Free Agents - WRs and TEs
By Jeff Tefertiller
July 7th, 2011

Breaking down the potential once the lockout is lifted, there will be a plethora of free agents on the market. Jason LaCanfora of NFL Network expects players who have accrued at least four years in the league to be eligible for unrestricted free agency. If so, it could be a crazy time with situations changing rapidly. There will be many players switching teams while others will be re-signed to big money deals with their incumbent teams.

We will examine the possible free agent wide receivers and tight ends in this article. The players who have been slapped with the Franchise Tag will be omitted since they will likely be back with their 2010 team.

Wide Receivers

There are a handful of free agent wide receivers who have the potential to produce good fantasy numbers in 2011, whether with their former team or a new one. Below are the free agent pass catchers with a chance to make a fantasy impact this season.

Good chance to be an impact starter

  • Santonio Holmes - Holmes is a great young player who is able to stretch the field and make a big play after the catch. Most remember him for the Super Bowl winning catch. But, Holmes has played at a high level in New York even with the average play of quarterback Mark Sanchez. The Jets will look to break the bank as they need to re-sign their young receiver. Holmes is only 27 years old and in the prime of his career. A return to New York seems likely.

  • Sidney Rice - Rice enjoyed a great 2009 season, with little else in his four-year career. He is coming up on his 25th birthday after four seasons as a professional. Rice is on the young side because he came out of South Carolina after his redshirt Sophomore season. He made enough of a splash in 2009 that the line of suitors would be tremendously long if not for the hip injury that shortened his 2010 campaign. There will still be interest, but not like before. Expect the Vikings to pursue him to re-sign. Pay extra attention if the local team does not offer much and he goes to another club. Minnesota knows Rice's injury more than any other team so if they are unwilling to shell out the big bucks, then it could mean something.

  • Santana Moss - Moss has endured very poor quarterbacking the last few years. He was able to be effective with the erratic Jason Campbell tossing the pigskin. Then, last year, he put up big numbers with Donovan McNabb and Rex Grossman throwing the ball. Think of the upside if he escapes to a good situation. Moss has been underrated throughout his career, but is still a very good wide receiver who can make plays. He could surprise this season.

  • Braylon Edwards - Edwards is expected to take flight and leave the Jets after free agency opens. There will be teams willing to pay him the big money he desires. Edwards drops a lot of passes and will either be the WR1 for a poor team or a WR2 on a competitor. He just is not consistent enough to be a reliable number one in a great pass offense. Still in his prime, at 28 years old, Edwards will get a big contract as one of the better free agent options. Do not expect big production to match the contract money.
  • Could compete to be a starter

  • Steve Smith (NYG) - Smith has one good season under his belt. He will likely make his mark as a slot receiver. The knee injury suffered last year will not help his speed or ability in the open field, an area which was not a strong suit pre-injury. With just a 10.8 career yards per reception average, Smith will be viewed as a sure-handed possession receiver. The knee will limit the suitors ... and the price tag. Smith will be limited well into the season so this will be a sticky situation for a team to lay out big money for an very injured player. Still a young player at 26 years old, Smith has plenty of football ahead of him. He will need to show the ability to duplicate the strong 2009 season, one which was better than the rest of his career combined, with decreased agility.

  • Randy Moss - There are conflicting reports out to whether or not Moss has lost a step. He made his mark on the league with the ability to make big plays down the field. The deep speed is needed in order to be effective. The other issue is the perceived loss of desire. Moss has gained a reputation for not finishing routes, taking plays off, and not giving his all. Those are not qualities that sit well with coaches and teammates. This is evidenced by receiver-needy teams dropping him like a hot potato. While Moss could land an incentive-laden deal with the Jets or other team with a need at the position, he seems like a player who could be out of the NFL in just a couple of season.

  • Terrell Owens - Owens has been a short-term rental for the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals. It is interesting how those teams were so amiable about letting him go, even with the strong production. The fans do not see all that goes on behind the scenes, but the trail of teams gone by keeps getting longer ... and none have taken him back. The recent knee injury may mean a visit to the PUP list to begin the season. He should be back to full strength for a playoff run. Owens will be viewed as a one-year rental once again so he may choose to wait before he signs. Teams suffering injuries at the position could look to him as a midseason replacement.

  • James Jones - The Packers are not expected to show Jones big money so he will likely be a starter somewhere else. Jones has great play-making ability, but disappoints with dropped passes at critical times. Green Bay planned for Jones' exit with the drafting of Randall Cobb in April. He could surprise but is very risky.

  • Lance Moore - Drew Brees has stated his wish that the Saints go out of their way to re-sign Moore. His sure hands are a quarterback's dream. The annual knee surgeries for Marques Colston, inability of Robert Meachem to become a consistent and viable weapon, and the turnover at the tight end position all add up to the need to pay the price to keep Moore in the Big Easy. Chicago would be another great landing spot. A Mike Martz offense would be a good fit for Moore's skill set.
  • Players to keep an eye on

  • Malcom Floyd - Floyd is a big receiver who makes plays down the field. He is coming off his best professional season just in time for free agency. Not many players average 17.3 yards per reception over a six-year career. His size (6'5", 225 pounds) and speed will help Floyd land in a good situation. It is very doubtful he comes back to San Diego after the team put the tag on Vincent Jackson and drafted Vincent Brown in the NFL Draft.

  • Mark Clayton - After being a bust in Baltimore, Clayton awoke in St. Louis with Sam Bradford throwing him the ball. The pair of former Sooners had a real connection before Clayton was lost for the season with another knee injury. He thinks he will be ready for training camp. There was talk of Clayton and the Rams being close on a deal before the lockout so it could happen quickly once free agency opens. It remains to be seen if the team will target Clayton, and/or a more impactful free agent, since they drafted Greg Salas and Austin Pettis in the middle rounds of the draft.

  • Mike Sims-Walker - Few receivers had the potential of Sims-Walker before the knee injuries. Still only 26 years of age, the big receiver could land a starting role in Miami or Chicago and make a big splash. He averaged over 13 yards per catch in the conservative Jacksonville pass offense and has gone from overrated to grossly underappreciated in the eyes of fans and fantasy owners. The knee woes are the major detraction from Sims-Walkers' outlook. He could easily be the fantasy rebound player for the 2011 season if landing in the right situation.

  • Steve Breaston - Breaston has seen his stock decline the last two seasons. Could it be the result of seeing more coverage with the departure of Anquan Boldin? Add in the drop-off from Kurt Warner to Derek Anderson and it is easy to see why the former third wide receiver struggled with more attention. He still adds value as a returner but will not get a huge payday in free agency. If he leaves Arizona, do not be surprised if Breaston lands in Kansas City with former offensive coordinator Todd Haley. If this happens, Breaston would barely make an impact in the struggling Chief pass offense. Also, look for Andre Roberts to take a big step forward in his development if Breaston leaves the desert.
  • Tight Ends

    The tight end free agent class is strong and deep. This group of players does not even include the players expected to be released or traded.

    Expected to be an impact starter

  • Zach Miller - Miller is a star in the making. He has been held back by the poor quarterback play during his four years in Oakland. The Raiders have stated their desire to outbid all suitors for Miller's services, but he could not be blamed for wanting to leave the mess in Oakland. The quarterback play and coach turnover are not conducive to putting up big statistics.
  • Will compete to be the starter

  • Kevin Boss - Boss battled injuries while with the Giants and never was able to put a strong season together. New York did not use Boss in the offense as much as Shockey before him. The Giants have gone to an emphasis on the Wide Receiver position. For this reason, Boss has been limited to blocking more and running fewer deeper routes. He is a player who has flashed potential, but just not able to make a consistent impact. Look for Boss to return to the Giants. They have no ready replacement and he is familiar with the offense.
  • Player to watch where he lands

  • Bo Scaife - Scaife was able to produce good numbers when his college teammate, Vince Young, was under center. The conservative Titan offense kept Scaife under wraps for the most part. He could surprise if landing in an offense like Arizona, New York Giants (assuming Boss departs), Miami, Atlanta (as the heir apparent), or even Buffalo.
  • Longshot to keep an eye on

  • David Thomas - Thomas is very athletic. He, too, seemed to frequently be injured. His speed and agility could help a team with a spread passing offense. With Shockey now a Panther, there is a chance the Saints re-sign the ex-Longhorn to back up Jimmy Graham. Thomas is another who could land in Atlanta, backing up Tony Gonzalez.
  • Please feel free to email me at tefertiller@footballguys.com with any suggestions or comments. Also, I am on Twitter, so feel free to ask me questions there.

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