Eddie Royal has certainly been a fan favorite in Denver since his breakout season as a rookie in 2008. But in the seasons since then, his production has dropped, mostly due to being ostracized (along with Brandon Marshall) in the Josh McDaniels regime and later due to John Fox’s focus on a run-based offense.
Later, it was shown that an offense based around Tim Tebow isn’t the most wide receiver-friendly, which led to Brandon Lloyd leaving for more pass-happy pastures.
Despite being loved by fans, the NFL is a business, so a departure may be the best-case scenario for Royal, given the fact he is slated to enter free agency as an unrestricted free agent. With the recent signing of free-agent receiver Jason Hill, things are looking even more grim for a Royal return to Denver.
Fans of Eddie Royal will be happy to see his production go up in 2012, but might be unhappy that said production might be with another team.
Here’s a look at four possible destinations.
Could Cutler and Royal be reunited in the Windy City?
Eddie Royal’s best season as a Bronco came as a rookie, when he totaled 91 receptions for 980 yards and five touchdowns in 2008. At the helm of that offense was current Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler.
Cutler and Royal clearly have the chemistry to put up numbers together, which makes Chicago an ideal stop for Royal if he is looking to revitalize his NFL career.
According to a report published by the Sporting News, Bears' new GM Phil Emery lists wide receiver as a position the team must fill in free agency. This rumor gains more ground when paired with the Chicago Tribune report that Emery has already met with Royal’s agent, as well as Dwayne Bowe.
At this point, the Ravens are clearly committed to Joe Flacco and putting the pieces around him to make the Ravens a successful passing offense. This was evident when the team signed Anquan Boldin during free agency in 2010.
The Ravens have yet to find a solid and consistent second wide receiver, however, and Eddie Royal could be a good candidate to compete with the emerging Torrey Smith.
At the very least, Royal could provide a solid threat at the slot position, just as he has for the Broncos in past seasons.
Don’t be surprised if the Ravens sign Royal; they have a history of signing Broncos stars in the past (Shannon Sharpe, Trevor Price and Domonique Foxworth, among others).
From a personal standpoint, Baltimore could appeal to Royal, as it is also approximately a one-hour drive from Royal’s hometown of Alexandria, Va.
Although Eddie Royal may not fit the “high profile” description, the Redskins certainly have a need at the position from top to bottom. Last season, the only real standout as a number one receiver for the Redskins was another former Bronco, Jabar Gaffney, who previously was used as a number three wideout in the Broncos and Patriots systems.
The reason why Washington would be an ideal destination for Royal is the fact that he would be reunited with his former coach, and the one who drafted him: Mike Shanahan. Royal was clearly underutilized in during McDaniels' regime in Denver.
Teaming up with Shanahan could give Royal the boost and the snaps he needs to revitalize his career.
If the combo works like it did in 2008 in Denver, Shanahan could once again look like an offensive genius in what is looking to be a make-or-break year for the coach.
With top-tier wideout Vincent Jackson also slated to enter free agency, the San Diego Chargers will be looking for not only talent, but talent on a budget to fill the void at wide receiver.
Royal could be exactly the kind of player the Chargers will be shopping for. Added to that is the fact that the organization is still reeling from the criticism of letting Darren Sproles go. Royal is the only player besides Sproles that has posted over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and in the return game.
As such, Royal could provide the dynamic big-play ability the Chargers have been missing on offense. ESPN writer and former Denver Broncos beat reporter Bill Williamson addressed the situation in his most recent column, stating, “I could see the Chargers, at least, considering Royal.”