The wide receiver free-agent market is now bare. Cleaned out. Gone.
Finally, the Ravens, who had apparently been waving around Monopoly money to receivers to this point, found someone to take it; JuJu Smith-Schuster and Sammy Watkins passed (and some others possibly as well), before Watkins came around to taking it as the last man standing. Call it a marriage of convenience, one that closed this market out with a whimper. Last receiver standing; last team standing. Like the end of a game of musical chairs. We'll see how that goes.
But for some forward-thinking teams, other options might abound (and probably for the Ravens as well, due to a very smart front office that must grasp the suspect state of their pass catchers even with Watkins). Trades are all the rage in the NFL these days, and there are some very intriguing possibilities at the receiver spot alone. Some interesting, young, cheap options with teams that have either spent huge at that position or have other intriguing options already in place – or that might not want to extend a secondary option at that spot, given other needs and a tight cap situation.
Being aggressive and seeking value can end up getting richly rewarded in this league, and there are receivers with ample upside who seem caught in situations that are less than ideal. And plenty of teams that are contending or fancy themselves contenders – or teams that are at least potentially on the upswing – could certainly use more receiving options: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Las Vegas, Chicago and New Orleans, to name a few.
Which players might an enterprising general manager attempt to target in a low-level or mid-range trade? Let's get a little deep, and try to think outside the box a bit. I'm not including Cowboys youngster Michael Gallup in this exercise, because I don't think they would deal him now and I suspect they get out of paying Amari Cooper $20M a year in 2022. And I'm leaving out Anthony Miller as well, as the Bears have been trying to peddle him for a while now, so that's not much of a revelation.
But I do have some ideas, including some deep sleepers, on guys who could likely use a better opportunity elsewhere:
Cam Sims is just 25, making just $2.2M this season on a team that just invested in a veteran slot guy in Adam Humphries and a young do-everything-from-every position receiver in Curtis Samuel. Oh, and Washington has two of the better pass-catching running backs in the NFL on its roster, and this regime did not bring Sims in as an undrafted free agent, they inherited him. He averaged 15 yards per catch and a sparkling 7.8 yards after the catch/reception, second among all NFL receivers. He also caught five balls or more in four of his last six games, and seven for 104 yards in a playoff loss (yeah he had a big drop, too, but did catch a solid 68 percent of his targets in 2020 from less-than-sterling QBs).
Not sure if you heard, but the Pats invested $50M in two tight ends over the next two years and $13M a year on Nelson Agholor and $6M on Kendrick Bourne, and Julian Edelman will be back. And they'll likely draft at least one WR. It's popular to bash the Pats 2020 passing game for good reason, but Jakobi Meyers was in the top 20 in percentage of targets caught (73%) despite suspect QB play, is his just 24 with good size and also was in the top 33 among receivers in first-down receptions. Catching 59 balls for over 700 yards a year ago – given the constricted scope of that offense – ain't bad.
The Bucs don't want to deal Scott Miller. And they shouldn't deal him. But they are paying a boatload to other pass catchers. And while I understand that Miller is just 5-9, he is a true burner. A deep threat in the DeSean Jackson (in his prime) vein. As in 15.6 air yards per target (second in the NFL), and 15.2 yards per catch and an elite average route depth of 9.8. He is exactly what a team like Seattle should be looking at to take its offense over the top. Make them tell you no. This kid is a thing. He will help you win big.
You want the deepest of deep sleepers? I have Alex Bachman. This kid, stuck at the bottom of the Giants depth chart, is built to play on Sundays and runs like he should be in the Olympics. Bachman was a walk-on at Wake Forrest who keeps getting slept on. And after the Giants signed Kenny Golladay to a massive deal, and with guys like Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton still around, and the Giants taking fliers on veteran speedsters like John Ross and Dante Pettis, I would make a pitch for this kid. He runs a legit 4.3 at 6-2, 200. He has languished on some practice squads, but it says here he can play. Yeah, he has never run a route or caught a pass in an NFL game, but do your homework and make a play for a potential freak. Watch what he did to Memphis (while stuck in an offense without much going for it). Many GMs might just default to the 'ol "he's just a slot guy and he's never really played in the big leagues." I'd suggest you grab him if you have a need. I have a strong hunch he can play.
Jalen Guyton is another undrafted kid who is quietly making a mark and putting some good stuff on tape. Another 4.3 burner who is a free agent in a year who doesn't have an immediate path to that much increased playing time with the Chargers – who aren't big spenders and aren't going to pay too many guys at one position group, already in deep with Mike Williams and Keenan Allen. Chargers QBs had a rating of 108 throwing to him on go routes – hardly a high-percentage attempt – and he was top five in the NFL averaging over 18 yards per reception in 2020.
What the hell are the Texans doing? Does anyone know? Why pay Brandin Cooks another $26M the next two years when you are making trades all over and shedding salary and have no QB given the Deshaun Watson sexual misconduct allegations? Word is, he's a favorite of Texans boss Jack Easterby, and they did just restructure his deal a few weeks back … but that also makes cap hit more palatable in 2021 for another team. Highly suspect he's not going anywhere, but this is the Texans, and not much goes according to plan there.
Marquez Valdez-Scantling is still just 26 and is 6-4, 206. Beastly. And he averages 18.3 air yards per target, which is amazing. And he averaged 7.3 YAC/reception, which is fourth among all wide receivers. He will make $2.2M this year and then be a free agent, which means if the Pack don't plan to pay him they may be inclined to listen on him. He caught 33 balls for 690 yards and 6 TDs last year. After passing entirely on a generational receiver draft a year ago and adding nothing for Aaron Rodgers, one suspects this front office adds one or more in the 2021 deep class, knowing their brooding QB is watching closely. That might make dealing MVS even more palatable. Then again, maybe they'll just draft more quarterbacks and running backs.