The 2015 free agency class isn't comprised of many top wide receivers, but a few players that are No.1 targets on their respective teams could be headed elsewhere this offseason. Even after Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant were hit with the franchise tag from the Denver Broncos and Dallas Cowboys, there are a few good options for teams looking to upgrade the position.
Reggie Wayne is the latest wide receiver that is looking for a new home, as the Indianapolis Colts have announced that they won’t re-sign the veteran. He spent his entire 14-year career with the Colts, catching 1,070 passes for 14,345 yards.
Brandon Marshall isn’t a free agent, but he was traded from the Chicago Bears to the New York Jets on Friday, pending a physical. The veteran had a disappointing 2014 campaign, but he totaled 128 receptions, 2,803 yards and 23 touchdowns in the previous two seasons.
Michael Crabtree will be a free agent, and the Jets are expected to release Percy Harvin after acquiring Marshall. But four wide receivers stand out as the best that will be available in free agency.
Cobb wasn’t the No.1 wide receiver with the Green Bay Packers in 2014, but he’s still the best wide receiver that can be acquired this offseason. Even though Jordy Nelson was Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target, Cobb still managed to catch 91 passes for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was injured for most of last season, but led the team in receptions and receiving yards in 2012.
The Green Bay Packers decided not to place the franchise tag on Cobb, and the two sides have been unable to agree on a new contract. He’ll be an attractive option for teams that need help at the position and have enough salary-cap space. Nelson averages a salary of $9.7 million per season, and if Cobb gets an offer close to that, his days in Green Bay could be numbered.
In his first season not playing with DeSean Jackson, Maclin proved that he has what it takes to be a No.1 wide receiver. His 1,318 yards ranked ninth in the league, and he was tied for 12th overall with 10 touchdown receptions. Maclin had never topped the 1,000-yard receiving mark in his first four NFL seasons, and he missed all of 2013 with an ACL injury.
Maclin became a star in his first year under head coach Chip Kelly, but the two sides have reportedly not been close during recent negotiations. The Eagles have unloaded a few of their top stars, agreeing to trade LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills and releasing linebacker Trent Cole. Maclin could be next to go as Philadelphia rebuilds its roster.
The Houston Texans’ all-time leading receiver still has two years remaining on his contract, but he will be playing for a new team in 2015. Johnson has requested to be released or traded, and Houston will make him a free agent, if they can’t send him away in a deal. Johnson has never even been to a conference championship game, and a team like the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos or Seattle Seahawks might be an ideal fit for the veteran.
He’ll be 34 years old at the start of next season, but Johnson can still be very productive. In 15 games last year, he posted 85 receptions for 936 yards, catching passes from the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum and Ryan Mallett. He totaled over 3,000 receiving yards in 2012 and 2013, and could have another 1,000-yard season with a good quarterback.
The 26-year-old had the worst season of his career in 2014, catching 49 passes for 767 yards, taking a backseat to Steve Smith. But he remains one of the best options in free agency, and could have a bounce-back season with a new team. In 2013, Torrey Smith was Joe Flacco’s No.1 option, leading the team with 65 catches for 1,128 yards. He became one of the best deep threats in the NFL, ranking fifth with 17.4 yards per catch.
Smith makes sense for a lot of teams that need help at wide receiver. He could be an improvement as a second option, and he won’t garner as much money as someone like Cobb.