NFL Free Agents 2011: Best Fit for Steve Smith and Remaing Free Agent Receivers
After the flurry of big name signings in the first week of the NFL offseason, fans hardly had time to catch their breath. It truly seemed like there was a new signing or trade every minute.
One of the most interesting positions this offseason to watch was the wide receiver group. Many of the top free agents overall were wideouts including Sidney Rice, Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Plaxico Burress and Vincent Jackson.
Once the dust settled after the first week, teams like the Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers, Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders could use some last minute additions to bolster their receiving corps.
There are still a few receivers out there who can certainly make an impact next season if they sign with the right team.
Mark Clayton was emerging as one of Sam Bradford's most consistent targets before going down with an injury. Through five games he had 300 yards and two touchdowns, projecting to nearly 1,000 yards and six touchdowns.
After not living up to his draft status in Baltimore, partly which can be blamed on their subpar quarterbacks before Joe Flacco, Clayton looked to start over in St. Louis. Clayton was never a burner in the sense that he was a true down-field threat, but he has shown the ability to get open.
Coming off knee surgery, he is likely a risky pick up but there are a few teams that could use a good possession receiver and Clayton certainly showed last year that he was capable of catching the ball and making an impact.
While the Browns have Mohamed Massaquoi, Josh Cribbs and the newly acquired Greg Little, they lack a true possession receiver.
Massaquoi is speedy and gets open, Cribbs is an uber-athlete and Little is talented but rookie wideout tend to have minimal impact. Clayton could fit in nicely and get himself back on track easily with Colt McCoy.
Malcom Floyd filled in nicely for Vincent Jackson during last season and showed consistent production despite missing five games.
Floyd showed he could be a true leading receiver and is looking to get the biggest paycheck possible. From what it appears, GM A.J. Smith seems to think that as long as Philip Rivers is his quarterback, it doesn't matter who the receivers are. Unfortunately for Floyd, Smith might be right.
Plenty of teams should be interested in Floyd. He is a tall and gifted receiver who didn't get enough of the offense thrown his way with Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates as Rivers' main targets.
While the Ravens have yet again addressed the receiver position with a draft pick, history tells us that this will not work out.
Anquan Boldin, a stud who thrived in Arizona as a true possession receiver, may find himself again in that role if Floyd joins the Ravens. This would give Joe Flacco two legitimate wideouts and the Ravens a much more balanced offense.
The oldest receiver on this list is, not surprisingly, still unsigned. Terrell Owens is on a crash course for finding a team that is desperate and signing there. Rotoworld is reporting that the Cleveland Browns may have interest in the aging receiver but nothing is confirmed.
Owens will likely have a harder time this season than the past two finding a team. Even though he has been fairly well behaved in recent season and showed solid production through 14 games in Cincinnati, the fact of the matter is Owens will be 38 in December and is coming off an ACL tear.
The two things Owens has on his side is his excellent work habits and his ability to come back from injury. Owens came back from a severe compound fracture to play in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots and will likely put the same effort into rehabbing his knee.
The Jaguars have spent the offseason fixing their defense but would be wise to pay attention to the receiving unit as well.
Mike Sims-Walker might have wanted out but after Mike Thomas, the receiving unit is slim pickings. Owens would at least put fans in the seats and could help mentor some of their young receivers.
Another receiver coming off a knee injury, Steve Smith was in the midst of another stellar season following his breakout 2009 campaign.
Known for getting catches in bunches without a ton of YAC, Smith is a player in the mold of Wes Welker—smallish and quick but will not blow by people.
Smith saw his value drop in the Giants offense when Mario Manningham stepped in and took over his role rather easily.
Unfortunately for Smith, receivers who have microfracture surgery tend to take a while to get back into form. Fortunately, he will likely make a comeback and after a down season should recover. He will likely never be quite as effective.
New York Giants
Smith really only holds value right now to the Giants as he is likely to miss up to the first month of the season.
The Giants have enough wide receiver talent to overcome this and he would be able to work himself into football shape without having the lion's share of the workload that he might get with another team.
Randy Moss is one of the best receivers of all time, if not the second best behind Jerry Rice. His agent said earlier this offseason that he was in great shape and was looking to contribute. At this point in his career, Moss wants to play for a contender.
When Bill Belichick cuts you loose, that tends to mean something. When you play for three teams in one season, that says a lot more. Moss behaved himself in New England but that is because he was fed the ball and winning.
The list of contenders looking for a receiver is at one, maybe two. The Ravens could really use another receiver and if Malcom Floyd leaves, the Chargers should consider investing in another receiver as well. No other top flight team has a need at receiver and is why Moss chose to retire.
Unfortunately, it seems odd for him to retire now. He never won a ring and he is about to get passed on the all time touchdown list if Terrell Owens comes back. Moss received an offer from the Philadelphia Eagles after filing his retirement papers, which seemed odd but there is apparent interest there even though Moss would not likely be a featured receiver with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin as the starters.
San Diego Chargers
No way Moss stays retired. All he is looking for is a multi-year contract. A.J. Smith would be nuts not to at least make an offer and pick up the phone.
Rivers is good but he still needs someone outside of Jackson and Gates to get the ball to, especially since Legedu Naanee and Malcom Floyd are likely gone.