By Ryan Mayer
The new NFL league year begins on March 9th, which means the opening of free agency. Teams will have plenty of cap space with the salary cap being set at $155 million for the 2016-17 season. Wide receivers are becoming bigger commodities with the more open, passing style of many of the teams in the league, so the following guys are probably at the top of quite a few teams’ wish lists this year.
Anquan Boldin – Last team: San Francisco 49ers
Boldin is going to be 36 years old in October of this upcoming year, so you’re not going to look to sign him long term, but for teams that need a solid, reliable receiver for this season and possibly next, Boldin is a great option. He caught 69 passes for 789 yards and 4 touchdowns last year, despite the 49ers offense struggling badly. One of the toughest receivers in the league, Boldin doesn’t have and never really had top-end speed, but he does move the chains as a big target in the red zone and in 3rd down situations. He can probably be had for a relatively cheap two-year deal.
Marvin Jones – Last team: Cincinnati Bengals
Jones is one of two Bengals receivers who finds himself on this list. Cincy will probably try to keep one of these guys opposite of AJ Green, but they’ll definitely be on the market. Jones is young (25) and is coming off the best season of his career playing in all 16 games, catching 65 passes for 816 yards and 4 touchdowns. He’s got the ability to stretch the field, and with his age, you can bet more on him continuing to develop by giving a longer term deal.
Mohamed Sanu – Last team: Cincinnati Bengals
Sanu is slightly older than Jones (26) but still entering into what you would expect to be his prime years. Last year was a down year from his career best season in 2014. He played in every game, but started just 4 games and made only 33 catches for 394 yards and didn’t record a touchdown.
Rueben Randle – Last team: New York Giants
Randle’s another in the group of young wide receivers who were number two options on their current teams that hit the free agency market this year. Randle has taken particular advantage of his opportunities during the past two seasons with Victor Cruz missing time. Becoming the secondary receiver behind Odell Beckham Jr, Randle caught 128 balls for 1,735 yards and 11 touchdowns the past two seasons. Entering his age 25 season, at 6’4″ 205, Randle is the prototype receiver that teams are looking for on the outside, he’ll be paid well to come in and possibly be a team’s number one option.
Rishard Matthews – Last team: Miami Dolphins
Matthews had the best year of his career for the Dolphins with 43 receptions for 662 yards (15.4 average) and 4 touchdowns. That production came despite missing five games due to injury. He showed himself to be a deep threat, and could be a good complimentary receiver for a team that already has a number one guy.
With passing offenses exploding and teams going to more spread/three WR concepts, these guys will be watching the money roll their way.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him.