The 2015 season has come to a close. Congratulations to the Denver Broncos. It’s time to look forward to 2016. We’ve already gone over the NFC North’s cap room and own free agents.
Now we’ll take a look at the 2016 free agents available on a position by position basis. We’ll start the series with Wide Receiver.
Wide Receiver Needs
The Vikings have needs at WR with the struggles of Mike Wallace, Jarius Wright and Cordarelle Patterson (1st round bust). The Lions have WR needs due to the retirement of Calvin Johnson and free agency of Lance Moore. The Bears have their own big free agent to sign or franchise with WR Alshon Jeffrey and would have to look elsewhere quickly if they lose Jeffrey, despite first round pick Kevin White’s debut in 2016.
The Bears could upgrade in the slot with the struggles of Eddie Royal and the injury to Marques Wilson. Green Bay’s James Jones will be a free agent WR and Abederris is oft-injured but Green Bay should be set with the return of Jordy Nelson and Ty Montgomery from injury to team with Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and playoff hero Jeff Janis. And who are we kidding; Green Bay doesn’t sign free agents that weren’t cut from a team.
There are some decent number 2 WRs on the list and some WRs that could stretch the field for a team. The only number 1 WR possibly available is Alshon Jeffrey but the Bears would be smart to franchise him given his production when healthy.
Anquan Boldin would be an interesting veteran pick. Boldin is 35 but can still be productive despite a down year in 2015 with Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert at QB for the 49ers. Boldin is a big possession WR that can block well and has playoff experience. He was a number 1 WR for the 49ers and Ravens and could be good in the right system with a protected QB. At his age, a good number 2 seems to be the best bet for Boldin for 2016. He demanded out of Baltimore for contract issues and may still have high demands even with his age.
Malcolm Floyd had a down year and was inefficient catching less than 50% of his passes for the Chargers. Floyd is 34 but is still a deep threat with 17.2 YPC on the 2015 season. Floyd could fit in nicely as a low-end number 2 WR and might be cheaper due to his age (34).
Head Case with Talent
Percy Harvin continues to jump from team to team. Buffalo was the latest team to try Harvin but that experiment failed with Rex Ryan. Harvin has now played for the Vikings, Seahawks, Jets and Bills. I’m sure a 5th team could pick him up but he is a locker room concern and an injury concern. The guy has talent but he doesn’t seem to last anywhere. Harvin is 27 and could go to an established team that can deal with his issues and injuries. A return to the Vikings for Harvin or teaming up with Golden Tate are very unlikely.
Number 2 WRs
Jermaine Kearse had a nice year with Seattle in 2015. Kearse 685 yards at 14.0 YPC and 5 TDs on 68 targets in 2014. Kearse is only 25 and seems to be growing as a player. He could earn a slightly cheaper Golden Tate contract (6 per). Kearse has nice size at 6’1 and has improved numbers every season.
Marvin Jones had a strong 2015 season with the Bengals. Jones had 816 yards and 4 TDs on 103 targets for 12.6 YPC. Jones is 6’2 and dropped to Round 5 due to off field/scandal issues at UNC. Jones was a nice number 2 WR to complement AJ Green with the Bengals. At 25, Jones could get a decent sized contract with his size and production.
Mohammed Sanu is another former Bengals WR. Sanu had a down year in 2015 giving way to Green, Eifert and Jones. Sanu is a 3rd round pick. Sanu only had 394 yards on 50 targets in 2015. Sanu had 790 yards and 5 TDs at 14.1 YPC in 2014. The Bengals may try to keep either Jones or Sanu. Sanu is also 6’2 but 26 years old. A contract worth 5-6 million per season is in play for both Jones and Sanu unless the Bengals try to keep one of them. The Bengals have the cap space to do so.
Reuben Randle is 24 and had a nice 4th season with the Giants. Randle was a former second round pick and had 797 yards, 8 TDs and 14 YPC in 2015 as a complement to Beckham Jr. Randle had 938 yards and 2 TDs in 2014 on 127 targets. Randle is a good number 2 possession WR that did well in Ben McAdoo’s offense in year 3 and 4 of his career. Randle is 6’2 and very young at 24 (to be 25 next season). He could be a good addition and will probably earn around 5-6 million per season on a new deal too.
Travis Benjamin was the top WR for the Browns due to the Josh Gordon suspension. Benjamin had a nice 2015 season and is a legitimate deep threat with 14.2 YPC on 144 targets. Benjamin had 966 yards and 5 TDS. Benjamin is a deep threat could help a team like Detroit with many proven underneath weapons on Golden Tate, Theo Riddick and Eric Ebron.
Benjamin only had 314 yards in 2014 with Hoyer and Manziel and is a risky pickup with only one year of production. Benjmain is 26 years old and only 5’10 but he may be worth 5-6 million per season too after his 2015 season.
Rishard Matthews had a nice contract year with the Dolphins but is a step below the other WRS mentioned in this category. Matthews notched 662 yards and 4 TDs at 15.2 YPC on 61 targets. The Dolphins may let him walk with Jarvis Landry, cap issues and 1st round Devante Parker in the fold. Matthews has much more to prove but could be a number 2 WR. Matthews is 6’0 and 26 years old. Three to four million per season sounds about right for Matthews.
Brian Quick is a disappointing 4th round pick from the Rams from Appalachian State. Quick only had 302 yards, 375 and 102 yards the last three seasons respectively. Quick is a boom or bust pickup and would be very cheap based on that production.
Rod Streater used to be productive for Oakland but missed the entire 2015 season and only had 13 targets in 2014. Streater had 888 yards and 4 TDS in 2013 but he should be a very cheap pickup as a 3rd or 4th WR option somewhere
How much will Alshon Jeffrey be worth? The franchise tag number should be around 14 million for WRs in 2015. Top 10 WRs make around 10 million per season. TY Hilton just inked a 13 million per season deal and Bryant and Demaryius Thomas got 14 million per season. The giant Calvin Johnson contract (16.5 million per season) may be off the books with his retirement which would lower the franchise number.
Since Jeffrey is a free agent, he could garner around 13-14 million per season despite his injury history. The Bears really need to maintain Jeffrey. If he becomes a free agent, he would be the only number 1 WR on the market and a bidding war could ensue. The Lions and Vikings and Packers all have the cap space to steal a division rival player.
Andre Caldwell and Jordan Norwood both manned the slot in Denver. Caldwell is 30 and Norwood is 29 and both could be obtained for cheap one year deals. Norwood has punt return skills which he showed in the Super Bowl.
Andre Holmes is 27 and never developed for the Raiders. Holmes had only 33 targets but 4 TDs with Derek Carr.
Lance Moore had a solid year as the number 3 WR for Detroit with 337 yards and 4 TDS. Moore fits a certain offense though and may end up back cheap with the Saints or Detroit.
Brandon Tate is a deep threat but had off field issues with UNC too. Tate never lived up to his hype despite size and speed. I’m sure one more team will take a cheap risk on him.
Darrius Heyward-Bey can fly and made a few plays for the Colts and Steelers the last 2 seasons. A one year deal seems likely for the former 1st round pick for the Raiders.
Kamar Aiken had a good year for Baltimore but is a restricted free agent. His availability depends on the tender Baltimore gives him. I don’t think he would be available barring giving up a 2nd round pick.
Wes Welker is still trying to play. He played for the Rams this year despite his concussion history. It will be interesting to see if a slot hungry team takes a shot on Welker. There is a Quinn and Welker connection with the Patriots but it seems unlikely given his injury history.
Nate Washington is a 32 year veteran who had some success with Houston and the Titans. He’ll fit on a team with a cheap one year deal. The 658 yard and 4 TD production is quite impressive considering Brain Hoyer, Ryan Mallett and TJ Yates were his QBs in Houston. Washington may have one year left for some team.
There is some decent number 2 WR talent available. The field depends on Alshon Jeffrey and the Bears franchising him. A bidding war for Jeffrey could highlight the WR free agents. I don’t see a bidding war for the number 2 WRs but you never know with free agency. There are impact and complement players available. A team looking to fill a hole would do nicely with some of the number 2 WR talent.