My theory is that the Green Bay Packers’ biggest needs are for a standout receiver and a dominant pass rusher. It would be nice if they could get one through free agency and the other with their 14th overall draft choice.
Today I’m looking at the top wide receivers who are about to become free agents if they don’t re-sign with their current teams. My prerequisites are nothing less than a big, fast and athletic receiver, and one with a consistent or rising pro record of effectiveness.
Sports Illustrated lists four “difference makers” (*) and another 14 “significant” impending free agent receivers. Based on size alone, I’m scratching over half these guys off the list: *Jarvis Landry (Dolphins), *John Brown (Cardinals), Paul Richardson (Seahawks), Danny Amendola (Patriots), Marqise Lee (Jaguars), Taylor Gabriel (Falcons), Albert Wilson (Chiefs), Mike Wallace (Steelers), Ryan Grant (Redskins), and Kendall Wright (Bears). I assume some readers, however, would be attracted to some of these little water bugs. I would too, but my top priority at the moment is for a classic wide receiver, a WR1.
By the way, I wouldn’t describe Miami’s Jarvis Landry as a difference maker: he was targeted a whopping 160 times – fourth most in 2017 – and still didn’t reach 1,000 yards.
That leaves these eight: *Sammy Watkins (Rams), *Allen Robinson (Jaguars), Jaron Brown (Cardinals), Donte Moncrief (Colts), Jordan Matthews (Bills), Dontrelle Inman (Bears), Terrelle Pryor (Redskins), and Eric Decker (Titans).
So who among these nine had a fine season in 2017? There was only one guy in the top 63 in receiving yards: Sammy Watkins, at 63. Only 24 years old, he had two fine years to start with, missed half of his third year, and only managed 39 catches last year, his first season with the Rams. He’s a falling star.
That’s it, nobody meets my criteria. But wait, there’s a guy who only had one catch in 2017: Allen Robinson. He tore his ACL in the season opener.
Let’s assume Robinson gets a very clean bill of health from his surgeon. In that case, let’s take a longer look at this consensus All-American from Penn State, who also was a Pro Bowler in 2015. He’s only 24; he’s 6’3” and 211 pounds (220 at the NFL Combine). Alas, his combine numbers are awful, starting with a 4.6 dash time, and going downhill from there.
Robinson is a guy who defies the odds, given his low athleticism. In just his second year, he rang up 1,400 yards, a 17.5 yard catch average, and 14 TDs. He got nowhere near that, however, in 2016, his third year. Maybe you can overlook his measurables and be happy with his proven effectiveness, but I can’t – not when big money (Davante Adams money) is at stake.
There you have it, none of Sports Illustrated’s list of 18 free agent receivers meets my requirements.
There is another possibility: potential cap casualties. These are guys who are still under contract, but who might be dropped by their teams – mostly for salary cap reasons. In addition to Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb being this SI list, here are some others: Dez Bryant (Cowboys), Michael Crabtree (Raiders), Allen Hurns (Jaguars), Jeremy Maclin (Ravens), Emmanuel Sanders (Broncos), and Markus Wheaton (Bears). I’m not feeling any love here, either. Some are getting old, some are too beaten up, and one is too Dez.
It looks like the Packers will have to use that first round draft pick on a wide receiver.
Tomorrow, I’ll review free agent pass rushers – maybe there will be someone more tempting in that grouping.