Free Agency Diary

2016’s NFL Top Free Agent Wide Receivers

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For this being a pass-happy league, this is one of the weakest wide receiver free agent classes in recent memory. Virtually none of these pass catchers are bonafide No. 1 options.

Having said that, most of the players on this list are young and have potential to eventually pan out to be legitimate threats moving forward.

1. Alshon Jeffery – After parting ways with Brandon Marshall, Jeffery was asked to step up as the team’s top receiving threat. When Jeffrey was on the field, he produced.

In nine games, the 26-year-old hauled in 54 catches for 807 yards to go along with four touchdowns.

Jeffery’s season was hindered with injuries, and if Chicago doesn’t elect to retain him, there will be plenty of suitors out there for his services.

General manager Ryan Pace spoke on the matter. 

“We’re actively and aggressively negotiating right now,” Pace stated. “We understand the deadline is Tuesday for the franchise tag. That’s an option. We have until Tuesday to make that decision. But right now that’s ongoing. But, no, that option [the franchise tag] is still on the table.”

Best fits: Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, Tennessee, Miami, Minnesota, Kansas City, Oakland, Cleveland, Carolina, St. Louis. 

2. Travis Benjamin – Although Jeffery is atop the list here, some will argue that Travis Benjamin should be there. Through his first three seasons, Benjamin struggled to fit in to being an NFL wide receiver.

With that being said, the 5-foot-10 receiver bursted onto the scene this past season. Benjamin caught 68 balls for nearly 1,000 yards to go along with five touchdowns.

To put things into perspective, Benjamin totaled just 41 catches during his first three years.

As contract discussions have broke down between Benjamin and Cleveland, the Miami product is set to hit the open market.

Best fits: Dallas, Minnesota, Atlanta, St. Louis, Tennessee, Chicago, New York Giants, Cincinnati, Miami. 

3. Marvin Jones – There were tons of questions surrounding Marvin Jones following the 2014 campaign, since he missed the entire season due to ankle problems.

Nonetheless, Jones silenced the critics in a major way this past season.

He caught 65 passes for 816 yards with four touchdowns to boot.

In a couple of weeks, Jones will only be turning 26, so he still has plenty of room to grow. Sure, he may not be a number one receiver at this stage of his career, but he’s definitely a very good number two option.

Best fits: Carolina, New England, Los Angeles, Giants, San Diego, Oakland, Tennessee, Houston. 

4. Anquan Boldin – Yes, we know he isn’t the guy he once was.

What he is, however, is a big body that will provide some quarterback a huge target on the perimeter. For whichever team decides to bring Boldin aboard, they’ll not only be getting a quality receiver, but they’ll also be receiving a high character guy on and off the field. 

“I’m beyond humbled to be selected as the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year,” Boldin stressed. “I used to dream that I could play like Walter Payton when I was growing up, but he became even more of an inspiration to me as I learned about his legacy as a humanitarian.”

Best fits: Arizona, Oakland, New England, New York Jets, Chicago, Cleveland, Tennessee, Washington. 

5. Rueben Randle – Expectations were high for Randle as he was selected in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

Unfortunately, things haven’t quite panned out for Randle thus far.

With Victor Cruz being injured for majority of the past two seasons, Randle’s had the opportunity to step up in a major way, but it just hasn’t worked out that way.

Good thing for Randle is that he’s only 24-years-old, so there’s going to be suitors interested.

Best fits: San Diego, Minnesota, New York Giants, New England, Oakland, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Miami.

6. Jermaine Kearse – Former Super Bowl champion quarterback Russell Wilson clearly just had the best season of his young career. Multiple teammates played a role in Wilson’s historic year, including Jermaine Kearse.

Kearse had career-high in catches (49), yards (685) and touchdowns (5).

In any other off-season, Kearse would be looked at as a plan b or c at his position, but considering how unappealing this receiver class is, a desperate team may be willing to overpay for his services.

Best fits: Atlanta, New Orleans, Detroit, Chicago, New York Giants, Tampa Bay, Detroit, San Francisco, Seattle.

7. Rishard Matthews – Despite missing five games, Matthews set career-highs in catches (43), yards (662) and touchdowns (4). Just like most of the receivers on this list, Matthews should benefit from a thin market.

He’s young at 26, so a team looking for an upgrade offensively may believe they can help take his game to the next level.

Best fits: Miami, New England, Chicago, New York Giants, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Detroit.

8. Mohamed Sanu – When looking at Sanu’s numbers, you most likely won’t be moved.

On a bright note, Sanu still has time to turn his career around. He’s been in the league five years, with all of them being in Cincinnati.

The former college quarterback can be utilized on trick plays which gives him some added value.

Perhaps a change of scenery will do him good?

Best fits: New York Giants, Cleveland, Chicago, New Orleans, New England, Carolina, Atlanta.

9. Brian Quick – In 2014, Quick appeared to show signs of being a playmaker.

Things quickly changed when the 6-foot-3 receiver went down with a shoulder injury and he hasn’t been the same since. Quick really struggled this past season, only making 10 catches in 13 games.

If the Los Angeles Rams allow Quick to walk, some team could get him very cheap in hopes of him fulfilling his potential.

Best fits: Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, Detroit, New England, Houston.

10. Percy Harvin – The fact Harvin made the list just goes to show how naturally talented he is. Despite his track record for being injury prone and a problem in the locker room, Harvin could end up being a great reward for a team willing to take the chance.

If a team takes a chance on Harvin, they’ll be getting him for cheap and with this probably being his last chance, maybe he’ll play motivated.

Best fits: New England, Los Angeles, Tennessee, Indianapolis.

To find the best free agent quarterbacks, click here. 

To find the best free agent running backs, click here.

To find the best free agent tight ends, click here.


About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.