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The 5 O’Clock Club: Playing GM - a look at the top free agent wide receivers

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

We all know that teams will announce most of the re-signings of their 2017 players in the week between the end of the Combine and the start of the new year, so I want to finish up the “a look at free agents” series before the list of available players starts changing hourly. The Redskins have already announced the re-signing of two of their players, and this week saw a high profile player tagged -- Jarvis Landry of the Dolphins. My plan is to publish a look at free agents daily from today through Saturday the 3rd in an attempt to highlight as many free agents as possible ahead of the new league year, which starts at 4 p.m. on 14 March.

Yesterday we looked at three free agent options at wide receiver that were not in anybody’s list of top free agents.

Today, let’s look at a bunch of receivers who are are on a lot of those lists.

Jarvis Landry

New England Patriots v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Team: Miami Dolphins

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 208 pounds

Age : 25

Entry to NFL: 2nd round, 63rd overall, 2014 draft (Miami Dolphins)

Career Stats

Contract

Landry has been franchise-tagged by the Miami Dolphins already, and while — at the time of this writing — the exact franchise dollar amount is not known, OTC has estimated it to be $16.3m.

Spotrac estimates that Jarvis Landry would receive a contract of 5 years, $69m if he were to be signed by a team in free agency ($13.8m APY).

News & Analysis

The Dolphins quickly slapped the franchise tag on Jarvis Landry, surprising many people, including me. The tag is expensive (estimated to be around $16.3m for one season) for a slot receiver, even one as talented as Landry, and the Dolphins are light on cap space. This has led some people to speculate that keeping Landry on the 2018 Dolphins squad may not be the goal of Miami’s front office.

There are plenty of people around the league who believe the Miami Dolphins will be very open to a Jarvis Landry trade this offseason after having quickly placed the franchise tag on him this week. But who will be willing to take him, especially at this price?

Personally, I am on record as believing a slot receiver at over $16 million is ridiculous, though I do understand not letting a quality young player walk out the door for only a future comp pick. And that’s what the Dolphins have done here, protecting their ability to retain Landry and/or get something for him rather than just letting him hit the open market next month (again, I’m letting him walk and trying to trade for Emmanuel Sanders or something like that to fill my slot void).

It came as a surprise to several execs around the league that the Dolphins would absorb such a big contract given their already limited cap space, and it has many wondering if a trade might not be the end-game. Get something more than a third- or fourth-round pick in 2019 – the assumption of what the comp pick would be – and then re-invest in other players and positions. That won’t be easy, however.

There’s a very detailed analysis of Landry’s situation on OverTheCap that ends with this conclusion:

So we shall see what happens but I have a feeling at the end of the day we will say that this was the wrong use of the franchise tag at the end of the 2018 season.

How would he fit with the Redskins?

At this point, it appears that the Redskins would have to trade one or more draft picks to the Dolphins to get Landry on the franchise tag, then try to extend him. None of that sounds very appealing.

Landry’s fit with the Redskins isn’t a matter of great consensus. Really, opinions vary widely depending on who you talk to. I’m of the opinion that Landry is a very good slot receiver who can line up outside, and who is an effective punt returner.

You know who else fits that description? Jamison Crowder.

Crowder’s cap hit in ‘18 is $2m, while Landry is likely to be north of $11m (though no one seems to be sure just how far north). If he plays on the tag, the number is around $16.3m.

Trading draft picks to bring in a talented receiver at $16m whose skills are largely redundant with those of a Redskins draft pick on a $2m contract? I wasn’t excited about Landry when I thought he’d be an unrestricted free agent... I’m extremely negative about spending draft picks and big dollars to get him on the roster.

This feels like a complete non-starter to me.

Allen Robinson

Jacksonville Jaguars v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Team: Jacksonville Jaguars

Height: 6’3”

Weight: 211 pounds

Age entering 2018 season: 24

Entry to NFL: 2nd round, 61st overall, 2014 draft (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Career Stats

Contract

Spotrac estimates that Allen Robinson would receive a contract of 5 years, $68m if he were to be signed by a team in free agency ($13.6m APY).

How would he fit with the Redskins?

Robinson missed all but the first three offensive plays of the 2017 season after suffering a torn left ACL in the season opener at Houston this past September.

He had a fantastic year in 2015, with 80 receptions for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns, with an incredible 31 receptions of 20 or more yards.

Robinson came back to earth in 2016, but still put up over 800 yards.

When healthy, Robinson offers great size, a physicality at the line of scrimmage, a willingness to go for balls in the middle of the field. He is far from a speedster, but his impressive route-running ability and his strength at the point of attack is what allows him to break free and make plays down the field.

Taking a chance on Robinson could be a bit of a risk, but Robinson will have many teams debating if the risk is worth the reward.

Jordan Matthews

NFL: New York Jets at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Team: Buffalo Bills, Eagles

Height: 6’3”

Weight: 212 pounds

Age entering 2018 season: 25

Entry to NFL: 2nd round, 42nd overall, 2014 draft (Philadelphia Eagles)

Career Stats

Contract

Spotrac estimates that Jordan Matthews would receive a contract of 4 years, $35m if he were to be signed by a team in free agency ($8.8m APY).

How would he fit with the Redskins?

He makes tough catches. He has a big body. He ran faster than a lot of people anticipated (4.46-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine). The Eagles get Jeremy Maclin back. They have added Matthews and Darren Sproles. This team is going to be the first-, second- or third-leading scoring team in the league.” -- Mike Mayock

Matthews spent a good portion of the 2017 season playing through injuries and dealing with an ineffective offense in Buffalo and didn’t match his prior production when he was force fed in Philly.

Matthews is a tall, narrow-framed, West Coast possession receiver with soft hands, a professional approach and the versatility to line up inside or outside.

As a veteran receiver who showed consistent production in Philly in his first three seasons, Matthews isn’t gonna blow anyone’s socks off, but he’s a reliable player who won’t break the bank. Jay Gruden will be very familiar with him from his time in the NFC East.

At 6’3” and 212 pounds, he could make a nice bookend for Josh Doctson.

Sammy Watkins

Houston Texans v Los Angeles Ram Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

We’ve looked at Sammy Watkins twice:

21 January

25 February

Watkins is my first choice, partly because he should be a thrifty signing, partly because after a year with Sean McVay he’ll learn the offense quickly, and partly because I think he’ll do well in Jay’s offense with Alex Smith at QB.

Spotrac estimates that Sammy Watkins would receive a contract of 3 years, $17.9m if he were to be signed by a team in free agency ($5.9m APY).

John Brown

Divisional Round - Green Bay Packers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Team: Arizona Cardinals

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 179 pounds

Age entering 2018 season: 27

Entry to NFL: 91st overall, 3rd round, 2014 draft (Arizona Cardinals)

Career Stats

Contract

Determining the price tag for Brown will be difficult. His ability to stretch the field is something all NFL teams covet, but his inability to stay off the injury report, and his sickle-cell issue, will drive his price down.

Last season he made just $2 million and will be looking for a pay increase in 2018. If he wants to prove himself it would not come as a surprise to see him sign a one-year “prove it” deal that is incentive-laden. A player who had similar numbers at the time of a new deal was Kenny Stills last offseason.

Stills through his first four years in the league caught 164 passes for 2,738 yards with 20 touchdowns. By comparison, Brown has caught 173 passes for 2,515 yards with 17 touchdowns in four years. Stills signed a four-year deal worth $32 million last offseason.

Is Brown worth that same kind of money? Probably not, but there is no telling how the free agent market will play out in the coming months. If fans want a reference point for a contract, Stills’ deal offers the best comparison.

Personally, I don’t see Brown getting close to the $8m APY that Kenny Stills got from the Browns.

I’d be surprised to see him get more than $5m APY, and I would expect teams to offer a shorter contract (say 3 years) with significant per-game bonuses for being active on game day.

How would he fit with the Redskins?

Overview from 247 Sports:

In 2011 he caught 61 passes for 1,216 yards with 12 touchdowns. The following year he caught 63 passes for 973 yards with eight touchdowns. He capped off his collegiate career by catching 61 passes for 1,198 yards with 14 touchdowns.

He ran an impressive 4.34 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine and was initially viewed as sixth- or seventh-round pick. In his rookie season with the Cardinals he caught 48 passes for 696 yards with five touchdowns. He then had a career season in 2015, catching 65 passes for 1,003 yards with seven touchdowns. In 2016 he caught 39 passes for 517 yards with two touchdowns. Last season he appeared in just 10 games and caught 21 passes for 299 yards with three touchdowns.

Brown has dealt with hamstring injuries throughout his career and it was revealed in 2016 he carries the sickle-cell trait. ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss explained the situation in October 2016:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sickle-cell trait is the result of one inherited sickle-cell gene and one normal gene. Those with the sickle-cell trait “usually” don’t exhibit symptoms of sickle-cell disease. In rare cases, however, “people with SCT might experience complications of SCD, such as pain crises.”

According to the CDC’s website, those with sickle-cell trait are “more likely” to experience muscle breakdown when doing “intense exercise” than those who don’t have the trait.

Overexertion can force flare ups that can eventually lead to cardiac arrest. His sickle-cell issue could be something that scares teams away.

Brown’s greatest strength is his speed. Few in the league have his impressive get off and ability to get down the field quickly. He is averaging 14.5 yards per catch in his career and has two 75-yard catches in his four NFL seasons.

In addition to his speed, Brown routinely creates separation no matter what kind of route he is asked to run. He has worked on the inside out of the slot and can also make plays when asked to play on the outside. The threat of his speed alone often forces the opposition to shade coverage to his side of the field, especially if he is able to pop off a big gain early in a game.

Brown has also worked as a return man in his NFL career. In 2016 he returned 17 punts for 119 yards and returned one kickoff for 51 yards. If the Bears want to mix it up on returns he could be another option.

John Brown could provide the speed-kills receiver on the outside that Jay Gruden seems to covet, and because of his red flags, Brown might be signable at a discounted price.

Paul Richardson

Philadelphia Eagles v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr /Getty Images

Team: Seattle Seahawks

Height: 6’0”

Weight: 183 pounds

Age entering 2018 season: 25

Entry to NFL: 45th overall, 2nd round, 2014 draft (Seattle Seahawks)

Career Stats

Contract

Spotrac estimates that Paul Richardson would receive a contract of 4 years, $25.4m if he were to be signed by a team in free agency ($6.3m APY).

How would he fit with the Redskins?

Paul Richardson needed four seasons to figure out his niche in the NFL, but the wide receiver became a pretty good deep threat for the Seattle Seahawks in 2017. Richardson was Russell Wilson’s “get out of jail free” card when he Seahawks quarterback was scrambling around the field looking to make plays, averaging 16.0 yards per catch (ninth in the NFL).

Richardson had a productive season for Seattle in 2016 but, as their third option, wasn’t able to ever gain the notoriety he now does. Richardson averaged 13.7 yards per reception in his first year back from a hamstring injury, but only had 21 catches on the season. Richardson didn’t have a start in the 2016 season, being listed behind Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse (who also has one of the greatest catches of all time) on the depth chart.

Following Kearse’s trade to the Jets this past offseason, Richardson got his chance to shine for the Seahawks. He broke out, finishing with 703 yards and 6 touchdowns, despite Wilson having to run for his life on the vast majority of plays this season. More impressively, however, he put up 16 yards per reception.

Richardson is rapid, putting up a 4.40 40-yard dash at his draft combine four years ago. Among prospects in his draft class, only Brandin Cooks and John Brown clocked faster times at that event than Richardson.

It’s obvious that Richardson is incredibly talented. He is going to get paid wherever he decides to play next season.

He isn’t incredibly tall, but is insanely fast and agile, while maintaining great route running. Richardson comes from a West Coast style offense in Seattle, in which he thrived playing off of a possession receiver like Doug Baldwin.

Richardson is fast. Check.

He has experience in a timing based, West Coast offense. Check.

He provided a deep threat, plus a ‘get out of jail free card’ for a mobile quarterback. Check.

Low-profile free agent who is likely to be available for a moderate-value contract. Check.

He also comes with the Mark Tyler seal of approval.

Sign him up!

Taylor Gabriel

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Team: Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns

Height: 5’8”

Weight: 165 pounds

Age entering 2018 season: 27

Entry to NFL: UDFA, 2014 (Cleveland Browns) - cut by Browns, claimed off waivers by Atlanta Falcons

Career Stats

Contract

Gabriel is likely to get a limited contract size. I’d guess that he’ll be signed for between $3m (Marquis Goodwin money) and $4m (Chris Hogan money).

Here are some other receivers in that range: Jarius Wright, Ted Ginn, Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasely, Russell Sheppard.

How would he fit with the Redskins?

“One trick pony”

Gabriel may be a one-trick pony, but it’s a trick that we’ve seen before; it’s one that Jay Gruden likes and knows how to work with.

Donte Moncreif

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Team: Indianapolis Colts

Height: 6’2:

Weight: 216 pounds

Age entering 2018 season: 24

Entry to NFL: 90th overall, 3rd round, 2014 draft (Indianapolis Colts)

Career Stats

Contract

Moncrief compares well with Torrey Smith, who is on a $5m per year contract. I’d expect Moncreif to sign for somewhere between $4m and $5.5m APY. Jermaine Kearse and Brandon LaFell are both on $4.5m APY, which seems about right for a guy averaging less than 40 receptions, 500 yards and 5TDs per season.

How would he fit with the Redskins?

The 2015 season was supposed to be a breakout for Moncrief when he put up 64 catches for 733 yards 6 touchdowns as the No. 3 receiver with Matt Hasselbeck starting half the season. But injuries kept him to just 21 total games the last two seasons combined and he hasn’t even matched his ‘15 totals in that time in terms of catches and yards.

This is the reason he could come cheap, and why Indianapolis would let a 24-year-old receiver with first-round talent simply walk out the door.

He’s not quite a distressed asset, but he’s close. It’s a buy-low move with considerable upside.

Moncrief is likely to be bargain precisely because he seems to not be living up to his potential.

For Moncrief, a four-year veteran in the NFL, a change of scenery could be in the best of interest if he wants to further his career. The quarterback position is still in question in Indianapolis, nobody knows if Andrew Luck will ever play another down in the NFL again.

Despite not being the number one option for four season with the Colts, as he was behind perennial ball-hog TY Hilton. Moncrief still managed to exceed over 300 yards in each season, including reaching 744 yards his second season. Last season in limited games due to injury, Donte still managed to catch 26 passes for 391 yards, good enough for 15 yards per reception.

The question is still out there whether or not Moncrief could become a legitimate number one option on an NFL team.

The Redskins have a reliable passer in Alex Smith , a good offensive-minded head coach in Jay Gruden, and a stable of pass catchers at RB, TE and WR that simply need a complement opposite Josh Doctson. There wouldn’t likely be a ton of pressure on Moncreif, who wouln’t need to be a #1 receiver in DC, but — frankly, if we’re looking for a guy like Moncrief — I’d personally prefer to bring back Brian Quick, who is basically the same receiver, and who already knows Jay’s offense, and flashed in the limited snaps he saw last year.

Albert Wilson

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Team: Kansas City Chiefs

Height: 5’9”

Weight: 200 pounds

Age entering 2018 season: 25

Entry to NFL: 2014 Undrafted Free Agent (Kansas City Chiefs)

Career Stats

Contract

Wilson is likely to be yet another receiver in the $3m - $5m range.

How would he fit with the Redskins?

Wilson is a slot receiver with the Chiefs. He has limited production over his 4-years career, but he was playing beside Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, who both topped the 1,000-yard mark.

His obvious advantage would be the fact that he’s been playing with the Redskins new starting quarterback for the past few seasons.

All in all, aside from his connection to Smith, I don’t see a lot to recommend Wilson to the Redskins. He should probably either stay in KC, or — if the cap-strapped Chiefs aren’t offering him a contract — find a team that is looking for a reliable slot man.

Ryan Grant

Washington Redskins v New Orleans Saints Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Team: Washington Redskins

Height: 6’0”

Weight: 204 pounds

Age entering 2018 season: 27

Entry to NFL: 5th round, 2014 draft (Washington Redskins)

Career Stats

Grant is a home-grown Redskin who didn’t show much when he was on a team that featured Pierre Garcon and Desean Jackson, but looked like the team’s most consistent receiver in 2017.

I’d be dumbfounded if the Redskins didn’t re-sign Ryan Grant next week.

Summary Chart

Poll

All things considered (including contract), which of the highlighted receivers not named Ryan Grant do you think would be the best free agent signing?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    Allen Robinson
    (59 votes)
  • 5%
    Jordan Matthews
    (24 votes)
  • 30%
    Paul Richardson
    (131 votes)
  • 38%
    Sammy Watkins
    (162 votes)
  • 2%
    John Brown
    (11 votes)
  • 5%
    Donte Moncreif
    (25 votes)
  • 1%
    Albert Wilson
    (8 votes)
  • 1%
    Taylor Gabriel
    (6 votes)
426 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which WR free agent acquisition would be the most likely to make you throw up your hands and proclaim that the Redskin front office is hopeless and Bruce Allen should be fired?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Allen Robinson
    (47 votes)
  • 17%
    Jordan Matthews
    (58 votes)
  • 3%
    Paul Richardson
    (11 votes)
  • 8%
    Sammy Watkins
    (28 votes)
  • 16%
    John Brown
    (53 votes)
  • 6%
    Donte Moncreif
    (20 votes)
  • 13%
    Albert WIlson
    (44 votes)
  • 20%
    Taylor Gabriel
    (67 votes)
328 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Trade for Jarvis Landry

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Good idea
    (22 votes)
  • 93%
    Bad idea
    (330 votes)
352 votes total Vote Now
Green Bay Packers v Washington Redskins Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
New York Giants v Washington Redskins Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
New York Giants v Washington Redskins Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images