2005 free agency: Wide receivers

Everybody knows the 49ers need a big-play, go-to guy at wide receiver. Is that guy currently on the roster? Not if you take the 2004 season as evidence. Youngsters Brandon Lloyd, Rashaun Woods and Derrick Hamilton all have potential to develop well beyond what they showed last year, but the Niners need a special receiver to run alongside them, and perhaps even lead the pack. Unless they use their top draft pick on a WR, the 49ers best chance to add that player in 2005 could come in free agency.

This certainly is not the best year to be looking for a top-flight wideout on the free-agent market. But if the 49ers decide to make that position their focus, and put their top free-agency dollars toward bringing in a legitimate No. 1 receiver, they could entice Oakland's Jerry Porter (who can void the remaining years on his contract) to move across the San Francisco Bay and build their passing game around him.

But Porter has issues that suggest he is no sure thing and, once you get past him, it's an extremely weak year to be shopping for a No. 1 wideout.

Pittsburgh's Plaxico Burress is scheduled to hit the open market, and he has good size and skills, but he wasn't even the No. 1 receiver on his own team. Beyond that, there are some veterans whose best days appear to be behind them, and a few up-and-comers such as Cincinnati's T.J. Houshmandzadeh who have potential to develop into a top-flight WR.

The Niners also must consider making a legitimate offer to Cedrick Wilson, one of their own impending unrestricted free agents who has indicated he would like to remain with the team. Though Wilson didn't set the world afire in his first season as a starter in 2004, and seems best suited to a role as a No. 3 receiver on this San Francisco team, he actually is one of the top young free-agent WRs on the open market this year. He led all San Francisco wideouts in receptions last year, and the Niners will at least look into what it will take price-wise to keep him.

The same is unlikely to hold true for 12-year veteran Curtis Conway, also an unrestricted free agent. Conway was serviceable and solid in a complementary role for the 49ers last year but doesn't appear to fit into this year's plans at the position as the Niners look for improvement from the several young wideouts already on their roster.

Beyond the handful of very good WRs scheduled for unrestricted free agency, there are about 20 others that would fit somewhere in the good to serviceable category. We've got the list with comments on each of the unrestricted types:

2005 Free-Agent Wide Receivers

A listing of the wide receivers scheduled for NFL free agency in 2005. UFA=Unrestricted Free Agent; RFA=Restricted Free Agent; ERFA=Exclusive Rights Free Agent. For definitions of free-agent terms, click here. The "Best of the Bunch" is sorted by rankings from Scout.com's Lane Adkins. The "Rest of the Bunch" is sorted by free-agent type, then by most recent team. Comments provided for unrestricted free agents.

BEST OF THE BUNCH
Player Free-Agent Type 2004 Team
Jerry Porter UFA Raiders
Comment: Porter can void the remaining years of his contract and become a free agent. At this time progress is slow and it appears Porter will head to free agency. Will be in high demand if he reaches free agency. Legit deep threat, good hands receiver who tallied 64 receptions, 998 yards and 9 touchdowns. Porter had the privilege to work under NFL great Jerry Rice to accelerate his learning of be a number one receiver. Raiders don't have anyone to replace Porter if he leaves, so look for them to push hard and maybe surprise many by tagging the lonely playmaker on offense.
Plaxico Burress UFA Steelers
Comment: Inconsistent hands and attitude will not detour teams from over paying the 6-foot-5 receiver. Burress creates double teams because of his physical attributes, not because of his receiving skills. Steelers would like to have the big guy back, but will not receive the big-time offer.
Cedrick Wilson UFA 49ers
Comment: Coming off his best season, but still has not reached being a legitimate number one receiver. 49ers appear interested in doing what it takes to keep him San Francisco.
David Givens RFA Patriots
Comment: Patriots will tender him initially but many are speculating that the Patriots are already working on a long-term deal to make sure he never reaches free agency.
Joey Galloway UFA Buccaneers
Comment: Could be a game breaker for any team, but also a locker room problem child if you do not keep him under tight reigns. Has all the tools to make any defender look bad, but attitude and work ethic must be looked into. Could go to any team who feels they will be making a run at a ring.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh UFA Bengals
Comment: Houshmandzadeh looks to be one of the most popular receivers who may reach free agency, if the Bengals do not make him an offer he cannot resist. He may want to test free agency as many teams have been rumored to want to bring him in as a number one receiver, something Houshmandzadeh won't be with Chad Johnson on the roster.
Tai Streets UFA Lions
Comment: Could be a solid number two receiver for any team, but will stay in the west coast offense. Look for Streets to receive many offers, but settles for less to play on a winning team.
Lee Mays RFA Steelers
Travis Taylor UFA Ravens
Comment: Taylor has not reached being a threat as a receiver that he was drafted to be. Has been a bust after being drafted 10th overall in the 2000 draft out of Florida. Someone will take a chance on the young receiver, but Taylor will not receive much more than the average receiver' salary.
Curtis Conway UFA 49ers
Comment: Conway is a reliable receiver, but will have trouble finding work considering his veteran minimum salary. Look for Conway to wait it out and look for a shot with a winning team who has had injury problems in camp or early in the season.
Troy Edwards UFA Jaguars
Comment: Another first-round bust that was traded from the Steelers to the Rams and then found himself in Jacksonville. Looked to be coming into his own this past season for the Jaguars but still will have a hard time finding a secure job with any team. Edwards is a playmaker. His quickness and the ability to run after the catch are his best attributes, but hands and attitude have always been the downfall in being a complete receiver.
Corey Bradford UFA Texans
Comment: Bradford is a pure deep threat, but has yet to make it to the next level. Any team that needs to stretch the field could look at Bradford as a solid choice.
David Patten UFA Patriots
Comment: Patriot players will be hard sought after, but Patten may want to stay where he is winning rings and pass on better offers to play on sub-par teams.
Andre Davis RFA Browns
Marc Boerighter RFA Chiefs
Dane Looker UFA Rams
Comment: Could fill out a depth chart, but not much more for the four-year vet out of Washington University.
James Thrash UFA Redskins
Comment: Thrash is a solid contributor in Washington, and with Rod Gardner's almost-certain departure he could become a priority for the Redskins. Thrash is a solid receiver, but not the playmaker Washington will now seek.
Kelly Campbell RFA Vikings
Eddie Drummond RFA Lions
Bill Schroeder UFA Buccaneers
Comment: Schroeder's cleats are close to being worn for the last time. Could come back if 2005 becomes a year where teams are short on receivers due to injuries, but looks to be the last we see of the 11-year veteran.
REST OF THE BUNCH
Player Free-Agent Type 2004 Team
Drew Haddad UFA Bills
Comment: Depth chart fodder.
Andre King UFA Browns
Comment: Has shown speed and signs of improvement; will land a solid job at minimal expense to any team.
Charles Lee UFA Buccaneers
Comment: Looked to be a star in the making in 2003, but underperformed for many reasons this past season. Look for him to want to stay where he is most comfortable.
Frank Murphy UFA Buccaneers
Comment: Career may be close to being over. Has not become the player most coaches feel he could be.
Tim Brown UFA Buccaneers
Comment: All-time great who may hang it up and follow the rest of the overaged greats to retirement this offseason.
Bobby Shaw UFA Chargers
Comment: Shaw's potential is why he finds a job every year, but has not been consistent enough to warrant too many more opportunities.
Troy Walters UFA Colts
Comment: Hard-working receiver who doubles on special teams as a valuable asset. Look for Walters to sniff around for a better opportunity.
Dedric Ward UFA Cowboys
Comment: Ward will be invited to someone's camp, but do not look for him on an active roster in 2005 unless receivers are very hard to come by.
Reggie Swinton UFA Lions
Comment: Potential special teams playmaker as a kick or punt returner.
Kelvin Kight UFA Packers
Comment: Depth chart fodder.
Karl Hankton UFA Panthers
Comment: Replacement player if a team is hurt by injuries.
Micah Ross UFA Panthers
Comment: Solid special teams contributor; nothing more.
Alex Bannister UFA Seahawks
Comment: Tall, lanky receiver who earned a Pro Bowl appearance as a special teamer. Has interesting attributes, but has made his mark as a special teams performer.
Edell Shepherd RFA Buccaneers
Nathan Poole RFA Cardinals
Cortez Hankton RFA Jaguars
Jonathan Carter RFA Jets
Kevin Kasper RFA Patriots
Freddie Milons RFA Ravens
Randy Hymes RFA Ravens
Darrell Hill RFA Titans
Jason McAddley RFA Titans
Romar Crenshaw ERFA Broncos
CJ Jones ERFA Browns
DeAndrew Rubin ERFA Buccaneers
Derek McCoy ERFA Buccaneers
Reggie Newhouse ERFA Cardinals
Malcolm Floyd ERFA Chargers
Tom Crowder ERFA Cowboys
Kendall Newson ERFA Dolphins
Willie Ponder ERFA Giants
Antoine Burns ERFA Panthers
Cedric James ERFA Patriots
Ronald Curry ERFA Raiders
Mike Furrey ERFA Rams
Talman Gardner ERFA Saints
Sean Morey ERFA Steelers
JJ Moses ERFA Texans
Lane Danielson ERFA Titans
Todd DeVoe ERFA Titans
Aaron Hosack ERFA Vikings

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