NFL free agency will begin on March 11, and many teams will attempt to improve by signing veteran players. The most active teams in free agency are usually those that previously whiffed during the NFL draft, others are simply filling holes, while some squads some squads just want depth. If a team is not willing to enter bidding war during free agency, that squad will shift its attention to the NFL draft.
Here is Shutdown Corner’s breakdown of free agent receivers and tight ends:
Last year, Mike Wallace turned down a $76 million offer from Minnesota and signed with Miami for $60 million. It is hard to imagine NFL teams entering a major bidding war for any of the available receivers in free agency. There are plenty of receivers to choose from, but the majority of them have major question marks, and they are complementary players, not No. 1 starters.
Meanwhile, the tight end market is dismal.
Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew is the best option, and that needs to be put into perspective. Pettigrew is a former first-round pick who never emerged into an elite NFL tight end. His five-year career has been plagued with drops, and he does not have the pass-catching ability of Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski or even Miami's Charles Clay. Detroit is willing to let Pettigrew test the market, and if he signs with another team, the Lions are ready to replace him with Joseph Fauria, who had seven touchdowns as an undrafted rookie in 2013.
Green Bay’s Jermichael Finley is recovering from spinal fusion surgery after he sustained an injury last season. He is a decent option for a desperate team, but never lived up to the hype in Green Bay, and definitely has health concerns.
The Houston Texans want to re-sign Garrett Graham, which leaves Dustin Keller (Dolphins), Scott Chandler (Bills), Jeff Cumberland (Jets) and Brandon Myers (Giants) as the best remaining options. That's not too appealing.
Top Attraction: Eric Decker, Broncos WR
Decker was Denver’s second-leading receiver with 87 receptions, 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns. His critics will correctly point out Demaryius Thomas was Denver’s leading receiver with 92 receptions, 1,430 yards and 14 touchdowns, and Decker was clearly the second option. Others will say it is easy to have success with Peyton Manning throwing you the ball.
However, Decker had eight touchdowns with Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow as his quarterbacks in 2011. That means if Decker has an average quarterback, he should be fine.
Decker could land in Indianapolis, Kansas City or New York with the Giants, but teams have to be cautious about spending too much on him. Detroit makes sense too, but Lions general manager Martin Mayhew is usually cautious about overspending in free agency.
Buyer Beware: Kenny Britt, Titans WR
There was a time with Britt’s future seemed bright. He had 101 receptions, 1,765 yards and 15 touchdowns during his first 31 games. Britt tore his ACL in 2011, and was never the same. He had 11 receptions and 96 yards last season. He is 25 years old, and there might be a team willing to take a risk on Britt. However, Britt will get a short "prove it" deal and have a short leash on his new team.
[Be sure to check out Shutdown Corner's NFL free-agent rankings. Click here for the list of offensive players, and click here for the list of defensive and special teams players]
Frugal Addition: Dexter McCluster, Chiefs WR
McCluster had 1,500 receiving yards and five touchdowns, 662 rushing yards and six touchdowns, plus returned three punts for touchdowns during his four years in Kansas City. He is about to enter the prime of his career. McCluster is just 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds, but he has missed only one game over the past three seasons. Even if he is not a full-time player, McCluster’s versatility should be a valuable commodity for a team that needs offensive playmakers, such as the Cardinals, Falcons, Panthers, Bears, Browns or Raiders.
San Diego Chargers receiver Danario Alexander reportedly has undergone multiple surgeries on his right knee since a second reconstruction of his ACL last year. Alexander’s setback may prevent him from playing in 2014. He would have been an intriguing option for a team willing to gamble a modest contract on the oft-injured but supremely talented player.
Best of the Rest
Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks did not score a touchdown in 2013, but some team will try to turn him around. Nicks may thrive with another team, but he struggled to excel with Victor Cruz commanding all the attention in New York. ... Seattle’s Golden Tate is 26 years old with a Super Bowl ring, and a team might overpay for a No. 2 receiver.
Shutdown Corner's free agency preview schedule
March 3: Shutdown Corners's top 25 free agents
March 4: Quarterbacks
March 5: Receivers/tight ends
March 6: Running backs
March 7: Offensive linemen
March 8: Defensive backs
March 9: Linebackers
March 10: Defensive line
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