzalez has noted that “chances are” the team will “move on” from Britt.

If he moves on, he could probably be signed on the cheap.  There’s already been some reports that the Washington Redskins may be interested in signing Britt, and I’m certain others may be willing to give him a shot on a short incentive ladened contract as well.

Update – March 6

Looks like the Eagles may be interested in acquiring Britt.

Update – March 7

And now the Cowboys are also interested…

Update – March 9

Looks like Britt will be a Brown in short order…

UPDATE – March 2nd

Brandon Marshall will be joining the ranks of free agency as the Jets release him and save $7.5M against the cap.  There have already been rumors that the Ravens are looking at signing him.

Update – March 8

Looks like OBJ has a new running mate as the Giants have signed Marshall to a 2 year $12M deal.

UPDATE – March 6th

And in a strange twist, now retired WR Steve Smith Sr. broke the news that Torrey Smith has been released by the 49ers and will hit free agency.   Bizarre.  The fact that Steve Smith broke the news, that is.  It’s really no surprise that Torrey Smith is getting released after 930 total receiving yards over two years in San Francisco.

Update – March 8

And it looks like Smith may be going back to his original home in Baltimore…

Update – March 9

And there you have it.  Eagles filling up on wide receivers.

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Keep it tuned in throughout the offseason and we’ll keep you up to date on all the free agent moves!

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