NFL Free Agency 2019: Predicting Where the Top WRs Will Land
The 2019 edition of NFL free agency isn't far off. Teams can begin to contact players March 11 and can officially sign players March 13 at 4 p.m. ET.
This year's crop of pending free agents boasts impressive names like Ndamukong Suh, Demarcus Lawrence, Earl Thomas and Ezekiel Ansah. When it comes to pending free-agent wide receivers, however, the list isn't quite as impressive. The biggest name of the bunch might be 30-year-old Golden Tate.
Still, receivers are going to be in demand, especially since recent rookies have struggled to adapt to the NFL. While the receiver class may not be the deepest in free agency, the top wideouts—those with proven production and/or high upside—are going to get impressive offers.
Here are some early predictions for where those players land in 2019 free agency.
The Philadelphia Eagles gave up a third-round pick to acquire Golden Tate at the 2018 trade deadline. While Tate got off to a slow start, he did make an impact in the postseason. He caught five passes for 46 yards and a touchdown in the win over the Chicago Bears.
The problem with retaining Tate is that the Eagles don't have a lot of money to play with. They're projected to be over the salary cap. The Eagles are set to pay receivers Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor over $24 million combined—assuming Agholor plays on his fifth-year option—which means a competitive offer for Tate wouldn't make sense.
The New York Jets, however, have the projected cap space ($95 million) to make that kind of offer. The Jets have also hired former Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter as running backs coach. Tate, who spent the last four-and-a-half seasons in Detroit before the trade to Philadelphia, would at least have a familiar face in New York.
Prediction: Tate signs two-year deal with the Jets.
Donte Moncrief had an up-and-down career with the Indianapolis Colts. He had 733 yards receiving in 2015 but failed to reach the 400-yard mark in each of the next two seasons, playing just 21 games in that stretch. He returned to being a quality receiver last season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, though.
Given the turmoil the Jaguars had at quarterback in 2018, Moncrief's 668 yards receiving were impressive. Still, they probably weren't good enough to get Jacksonville—which paid Moncrief nearly $10 million for the season—to re-sign him.
The Jaguars are in an even worse cap situation than the Eagles. It's more likely that Moncrief will land with a team flush with cap space—like the Oakland Raiders.
Oakland is expected to have nearly $70 million in cap space, has a need at wide receiver and hasn't shied away from adding players in free agency under head coach Jon Gruden.
Projection: Moncrief signs three-year deal with Raiders.
Cole Beasley apparently wasn't too happy with his role in the Dallas Cowboys offense this past season.
"Honestly, the front office pushes who they want to get the ball to," Beasley said on Twitter. "I haven't been a huge priority in that regard."
Beasley had one of his better NFL seasons in 2018, amassing 672 yards and three touchdowns. Still, it seems like he's seeking a more active role in an offense. He might be able to find one with the New England Patriots.
The Patriots are set to lose wideout Chris Hogan in free agency, and they could lose tight end Rob Gronkowski to retirement. New England also has a habit of adding receivers like Hogan and Danny Amendola through free agency—and Bill Belichick doesn't have the best track record of drafting them either. Adding Hogan would help the Patriots reload for another run in 2019.
Prediction: Beasley signs three-year deal with Patriots.
Chris Hogan has been a quality role player for the Patriots, but he never emerged as a star. His best season in New England was his first, in which he caught 38 passes for 680 yards and four touchdowns. The Patriots may try to bring him back, but they're not going to overpay to do so.
This could lead Hogan to look for employment elsewhere, potentially with a familiar face.
Former Patriots defensive play-caller Brian Flores is now head coach of the Miami Dolphins. By joining the Dolphins—which would be his third AFC East team—Hogan could reunite with both Flores and Danny Amendola.
Interestingly, Hogan previously spent parts of 2011 and 2012 on Miami's practice squad. Now he could finally take the regular-season field for the Dolphins.
Prediction: Hogan signs two-year deal with Dolphins.
Los Angeles Chargers wideout Tyrell Williams may not be a household name, but he views himself as a budding superstar.
"I definitely feel like I'm a No. 1 receiver," Williams said, per Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com. "So I want to make sure that I clean up all of the little things in route running and blocking, to make sure I solidify myself as a No. 1."
Williams isn't wrong. While he still has some rawness to his game, he has the size (6'4", 205 lbs) and breakaway speed of a future No. 1. He could end up commanding one of the top receiver contracts in free agency.
The Buffalo Bills ($78 million in projected space) can afford to dole out a top contract. They're also in need of a No. 1 receiver to help quarterback Josh Allen grow.
Prediction: Williams signs five-year deal with Bills.
The Chicago Bears tried to surround quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with receiving talent last offseason. Some of the moves paid off—Taylor Gabriel was tremendous—but some didn't work out as expected.
Hanging on to tight end Dion Sims (two catches, nine yards) looks like a mistake in retrospect. Allen Robinson was hit-and-miss as a No. 1 option, even when healthy.
Head coach Matt Nagy should continue to try to improve the cast around Trubisky. This is where Kansas City Chiefs wideout Chris Conley enters the picture.
In part because of injuries, Conley never reached his full potential in the Chiefs offense. However, he is a fast and physical receiver who can stretch the field and boost the running game as a blocker. He should fit right into Chicago's offense, and Nagy—who spent two years at the Chiefs offensive coordinator—will know how to utilize him.
Prediction: Conley signs one-year deal with Bears.
Like the Bills and the Bears, the Cleveland Browns have a young quarterback they need to surround with more talent. This is where Tampa Bay Buccaneers wideout Adam Humphries comes in. Humphries is one of the league's best up-and-coming slot receivers—he had 816 yards and five touchdowns in 2018—and he'd make a fine addition to Cleveland's offense.
Former Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken now holds the same position with the Browns, though head coach Freddie Kitchens plans to call plays. Kitchens wasn't afraid to play Jarvis Landry outside the slot, so there is room for both him and Humphries in the offense.
A receiving corps of Landry, Humphries, Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins and possibly reclamation project Breshad Perriman (also a pending free agent) would provide Baker Mayfield with plenty of ways to attack downfield.
Prediction: Humphries signs three-year deal with Browns.
Baltimore Ravens receiver John Brown brings a good combination of past production and upside. Brown is 28 years old, so he should have a few more prime years left in him. He was a 1,000-yard receiver in 2015, and he still has enough speed to stretch the field. He averaged 17.0 yards per reception in 2018.
However, Brown didn't see a lot of production after Lamar Jackson took over at quarterback. Only 114 of Brown's 715 receiving yards came in the seven games after Joe Flacco gave up the starting gig.
It would make sense for Brown to follow Flacco if the Ravens trade or release him in the early offseason. He could also reunite with Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians, who coached Brown with the Arizona Cardinals. Without knowing where Flacco ends up, Tampa is the clear choice.
Prediction: Brown signs three-year deal with the Buccaneers.
All contract information via Spotrac.