NFL free agent preview: The WRs

Packer Report continues its look at free agency with the receivers, where there are some proven vets. Receiver is not a position of need in Green Bay, though Ruvell Martin is a restricted free agent.

Packer Report continues its position-by-position preview of free agency with the wide receivers. The deadline to name franchise players was Feb. 19, and free agency begins on Friday.

The Packers' needs:

The Packers were well-stocked at this position at this time last year, and then they spent their first draft pick on Jordy Nelson.

With Donald Driver's strong 2008 performance suggesting he'll be productive in 2009, with Greg Jennings in line for a big contract extension, with James Jones (entering his third season) and Nelson (entering his second) young and ascending, and with Ruvell Martin being a solid role player, the Packers are as deep at receiver as any team in the NFL.

The 6-foot-4 Martin is a restricted free agent who could garner some attention, though his connection with Aaron Rodgers is a drawing point for Green Bay. The Packers have until Feb. 26 to tender an offer. The lowest tender ($1.1 million) allows the Packers to match any offer.

And don't forget about Brett Swain, a seventh-round pick who spent his rookie season on the practice squad.

Big-ticket items:

— With T.J. Houshmandzadeh expected to hit free agency and the Colts set to release Marvin Harrison, this is the one position that actually got stronger instead of weaker at the franchise deadline (even though Tampa Bay franchised Antonio Bryant). Houshmandzadeh averaged just 9.8 yards on his 92 receptions, but that's more a knock on the Bengals' quarterbacks after Carson Palmer went down with a knee injury. He's a team-first guy who is eager to win and with a history of production.

Pricey, but a good deal:

— Tampa Bay just released Joey Galloway, 37, on Wednesday (along with fellow receiver Ike Hilliard, running back Warrick Dunn and linebackers Derrick Brooks and Cato June). A foot injury limited him to 13 receptions, ending a streak of three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He can flat out run, even at his age.

— Harrison, 36, no longer is an elite receiver, but he'd be a great veteran mentor and a solid No. 2 for a team with a young No. 1. He ranks second in NFL history with 1,102 catches. Chicago is seen as a potential destination, as is Philadelphia, where he'd be reunited with his college quarterback, Donovan McNabb.

— For a team needing a role player, few are better than the Giants' Amani Toomer. He just completed his 13th season and hasn't had a 1,000-yard year in five years, so his days as a No. 1 or No. 2 receiver are long gone. But if you need a play to be made, you could do worse.

— Need a field-stretching receiver? Look no further than the Saints Devery Henderson, who averaged a league-high 24.8 yards per catch last season. He's never had more than 32 catches in a season, though.

— With Saints standout Marques Colston injured, Lance Moore stepped in and caught 79 passes with 10 touchdowns. He's a restricted free agent who's likely to be given a second-round tender.

Bobby Engram's 13th NFL season was doomed by a broken shoulder that limited him to 47 catches. In 2007, though, he caught 94 passes, so he's got something left in the tank.

— The Steelers' Nate Washington, who went undrafted in 2005, is coming off a career season with 40 catches, 631 yards and near a 16-yard average. His agent said Washington "had" a great run in Pittsburgh, a strong hint he'll be on the move.

Bargain shopping:

— It seems like a lifetime ago when the Bucs' Mark Clayton caught 80 passes for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie. He's never come close to that production. Last year, his fifth in the league, he caught 38 passes.

— The Chargers' Malcolm Floyd, a restricted free agent, is an inviting target at 6-foot-5. He had career highs of 27 catches, 465 yards and four touchdowns. He'll likely get a second-round tender, though that might not scare away suitors.

— The Jaguars' Reggie Williams, the 11th pick in 2005, caught just 37 passes for a team starved for receiver production.

Jabar Gaffney, a second-round pick in 2002, produced 74 catches over the last two seasons for the Patriots.

Miles Austin: Just based on what he did for Dallas at Green Bay in Week 3 (two catches, 115 yards, touchdown) should get this restricted free agent some attention.

Mike Furrey caught 98 passes for the Lions in 2006 and 61 in 2007. Give him a real quarterback, and he'd be an effective slot receiver again.

— The 49ers' Bryant Johnson, a first-round pick ahead of Anquan Boldin in 2003 for Arizona, has five straight seasons of between 40 and 40 catches. He's 6-foot-3 with speed.

— The Eagles' 6-foot-4 Hank Baskett (career-high 33 catches) and the Ravens' 6-foot-3 Demetrius Williams (13 catches in seven games before season-ending ankle injury) are restricted free agents who could garner some attention because of their height and potential.

Clearance rack:

— The Rams cut Drew Bennett on Wednesday. He signed a six-year, $30 million deal in 2007 but caught just 34 passes in those two seasons.

— Former first-round pick Ashlie Lelie caught 11 passes in 2008 after hauling in just 10 in 2007.

Darrell Jackson, 30, who had three 1,000-yard seasons with Seattle and another with 10 touchdowns, caught just 12 passes for the Broncos.

Brandon Jones caught a career-high 41 passes for the receiver-starved Titans in his fourth season. Teammate Justin McCareins caught 30 passes in 10 starts. Neither are difference-makers.

— After catching 11 passes in Weeks 2 and 3, the Bears' Brandon Lloyd finished with just 26. He's missed 13 games over the last two seasons.

— A focal point in the Mike Martz-led offense in 2007, when he had 79 catches, the Lions' Shaun McDonald tallied only 35 with a 9.5-yard average in 2008.

Editor's note:

For a preview of the quarterbacks, click here

For a preview of the running backs, click here

For a preview of the fullbacks, click here

For a preview of the tight ends, click here

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Lambeau Level forum.


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