2013 NFL Free Agents: Top Wide Receivers Likeliest to Sign with New Teams

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIFebruary 6, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 12:  Wide receiver Greg Jennings #85 of the Green Bay Packers misses a catch against cornerback Carlos Rogers #22 of the San Francisco 49ers during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Candlestick Park on January 12, 2013 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The 2013 NFL free-agent pool is relatively stacked at skills positions, particularly at wide receiver. Many marquee names are liable to be up for grabs and could change the balance of power in the league depending on where they land.

A few names stand out as the likeliest to depart from their longtime teams and make new homes for some lucky NFL franchise that is in need of a playmaker.

Here is a breakdown of the three wideouts whose circumstances likely lend to a new destination for their foreseeable futures.

Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers

This is going to be a mighty interesting offseason in Pittsburgh after a disappointing year that saw the team miss the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

The front office has its work cut out, as the Steelers are over the cap by approximately $10 million and will almost certainly have to dump Wallace for that reason alone.

Compounding the issue is that Wallace was disgruntled last offseason and attempted to hold out for a long-term deal before settling for the franchise tag. According to NFL.com's Chris Wesseling, Wallace turned down a five-year, $50 million offer the last time around.

Wallace is arguably the most dangerous deep threat in the game due to his unique speed. Considering the fact that he will only be 27 years old by the time the impending season gets underway, the market for his services should be booming.

Look for receiver-strapped teams with plenty of cap space such as the division rival Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins to possibly take a gamble on Wallace.

It appears to be a high-risk, high-reward proposition based on Wallace's rocky relationship with one of pro football's best organizations. Ultimately, though, Wallace is worth the plunge.

Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers

Donald Driver's retirement lends a slightly better chance of Jennings staying in Green Bay as the longtime favorite target of superstar QB Aaron Rodgers. However, it's not likely in the cards.

The Packers need to lock up Rodgers to a long-term contract. With such a stacked receiver corps, GM Ted Thompson may prioritize re-signing linebacker Brad Jones and give Clay Matthews a huge payday. Defense has been the Pack's weak point, and Matthews' cheap deal ends following the 2013 campaign.

Another need the Packers must address ahead of receiver is at running back, where both Cedric Benson and Ryan Grant are free agents.

Jennings played well when he was finally healthy at the end of the year. But as good of a player as he is, he might be the odd man out despite his long tenure in Green Bay. According to ESPN's John Clayton, the Packers only have $7.1 million in cap space to work with.

The demands that Jennings will likely incur should prove too costly, although if he truly does want to stay in Green Bay, his injury-plagued 2012 season may have helped him in that regard.

It depends on what the market for Jennings is like, but some teams may be hesitant to give him such a big contract. That said, Jennings' record of consistency and success and his performance in the Packers' last five games could be enough to warrant a big, long-term deal elsewhere.

Wes Welker, New England Patriots

What is the hesitation to lock up Welker to a long-term deal?

The Pats have been stalling and continue to franchise the phenomenal slot receiver, and doing so again would seem ridiculous.

While Welker certainly wants to stay and the Patriots publicly profess their desire to keep him, the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe reports that no negotiations have begun. That's in spite of Welker's past two seasons, where he has caught 122 and 118 passes, and 15 combined touchdowns.

That type of production is irreplaceable, and QB Tom Brady relies as much on him as anyone to make the New England offensive juggernaut operate optimally. Frequent injuries to star TE Rob Gronkowski makes retaining Welker all the more critical.

If this were any other team, Welker's contract would have been signed and sealed long ago. But Bill Belichick does have a tendency to let go of players without batting an eye—no matter how prominent they are.

Letting someone like Welker go would be unprecedented even for Belichick, but it wouldn't necessarily be shocking. Welker's departure would free up plenty of cap room and allow the Pats to add depth to the roster.

In the big picture, it actually makes sense for Welker to leave—even if it means a relatively down year for the Pats in 2013.