POSITION ANALYSIS - WR

Before the start of the free agency signing period on Feb. 28, we will examine every position on the Dolphins, grade each player's performance in the 2002 season and evaluate the prospects for the 2003 season. We continue this series with the wide receivers.

2002 SEASON RECAP

Chris Chambers — Great things were expected from Chambers in 2002 after his splending rookie season, but he fell short of expectations. There were a couple of factors involved, most notably the concussion he sustained in the Sunday night game at Denver, but the bottom line is he didn't improve much from his first to his second year. This is not to say he had a bad year, but he wasn't the game-breaker everyone expected him to be. Grade: C

James McKnight — McKnight took a lot of abuse for his crucial drops in 2001, but he had a much better season in 2002. McKnight became a factor after Oronde Gadsden was injured. The season began with McKnight a forgotten man on offense, but by the end of the season he was making contributions. Grade: C

Oronde Gadsden — Gadsden did what he does best until he got hurt at Denver. That means he was making ridiculous catches, the one across the middle against the Jets standing out. But Gadsden also had more drops in 2002 than he normally does. Regardless, it was a big blow when he was placed on injured reserve. Grade: B-

Cris Carter — The future Hall of Famer came out of retirement ot join the Dolphins, but his season will be remembered most for his big drop in the end zone at Minnesota and for the kidney ailment that landed him in the hospital. He did have a nice touchdown catch in the victory over Oakland, but didn't give the Dolphins nearly as much as they had hoped. In fairness to Carter, not all of it was his fault. Grade: C

Dedric Ward — Among the most disappointing players in 2002, Ward didn't make nearly as much big catches as he did the previous season and he also dropped too many passes for a possession receiver. Grade: D

Robert Baker — Baker was brought in late after kick returner Albert Johnson was injured, and was pretty much a non-factor on offense. Grade: Incomplete

OUTLOOK FOR 2003

This could be the position where there is the most change in the offseason. In fact, it's no stretch to say that the only sure thing for 2003 is that Chris Chambers will be around and will be starting. Beyond that, nothing is clear. Gadsden and Carter are both unrestricted free agents. It appears the Dolphins will let Gadsden test the market, while Carter seemingly only wants to come back if he's guaranteed a starting spot, something the Dolphins might not be willing to do. As for Ward, he'll probably be back, but it wouldn't be a great shock if he was released. Same goes for McKnight. Baker is a fringe player who will have to fight for a roster spot every year. The Dolphins clearly could use a wide receiver in free agency, but their history suggests that Buffalo's Peerless Price and Arizona's David Boston are going to command more money than the Dolphins are willing to spend. The New York Giants' Ike Hilliard and Tennessee's Kevin Dyson have been mentioned as possibilities, while veteran Willie Jackson worked out for the team on Feb. 5. Other wide receivers who will be available include Darnay Scott, Michael Westbrook, Bobby Engram, Pat Johnson and Chris Sanders. The Dolphins also could use their No. 2 or No. 3 pick on a wide receiver, with Tennessee's Kelley Washington, Florida State's Anquan Boldin and Illinois' Brandon Lloyd making good picks beyond the first round. From this vantage point, though, the Dolphins should re-sign Gadsden and hope Chambers becomes the explosive force he's supposed to be. The Dolphins need help here, but their main focus still should be on the outside linebacker spot instead.


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