Oh how quickly trends shift in the NFL. It was not two years ago that wide receivers were the divas of the NFL. The players with the most bloated sense of self importance due to the amount of money and worship that was shown to them in the draft and free agency every year.
Well it appears that that bubble has officially burst. It started last offseason when the only sizable contracts for wide receivers were given to Bernard Berrian and Javon Walker. And Walker’s contract was a fluke that never should have happened. Then the draft came and all of these receivers that were predicted to go in the first round and early second round, ended up going in the second and third round. Not a SINGLE receiver went in the first round in last years draft. It left Todd McShay and Mel Kiper stunned. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t a couple that could have warranted first round consideration– Desean Jackson had a great rookie season and Eddie Royal had a pretty good one too. It just means that NFL teams are not placing the same value on them as they used to.
Now fast forward to this offseason where we see some of the more surprising receivers looking for new teams. There were many receivers that were set to become free agents that saw their teams show no interest in retaining their services and others that were simply cut. Sure a lot of those cuts were for salary cap reasons but in years past, most teams would consider their star receivers a high priority when deciding where to spend their money. Not any more. Here is a list of some of the more high profile wide receivers that are on the market right now:
Drew Bennett– East Bay native, solid 8 yr veteran, cut by Rams after two injury plagued seasons. 1,247 yard receiving in 04 with Titans
Laveranues Coles– cut by the Jets in one of the more surprising moves**
**Signed with Bengals, so from Houshmandzadeh to Laveranues…Bengals fan spelling bee
Ronald Curry– was unhappy with the Raiders and was released
Bobby Engram– Solid veteran receiver. UFA from the Seahawks**
**Will be trying to catch passes from Matt Cassel but realizing Cassel is a fraud.
Mike Furrey– 98 catches two seasons ago, cut by Lions
Jabar Gaffney– 7 yr vet, more than 500 yds only once in career, UFA Patriots**
**Signed with Patriot wannabe Broncos
Joey Galloway– Solid receiver nearing end of career, cut by Bucs**
**Latest to try and get a last gasp ring by joining the Patriots
DJ Hackett– Marginal receiver signed last offseason, cut by Panthers
Marvin Harrison– second all time in receptions. Set for huge bonus, cap casualty
Devery Henderson– Inconsistent receiver, UFA Saints.**
**Re-signed with Saints
Ike Hilliard– Reaching end of career, cut by Bucs
Tory Holt– Released by Rams on March 13th, Still star quality receiver
TJ Houshmandzadeh– Biggest FA name out there, Bengals franchised the kicker**
**Signed with the Seahawks
Bryant Johnson– Steadily marginal receiver, played one season for Niners, UFA**
**Signed with Lions
Brandon Jones– UFA couldn’t quite reach potential with Titans**
**Signed with 49ers to replace Bryant Johnson, Niners love BJs
Justin McCareins– Very dependable, Proven game breaker, over 700 yds 03-05, UFA Titans
Shaun McDonald– UFA, a year removed from near thousand yard season
Terrell Owens– Cut by Cowboys, Cancerous tumor on the prostate of the NFL**
**Shuffled off to Buffalo
Jerry Porter– Cut just a season after big deal with Jags, not much value here.
Amani Toomer– Reaching end of career but can still contribute, UFA Giants
Nate Washington– UFA, Forgotten man behind Ward and Holmes with Steelers**
**Signed with the Titans
Reggie Williams– Marginal if unspectacular, shown flashes of potential, UFA
Roydell Williams– UFA, 3 yrs in league, had best year in 08 with 719 yds
This is great news for a team like the Raiders. Let me count the ways…
First off: Not only does it mean that they are by far not the only team doing a youth movement at receiver, but the Raiders have some fine young receivers in Jonnie Lee Higgins and Chaz Schilens.
Second off: It means that there is plenty of receivers to choose from that are all out there looking for work so it ups the odds of getting one (or two).
Third off: As in any business; competition drives prices down. More receivers out there= lower costs all-around.
So what initially looked like a year of purging players for the Raiders, and few, if any, acquisitions, could turn into a pretty nice free agency period for the team. One in which they come out of it with even a couple of nice veterans to compliment and mentor their young receiving corp.
It also spells great news going into the draft. Because if these teams that are in need of a receiver sign one in free agency, they will look elsewhere in the draft. That means that, either Michael Crabtree will fall to the Raiders at the #7 pick or some fine talent, such as Darrius Hayward-Bey and Hakeem Nicks, could slip in the draft and fall right into the Raiders waiting arms in the second round.
OR if the Raiders sign one or two of these free agents, they may not be in the market for a receiver in the draft and can focus on more pressing areas of need like DT, LB, and OT.
What, you want more good news? Ok fine. How about this: With such little money being spent on perhaps a couple of pretty good receivers, the Raiders would still have the means to sign a right tackle in free agency. My thinking is that Stacy Andrews from the Bengals would be the perfect choice. As we speak (or rather as I type), the Raiders are working out deals to keep Cooper Carlisle and Cornell Green on the team. They are hoping to keep Carlisle off the market and trying to get Green to agree to a pay cut or he will be released. If Green stays for something around veteran minimum, he could backup Andrews at RT. And if Carlisle re-signs, he could compete (and probably backup) Paul McQuistan at RG now that he will be healthy. And suddenly the Raiders have a solid offensive line without using a single draft pick.
**Stacy Andrews signs with the Eagles, Raiders now have eye on tackles Khalif Barnes and Marvel Smith. There is said to also be interest in Orlando Pace in a trade.
Going into the draft with only two glaring needs means that the Raiders can take one in the first round and one in the second and spend the rest of the draft taking whomever the hell they want.
I understand, now that Gibril Wilson is gone many people are doing a “Chicken Little” impersonation in regards to the safety position but fear not. Hiram Eugene proved last season that he is, if nothing else, a very solid tackler which is basically what Gibril Wilson is but Eugene is much cheaper. Michael Huff is also still on this team and as long as he is, then it is clear that the coaches have not given up on his potential as a free safety in the NFL. Add to that, the fact that Tyvon Branch will be back and will compete at safety and the outlook is not too shabby. Now, if Huff is traded before the draft then, we can cross that bridge when we come to it.
The moral of this story is that the glut of receivers on the market right now is not only a sign of a changing of the guards in the NFL, but it is a sign of good things to come for the Raiders when that clock strikes 9pm (12am ET). This situation will cause a chain reaction that will leave the Raiders in a great position regardless of how it shakes out. Or am I just being overly optimistic?
Just call me Mr Sunshine.