Future Free Agents: Wide Receivers

The Vikings didn't get much production out of their wide receivers in 2006, so a long, hard look at this position in free agency is essential. There are only a couple of established starters available, followed by a bevy of emerging talent. We detail the top five options, along with naming more than 30 other free-agent possibilities.

One of the positions of greatest need for the Vikings, wide receiver, is loaded with players scheduled to become free agents in March, although there aren't any current superstars among the lot of them.

If the Vikings want to upgrade their wide receiver corps, they likely will be forced to pay on potential. The crop of free-agent wide receivers is plentiful, but the top-end producers are lacking.

Factor in that some of the better young players are restricted free agents, and the team's pursuit in upgrading that position should be an interesting one.

First, however, they need to decide on their own free agents and if they want to extend offers to them. Travis Taylor and Bethel Johnson are both unrestricted free agents.

Taylor continued his steady but unspectacular ways in 2006, catching 57 passes for 651 yards and three touchdowns. But in talking with Viking Update after the season, Taylor seemed a little put off by the fact that he came to the team two years ago to play with Daunte Culpepper, whom the Vikings traded to Miami last March. Taylor's market value isn't expected to be particularly high, but with an increased salary cap league-wide and many teams with plenty of room to spare, some team could be willing to play what it takes to give Taylor a new address.

Johnson came to the team at the beginning of the 2006 season and worked his way into returning kickoffs. He started strong in his first month on that duty, then began to fade. He ended the season with 45 returns for 1,054 yards, a 23.4-yard average.

Troy Williamson never really established himself as a kick returner, and Johnson wants to be given the opportunity to put his receiving skills to work as well.

If the Vikings elect to allow Taylor and Johnson to hit the free-agent market, they would be left with Williamson (37 catches) and Billy McMullen as their top remaining receivers – prompting them to become more aggressive in obtaining at least one starting wide receiver in the free-agent market, and there are several options for players who appear ready to step into a starting role or have already established themselves with other teams.

Donte Stallworth, Philadelphia Eagles – Stallworth is probably the most established wide receiver scheduled for free agency on March 2. Had he played a full season in Philadelphia, his first with the Eagles, Stallworth might have had the best season of his career. He finished with 38 catches for 725 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games. It was in 2004, the last of four season for Stallworth with the New Orleans Saints, that he established his career marks – 70 catches for 945 yards – and added seven touchdowns. The Eagles aren't expected to re-sign him before free agency because in an unimpressive market of free agents, Stallworth may want to find out his value.

"When he's healthy, he's a good player. People are going to say the same thing — if he's injured (often), how much are you going to pay him?" Eagles general manager Tom Heckert told PhillyBurbs.com in January. "But he's young and he's fast. He's really fast. I think he'll probably end up signing a pretty good contract somewhere. If you look at last year, those (2006 free agents) got huge money and they were just OK guys."

D.J. Hackett, Seattle Seahawks – If the Seahawks' talented contingent of wide receivers has them comfortable enough to put a lower tender offer on Hackett, a restricted free agent, he would be an intriguing option for the Vikings to pursue, their poison-pill feud with the Seahawks last year notwithstanding. With a receiving corps in 2006 that featured Darrell Jackson, Deion Branch, Bobby Engram and Nate Burleson, as well as pass-catching tight end Jerramy Stevens, Hackett still managed to catch 45 passes for 610 yards, good for third place among the crew in each category. His four touchdown receptions tied him Branch and Stevens for second place in that category. The Seahawks are in decent shape with the salary cap, but they also have Stevens and Engram – as well as a couple other starters – scheduled for free agency.

Kevin Curtis, St. Louis Rams – Like Hackett, Curtis was the third-leading receiver on his team in 2006, his 40 catches for 479 yards finishing behind Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce. The Rams are in one of the best cap situations of any team, and considering Bruce's age they will likely make a strong push to re-sign Curtis before free agency begins on March 2. If they don't succeed, Detroit and former Rams head coach Mike Martz could look to lure Curtis into their den.

Drew Bennett, Tennessee Titans – Bennett's production peaked in 2004, when he had 80 catches for 1,247 yards, but he has still put together 700-yard seasons with 58 and 46 catches each of the last two years, respectively. The Titans have finally climbed out of their cap hell of a few years ago and have more than $30 million in room for 2007. Considering Bennett was easily their most productive receiver last year, expect the Titans to attempt to lock him up long-term before free agency.

Ashley Lelie, Atlanta Falcons – Lelie voided his contract in December and should hit the free-agent market. He's a talented deep threat that went over 1,000 yards receiving in 2004 with the Denver Broncos, but his numbers have declined since then.


Charlie Adams, Houston Texans (restricted)
Alex Bannister, Baltimore Ravens
Corey Bradford, Detroit Lions
Troy Brown, New England Patriots
Drew Carter, Carolina Panthers (restricted)
Terrance Copper, New Orleans (restricted)
Hankton Cortez, Jacksonville Jaguars
Patrick Crayton, Dallas Cowboys
Devard Darling, Baltimore Ravens (restricted)
Andre Davis, Buffalo Bills
Bobby Engram, Seattle Seahawks
Justin Gage, Chicago Bears
Bryan Gilmore, San Francisco 49ers
Az-Zahir Hakim, Detroit Lions
Cortez Hankton, Jacksonville Jaguars
Lee Mays, Pittsburgh Steelers
Shaun McDonald, St. Louis Rams
Clarence Moore, Baltimore Ravens (restricted)
Aaron Moorehead, Indianapolis Colts
Sean Morey, Pittsburgh Steelers
Quincy Morgan, Denver Broncos
Dennis Northcutt, Cleveland Browns
Samie Parker, Kansas City Chiefs (restricted)
Willie Ponder, St. Louis Rams
Ricky Proehl, Indianapolis Colts
Edell Shepherd, Houston Texans (restricted)
Scottie Vines, Detroit Lions (restricted)
Bobby Wade, Tennessee Titans
Troy Walters, Arizona Cardinals
Darius Watts, New York Giants (restricted)
Kelley Washington, Cincinnati Bengals
Wes Welker, Miami Dolphins (restricted)
Alvis Whitted, Oakland Raiders
Ernest Wilford, Jacksonville Jaguars (restricted)
Terrence Wilkins, Indianapolis Colts

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