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2013 NFL Free Agency: Top-10 free-agent wide receivers

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

The wide receiver class took a big hit on Monday afternoon when the Chiefs, who'd been quiet all day, snuck out a five-year deal for Dwayne Bowe. That locks down our top option in free agency, but it doesn't mean that there aren't options for wide-receiver-needy teams.

The problem for teams that are desperate for wideouts -- and the good news for those wideouts -- is that this free-agent class is very much top heavy.

There are really only two game-changing guys available now, and things get shaky after that. For a team like the Dolphins, who are desperate to get some help for their young quarterback Ryan Tannehill, there are only one or two options.

The combination could mean a few big contracts handed out ... and possibly one or two terrible deals dished as well.

1. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
Many will point to Bowe's inconsistency over the course of his career. I'd like to point you to the list of quarterbacks that Bowe has caught passes from during that time: Damon Huard, Brodie Croyle, Tyler Thigpen, Quinn Gray, Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko, Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn. That's an epically terrible list of guys who throw the football and yet Bowe has managed three 1,000-yard seasons in six years.
UPDATE: The Chiefs have locked down Bowe on a five-year deal. They had to do that if they wanted weapons for Alex Smith.

2. Mike Wallace, Steelers
Wallace has some serious wheels, and might be considered the top free agent available this offseason were it not for the fact that he looked mostly terrible (and underused) in Todd Haley's offense this past year. 64 catches and 836 yards don't look good, but there are a lot of teams with cap space who need wideout help this year and Wallace is option No. 1.

3. Greg Jennings, Packers
The notion that Jennings would get tagged was silly. The Packers love Jennings, but he wants money and they're smart about spending it. Plus, they have Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb. So Jennings gets to chase cash. His stretch run in 2012, in which he looked very much like the Jennings who averaged 1,223 yards the previous three years, should help folks.

4. Wes Welker, Patriots
Seeing Welker go anywhere other than New England after Tom Brady took less money from the team would be a bit of a shocker. Welker is Brady's security blanket and the Pats now have the money to work something out that is beneficial to both sides. If he hits free agency, New England AFC foes like Houston and Denver could be quite interested in making a run at Welker.

5. Danny Amendola, Rams
Most comparisons of white wideouts to Welker are lazy, but Amendola, who also went to Texas Tech, is actually that guy. He wasn't worth the franchise tag for the Rams and that's understandable. But if he puts together a full season of staying healthy, he's a game-changer in terms of a possession receiver.

6. Brian Hartline, Dolphins
2012 was a breakout year for Hartline, but almost a quarter of his yardage (and only TD) came in a single week. That's a big concern, though it's alleviated some by the fact that he was catching passes from a rookie wideout and serving as the de facto No. 1 wideout for his team. If he wants too much money, I'd be wary, however.

7. Donnie Avery, Colts
A career best 60 catches and 781 yards came in 2012 thanks to Andrew Luck taking over under center for the Colts in 2012. Avery put up some big plays but led the league in drop rate (on players who took part in more than 50 percent of a team's snaps) according to Pro Football Focus. A dangerous deep threat and slot option when he's healthy.

8. Josh Cribbs, Browns
A top "wideout"? Eh, maybe not. But Cribbs plays the position and he can be a playmaker in multiple facets of the game. Obviously you're not signing him as your top option in free agency. If he's your top wideout, well, you're in a world of trouble. But adding him as a complementary piece to an offense could make it substantially more multidimensional.

9. Brandon Gibson, Rams
With 51 catches, 691 yards and five touchdowns, the Washington State product flashed at times during 2012. He didn't step up as a No. 1 wideout in St. Louis, but who really did? It wasn't a great situation for anyone there because there was no one to distract coverage. Put into a better spot as a dangerous second or third option and Gibson could make noise.

10. Domenik Hixon, Giants
Would you prefer Randy Moss? Hixon had another 500-yard receiving season and it needs to be noted that this guy was playing behind a lot of weapons in New York, with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks both taking up the majority of Eli Manning's targets. For a reasonable price he would a very nice addition to a team.

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