Project Fresh Start: WR Edition

Each off-season the NFL offers a litany of players which are destined to find new homes for the upcoming season. The 2016 free agent pool is no different. This segment will dig into a handful of wide receivers, which could find themselves dawning new uniforms for the 2016 season. Whether due to contract status or simply having worn out their welcome for their current teams, the one thing we can always count on happening is things always change.
Without further ado, let’s dive in and have some fun projecting just where they may land, the implications it could have on their current teams and which players may benefit from their departure.
Defining Free Agent Status:
UFA – Unrestricted free agents are players with expired contracts that have completed four or more accrued seasons of service. They are free to sign with any franchise.
RFA – A player who is no longer considered to be entry-level, but does not qualify as an unrestricted free agent, becomes a restricted free agent when his contract expires. A player may only declare himself to be an unrestricted free agent if he is over the age of 27 or has played in the league for a minimum of 7 years.
ERFA – An exclusive rights free agent is a player who is not under contract but has two years of NFL experience. A player in this category is not really a free agent. He cannot sign with any other team, if he does not sign the contract, the player has to quit.

WR Calvin Johnson (under contract)

The Now:
The proven production veteran has seen his production totals continue to slip since his world beating 2012 season. Although his week 17 performance (10/137/1) did save him from his lowest yardage totals since last year Megatron appears to be feeling the affects of wear & tear. He is still a force and is one of the few WRs who don’t complain about volume. CJ is truly a team first player and one any team would welcome. Although his days as a weekly WR1 are likely gone, Megatron still carries enough juice to be an inconsistent WR1 & high upside WR2 for another 3+ seasons. However, his 2016 cap hit (just north of 24M) will be an issue the Detroit brass will have to heavily consider.
The What If:
It wouldn’t surprise me if Johnson re-worked his deal too remain in Detroit. However, should the Lions choose to part with their future Hall-of-Famer there would be plenty of suitors, especially if the contract is re-worked. Here are 3 landing spots which could offer Johnson new life should a divorce in Motor City occur; New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens & Washington Redskins.
The Affected:
Should Johnson move on there would be a tremendous hole in the Lions passing attack. As it stands today, Golden Tate would be the primary beneficiary. However, I fear that Tate would suffer a similar fate as Randall Cobb, in that in order to be a WR1/WR1b he requires a true WR1. Thus, I believe the Lions would look to make a splash in free agency or the draft to try and find a defined X-WR. Regardless, Tate is a highly recommended off-season Buy as its situation & production opportunities will only improve keeping him a high upside WR2 in 2016.

WR Rishard Matthews (UFA)

The Now:
2015 has seen Matthews enjoy his best seasonal numbers of his career with a 43/662/4 production line. His targets this season were even less than in 2013 by 6 which makes this seasons number even more impressive. With the slow ascension of coveted rookie, DeVante Parker, Matthews was able to put his talents on display. There won’t be enough balls to go around in Miami in 2016 regardless who is lined up behind center or whichever Head Coach is brought in. If he can be brought back at an affordable price he would be nothing more than a FLEX or WR3 at best.
The What If:
Matthews doesn’t possess WR1 talent but can be a more than capable offensive compliment. There are a number of teams that could use those abilities while enhancing the offensive stability. Should Matthews uproot from South Beach he won’t need to search for a new home long here are a few teams which could come calling; Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings & Cleveland Browns.
The Affected:
The offense in Miami is built around the short passing game. Jarvis Landry is the WR too own from a fantasy perspective, especially in PPR formats. DeVante Parker is the golden child Dolphin brass is hoping will ascend which leaves little room for a viable fantasy production WR. Should Matthews not return, Parker will reap the greater return and is a buy low candidate now, while you can get him.

WR Travis Benjamin (UFA)

The Now:
TB has already come out and stated that he would love to return to Cleveland in 2016. Whether the Browns brass answers that request is a different story. Nevertheless, he has made a case for himself as a possible return candidate with his 2015 production. The real question will be if whether or not the Browns will be willing to pay him what he likely feels he is worth. He has tripled his best season numbers since his arrival via the 2012 NFL Draft. Certainly his numbers were affected by spotty QB play but then again his ascension wasn’t projected, at least not too this level. Thus, the Cleveland brass may feel his is only a product of opportunity. He failed to crest 1000 receiving yards or more than 70 receptions while given 125 targets. The poor catch rate of 54% could also be part of the Browns concerns. Let us not forget that Josh Gordon is likely to return in 2016 locking down the X position making TB a secondary WR in an offense that is still searching for its franchise QB (among other things). All of these factors could determine just how much TB wants to remain in Cleveland and if he is willing to take a hometown discount.
The What If:
Should TB not get what he is hoping for, in terms of a contract, there are places he could go which could use a WR compliment. Although, my senses tell me he will take the Browns offer and stay. Nevertheless, here are a few places he could land; New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs & St. Louis Rams.
The Affected:
The Cleveland Browns always seem to be in a state of disarray. The team really has no QB, no true RB (unless you are a Crowell truther) and outside of the possibility and hope that Gordon returns to form not true X-WR. The unexpected breakout of TE Gary Barnidge is one of two things; either the rise of a new dominant TE or a product of situation meets opportunity. Lots of changes should occur in Cleveland this off-season, whether or not the right changes occur is another story.

WR Brian Quick (UFA)

The Now:
Well there really is much of a “Now” to discuss. Perhaps more of a “What Could Have Been”. Quick has been a crush of mine since his arrival in the NFL back in 2012. Seems like a lifetime ago now. Between injuries and the lack of redefining & refining his tremendous skill set much has been “left on the bone”. His career production won’t earn him an ideal contract, wherever that may be, but the talent is still there. Perhaps a change of scenery would do him some good.
The What If:
Possessing a definable X-WR skill set and oozing with athleticism, Quick simply has been slow to develop for many reasons. However, a new stable could serve him well. Here are a few destinations where the potential for a revival could be on the menu; Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys & Detroit Lions.
The Affected:
The Rams wide receiving corps is not deserving of bragging rights. Then again, outside of Todd Gurley, there is not much to be endeared with on the rest of the Rams skill position front either. The will once again be searching for an offensive identity not named Gurley in 2016. Austin appears too have earned more gadget and slot time but still isn’t the answer for the passing attack. Free Agency or bringing in a rookie appear to be their only course of action. Fortunately, “losing” Quick won’t hurt them either way.

WR Alshon Jeffery (UFA)

The Now:
Jeffery will be the prize of the WR Free Agents, should he hit the open market. The jury is still out on whether or not Chicago has designs on bringing him back. Regardless, his “contract season” has certainly not gone to plan. Having missed 7 games could certainly be a death sentence for most WRs. However, when he played Jeffery made the most of his opportunities while constantly being fed by Jay “Plays Favorites” Cutler. In the 9 games he played, Jeffery amassed a 54/808/4 production line. Extrapolating those numbers through 16 games would have given him close to 100 grabs with well over 1400 yards receiving and around 7 scores. Bottom line, Jeffery is an elite talent and deserves a worthy contract, however, in the NFL, the philosophy of “what have you done for me lately” rings true. Jeffery will likely not get the type of offer he wants, especially from Chicago and he could very well find the market colder than he expects. Nevertheless, there will be plenty of teams that would love to have him as their lead dog WR.
The What If:
Jeffery will have plenty of opportunities outside of the Windy City, should he not return. It’s a fantasy owners selfish dream of projecting these types of scenarios for such a great talent. He represents an offensive game plan altering skill set. Here are a few places he would make a tantalizing fit; New England Patriots, Detroit Lions & Baltimore Ravens.
The Affected:
If the Bears lose out on bringing Jeffery back home or choose to carve out a new path, they will be looking to do so in a relatively thin WR Free Agent market. They have high hopes for (currently) injured rookie Kevin White and all signs point to his healthy return in 2016. Whether or not White is a player they can build their receiving corps around is a complete unknown. Whomever, they bring in it will likely be designed as a compliment to White. White obviously becomes a coveted off-season buy, so it would be best to cock the hammer and grab a share before his value sky-rockets. Regardless, I believe White will carve out a solid role in Chicago and has the potential in becoming a weekly WR2 with WR1 upside based strictly on perceived volume.
WR Rueben Randle (UFA)
The Now:
There’s no shame in playing second fiddle, especially when the uber-talented OBJ is your running mate. Randle has quietly had the second best production season of his career in terms of catches (57) and receiving yards (797), while posting his best in touchdowns with 8. With the recent announcement of Coughlin stepping down, the future is wide-open as to what may come this off-season in Gotham. What we do know is that Randle will be able to feel his way through the open market in an effort to determine his value and interest in his talent.
The What If:
In the event the new leadership in New York elects not to bring Randle back there are certainly teams which could benefit from his skill set. Here are a few places he would make a solid addition; Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns & Tennessee Titans.
The Affected:
The New York Giants wide receiving corps begins and end with Odell Beckham Jr. That is not to say OBJ doesn’t require a viable production WR2 to play along side of him. With the potential return of salty veteran Victor Cruz (pending injury/contract status), coupled with the ascension of Dwayne Harris, a compliment may already be in-house. Regardless, I do not believe Randle will be an essential asset to the future of the Giant receiving corps.

WR Anquan Boldin (UFA)

The Now:
Boldin only seems to get better with age. Perhaps a better way to summarize Boldin is that he has evolved his game to fit his current abilities/limitations at this stage of his career. Nevertheless, in his 13th NFL season, father time and a dysfunctional offense led to his lowest yardage production (789) since 2004, coupled with his lowest receptions (69) & touchdowns (4) since 2012, while playing all but two games this season. As an unrestricted free agent playing for a team in search of a fresh identify its hard to imagine Boldin returns at anything less than a hometown discount.
The What If:
There are still a number of teams that could use the salty veteran. Although Boldin will be reach the ripe age of 36 during the 2016 season he could still be an offensive asset if used in the right system. Here are a few teams that could benefit from a veteran of his caliber; Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs & New England Patriots.
The Affected:
In my view, there will be a huge re-vamping in Baytown this off-season. I don’t see Boldin returning but then again allowing him back on a team friendly contract to finish out his career could be a help to an offense still searching for its identity. If he is up for the task of helping some of the younger players develop ie. DeAndre Smelter, it could pay dividends. Otherwise, I see the 49ers brass turning to the draft in an effort to kick-start the rebuild process.
Honorable Mention:WR Dontrelle Inman (ERFA), WR Seth Roberts (ERFA), Malcolm Floyd (UFA), Marvin Jones (UFA), Keshawn Martin (UFA) and Kamar Aiken (RFA).
*Note: These are merely projections meant for fun. Much will occur, as it always does, in the NFL off-season, so take this segment with a grain of salt as NFL rosters are a fluid bunch. Stay vigilant in your quest for knowledge and always be building, especially in Dynasty formats.
Thanks for reading. You can find me on Twitter @DynastyFFactory.
 

mgoins

Dynasty Football Factory Owner. Flip flop wearing, sailor swearing, land locked pirate in search of that one particular harbor while being a Dynasty Football addict. My motto is "Always Be Building".

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