2019 NFL Free Agency: Ranking the top free agent receivers and how Antonio Brown fits into all of it

There are a lot of solid wide receivers who are set to be free agents this year, but between now and the start of free agency on March 13, you're probably only going to hear about one of those receivers and he's not even going to be a free agent. 

That receiver is Antonio Brown and although he's under contract with the Steelers, Brown's status in Pittsburgh has become one of the biggest mysteries heading into the start of free agency. What the Steelers end up doing with Brown could end up having some major ramifications on the receiver market. If the Steelers end up trading Brown, that means there will be one less team out there looking for a wide receiver when free agency begins,  and the odds of a trade seem to be going up by the day.

According to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora, Brown still wants to be traded, and just so there's no confusion, Brown basically took his trade demands public on Tuesday by tweeting out a good bye to Pittsburgh. 

According to La Canfora, the Steelers are hoping to formally begin trade talks for Brown at the NFL Combine, which kicks off on Feb. 26. Of course, the Steelers aren't going to give away their star receiver for free, which means the asking price is going to be high. Although Brown is the best receiver "available" this offseason, he comes with a lot of baggage and he's going to cost a lot in a trade. 

If the price gets too steep for any receiver-needy team, there will be plenty of other players to choose from when free agency begins. With that in mind, let's take a look at the best receivers who will be available on March 13. 

2019 Free Agent Receivers

1. Golden Tate

Any team looking for consistent production should make sure they have Tate's number on speed dial when free agency begins. Not only has Tate caught 90 or more passes in four of his past five seasons, but he's also gone for 1,000 yards or more in three of those five seasons. Although his numbers fell off in 2018 (74 catches, 795 yards, four touchdowns), you can mostly attribute that fact to an October trade that sent him from Detroit to Philadelphia. Tate got off to a slow start in Philly, but he eventually carved out a roll for himself in the Eagles' offense and it showed during their stunning 16-15 playoff win over the Bears. In that game, Tate caught five passes for 46 yards, which included catching the game-winning touchdown with under one minute left to play. The only potential knock on Tate is his age -- he turns 31 on Aug. 2 -- but he hasn't shown any signs of slowing down, so that really shouldn't scare any suitors off. 

2. Adam Humphries

Putting together the best season of your career right before you're about to hit free agency is always a smart business move, and that's exactly what Humphries did in 2018. During an impressive season with the Buccaneers, Humphries finished second on the team in receptions (76) and third in receiving yards (816). After signing with the Bucs as an undrafted free agent in 2015, Humphries will almost certainly be getting the first major payday of his career when free agency begins next month. 

3. Tyrell Williams

Williams would definitely be an intriguing option for any team that needs a wide receiver and that's because he's already proven that he can handle the load that comes with being a No. 1 receiver. When Keenan Allen was injured in 2016, Williams stepped in and led the Chargers in both receptions (69) and receiving yards (1,059). In 2018, Williams didn't see as many targets and that's mostly because Allen was healthy, plus the Chargers were trying to incorporate second-year receiver Mike Williams more into their offense. At 27 years old, Williams might have the highest potential upside of any free agent receiver on this list. 

4. Cole Beasley

After seven seasons with the Cowboys, Beasley most likely won't be returning to Dallas in 2019 after burning a few bridges, which is actually good news for any team out there looking for a slot receiver. Despite playing in an offense that focused heavily on the run in 2018, Beasley still put up some impressive numbers with 65 catches for 672 yards and three touchdowns. Beasley won't be a No. 1 receiver anywhere, but he should be able to thrive as a second or third option for nearly any team that needs a slot guy. 

5. John Brown

Brown's numbers aren't going to blow anyone away, but any team looking for a deep threat is probably going to want to give him a call. During his one and only year with the Ravens in 2018, Brown averaged an impressive 17 yards per catch, which was the best of his five-year career. As a long-ball threat, Brown thrived with Joe Flacco in the lineup, but he never put up more than 25 yards in a game once Lamar Jackson became the Ravens' starting quarterback. Brown would fit in well with any team that loves to throw the home run ball. The soon-to-be 29-year-old was drafted by Bruce Arians in Arizona and it wouldn't be crazy to see the receiver reunite with his former coach in Tampa Bay. 

6. Randall Cobb
6a. Jamison Crowder

After reaching a career high with 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2014, Cobb has been going steadily downhill since then. The Packers receiver bottomed out in 2018, when he missed seven games due to a multitude of injuries, which led to him finish with just 383 yards, the second-lowest number of his career. Cobb is one of the most fascinating receivers getting set to hit free agency and that's because if he's healthy, he'll likely make an instant impact with his new team. Of course, Cobb will be 29 when the 2019 season starts and there's no guarantee that he has anything left in the tank after an injury-filled year that included a hamstring issue, a concussion and a chest injury. Jamison Crowder is another receiver who struggled due to injuries in 2018, but could be worth a gamble in free agency. Despite missing seven games with an ankle injury -- and playing with a rotating cast of quarterbacks -- Crowder still managed to finish the season with 388 yards for the Redskins

7. Donte Moncrief

Moncrief didn't exactly have a huge year in Jacksonville, but that's not really his fault, because it's almost impossible to have a huge year when Blake Bortles is throwing you the ball. Despite the limitations of the Jags' offense, Moncrief still ended the season with 48 catches for 668 yards and three touchdowns. The 25-year-old signed a prove-it deal with the Jaguars in 2018 and he might have to do the same thing with another team when he hits free agency next month. 

8. Devin Funchess

Despite being healthy, Funchess was placed on the inactive list for the Panthers' final game of the 2018 season, which tells you all you need to know about Carolina's feelings toward its former second-round pick. By the end of the 2018 season, the Panthers were clearly ready to move on, which is actually good news for Funchess, because it means he can now go sign with a team that has an offense that will almost certainly be better suited for him. The 24-year-old receiver caught 44 passes for 549 yards and four touchdowns last season, despite the fact that the Panthers started phasing him out of their offense late in the year. 

9. Cordarrelle Patterson
10. Chris Hogan
10a. Phillip Dorsett

We're lumping these three together for one reason and that reason is because they're all leaving New England. The Patriots are going to have to reload at receiver this offseason because they'll be losing all three of these guys. As far as pure talent goes, Patterson might end up being the most coveted of these three receivers. Although he didn't put up huge receiving numbers (21 catches, 247 yards), he proved to be a Swiss Army knife that could do anything the Patriots needed. Besides catching passes, Patterson also rushed for 228 yards and returned a kickoff for a touchdown in 2018. As for Hogan, his phone will almost certainly be ringing during free agency and that's because he's coming off a three-year stint with the Patriots where he averaged just over 550 yards per season. Including his time in Buffalo, the 30-year-old has finished with at least 400 yards in each of the past five seasons. On Dorsett's end, the former first-round pick will likely get one more shot to turn his career around before he's officially labeled a bust. 

Another former first-round pick who could be worth taking a risk on in free agency is former Bears receiver Kevin White. La Canfora loves White's speed and thinks the 2015 seventh overall pick could find some success once he leaves Chicago

Others: Dontrelle Inman, Mike Wallace, Rishard Matthews, Jordan Matthews, Kelvin Benjamin, Tavon Austin, Ryan Grant, Breshad Perriman, Kevin White, Dez Bryant

For more on free agency, just click the position group below to see who might be switching teams in 2019:

Quarterbacks: This class is led by Nick Foles and Teddy Bridgewater
Running backs: This class is led by Le'Veon Bell. Kareem Hunt would have also been a big name to watch, but he was signed by the Browns on Monday

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories