2012 NFL Free Agents: 7 Best Wide Receivers on the Market

Nick HouserCorrespondent IIFebruary 10, 2012

2012 NFL Free Agents: 7 Best Wide Receivers on the Market

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    Though the Super Bowl marks the end of one NFL season, the start of the next is just around the corner. NFL free agency begins March 13, 2012. With it, the speculation of which top-tier wide receivers are on the move can commence.

    With over 40 wide receivers set to hit the open market, who will have general managers eager to ink a deal?

    From reliable veterans to stars in the thick of their prime, here is a look at the top seven wide receivers in free agency.

7. Plaxico Burress

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    After missing the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Plaxico Burress returned to New York. However,

    Burress switched colors and sides, joining the New York Jets in 2011.

    Burress will be 35 in 2012.

    Sure, there's younger options in Laurent Robinson, Jerome Simpson and Steve Johnson.

    However, each comes with question marks of consistency and reliability.

    His 2011 stats aren't overwhelming at 612 yards and 8 touchdowns.

    But for teams looking for a big, strong wide receiver who can immediately upgrade the wide receiving corp, Burress is a good option to look at. He stands 6'5'', and weighs in at 232 pounds.

    His height makes him a huge concern for defenses, especially in the redzone.

    Perhaps Burress will benefit most from a team with less internal strife.

6. DeSean Jackson

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    There are definitely concerns about DeSean Jackson's work ethic. The Philadelphia Eagles remain non-commital about Jackson's status.

    After holding out during training camp, Jackson only contributed four touchdowns and less than 1,000 yards.

    Attitude and work ethic.

    Two huge deterrents.

    How much would a big free agent contract and a change of scenery benefit Jackson and a new team?

    His speed and dual-threat capabilities at receiver and returning punts makes the reward worth the risk. 

5. Wes Welker

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    At this point, all signs point to the New England Patriots using the franchise tag on Wes Welker.

    But in the case the Patriots don't tag him, he'll be a hot commodity.

    Welker will be 31 and he's coming off the biggest drop of his career.

    Neither are relevant.

    He's still reliable.

    In 2011, Welker caught 122 passes for 1,569 yards and 9 touchdowns.

    Over 1,000 yards and nearly doubl- digit touchdowns on a team that featured Rob Gronkowski's record-breaking campaign, Aaron Hernandez, Deion Branch and Danny Woodhead.

    Should he hit free agency, teams will be in dire need of his speed, route-running ability, reliable hands and veteran leadership.

4. Marques Colston

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    Take Plaxico Burress' build, DeSean Jackson's speed and Wes Welker's reliability and what do you get?

    Marques Colston.

    Like Welker, Colston had a stellar season on a team with plenty of options.

    One of more than a half-dozen go-to options for Drew Brees, Colston caught 80 passes for 1,143 yards and 8 touchdowns.

    Assuming the New Orleans Saints don't re-sign him, Colston is a No.1 wide receiver on the most, if not all, NFL teams. He's only 28, so teams can lock him into a four or five-year deal.

3. Mike Wallace

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    If, for no other reason, teams should swoop in on Mike Wallace for his speed.

    Having a season equal to Marques Colston and Wes Welker, Wallace absolutely torches defensive backs. Likely the fastest wide receiver or player in the NFL, it's very difficult to contain the deep threat of Mike Wallace.

    Imagine pairing Wallace with a healthy quarterback who has a cannon for an arm. Not that Ben Roethlisberger's arm isn't powerful, but the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback is bitten by the injury bug all too often.

2. Vincent Jackson

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    Simply put, Vincent Jackson is a beast.

    The San Diego Chargers wide receiver stands 6'5'' and weighs in at 230 pounds.

    Jackson's jumping ability is phenomenal. Before being drafted, Jackson's vertical jump at the combine came in at 39 inches, or 3'3''. At 6'5'' already, jumping three feet higher with outstretched arms puts Vincent Jackson's hands at over 12 feet in the air.

    Not to mention, he's got some pretty good hands and speed too.

1. Dwayne Bowe

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    What does Dwayne Bowe have that the others on this list don't?

    He'll be 28, so he's of the same age or younger than all but DeSean Jackson. He has the electric speed, jumping ability and quality hands just like the others.

    The biggest difference is his quarterback.

    Vincent Jackson had Philip Rivers.

    DeSean Jackson had Michael Vick.

    Mike Wallace had Ben Roethlisberger, Marques Colston had Drew Brees and Wes Welker had Tom Brady.

    With Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko and Kyle Orton sharing time in 2011, Bowe still managed over 1,000 yards with five touchdowns.

    Imagine if he had a better, more stable quarterback.