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Getting WR help for the offense: 3 players the WFT could target

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Detroit Lions Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

A few weeks ago, I published an article looking at five veteran free agent options for the Washington Football Team. The five players were:

  • Allen Robinson
  • Damiere Byrd
  • Corey Davis
  • Curtis Samuel
  • Will Fuller

I think Allen Robinson is likely to garner the most interest among wide receivers in the NFL’s upcoming free agency period; he may well be the most sought after FA regardless of position. Personally, I’m pegging Damiere Byrd as a low-cost dark horse for a contract here in Washington.

But if a team requires a game-changing wide receiver, this is the free agency class to find one. Today, I thought I’d shine the spotlight on a few other receivers who are likely to be in demand when the new league year opens on 17 March. With Washington’s available cap space, the team should be in contention to sign a top receiver this month.

Here are the three players I want to focus on today:

Related:

Free Agent Fizzle: A bad year for free agents looking for a payday


Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions

Detroit Lions v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Sitting towards the top of the list of impending veteran free agent wide receivers is Detroit Lions WR Kenny Golladay, who could be looking for a new landing spot. If the Lions choose not to franchise tag Golladay, he should have no shortage of teams calling.

When he’s been healthy — which he wasn’t for much of the 2020 season — Kenny Golladay has shown excellent skills.

  • As a rookie, he got his career off to a respectable start, with 28 receptions, 477 yards and 4 touchdowns on 48 targets in 11 games played.
  • In 2018, under new head coach Matt Patricia, Kenny Golladay was Matthew Stafford’s favorite target. He was targeted 119 times. He pulled in 70 receptions for over 1,000 yards and 5 touchdowns, playing in 15 games.
  • 2019 saw Golladay set a new career-high in yards. He caught 65 balls on 116 targets for 1,190 yards, and he led the NFL with 11 touchdowns.

2020 - a season of injury

Last season, expectations were high for the young receiver as he entered his “contract year”. He was coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons playing with backup quarterbacks (Matt Stafford played in only 8 games in 2019). But Golladay’s 2020 season was marred by injuries.

He missed the first two games of the season due to a hamstring injury suffered in training camp, and then went down with a hip injury on November 1 that ended his season. The receiver only played in five games last year, recording 20 catches on 32 targets for 338 yards and 2 touchdowns. Prior to that, Golladay had played in 11, 15, and 16 games in his first three seasons as a pro.

Over the past three years, Golladay ranks third in yards per reception (minimum 100 catches) with 16.72, behind only A.J. Brown (17.43) and Mike Williams (17.29)

One write described Golladay as “a large-framed WR (6’4″) who brings the size you want in an “X” but gets the volume of a slot receiver (117.5 [targets] avg in 2018-2019).”

But why would the Lions let him go?

After trading for Jared Goff, the Lions need to give him weapons to justify his enormous contract. The way things sit right now, however, the Lions have virtually no one on their roster outside of 2020 rookie Quintez Cephus and Tyrell Williams, but neither player is a WR1.

The Lions really need to re-sign Golladay and not let him leave in free agency.

The problem is that the Lions have the 8th worst cap situation in the league right now according to OverTheCap. As of yesterday, they were projected to be $6.8m over the cap on 17 March.

That means that Golladay may very well hit the open market. And he’s the big, physical type of receiver that Ron Rivera has shown a liking for in the past.

How would he fit with the Washington Football Team?

The 6-foot-4, 214-pounder is physical, wins the contested catches and should be fresh after playing in only 5 games last season. No matter the coverage — Golladay finds a way to get open and make plays. A pairing of Golladay and with Terry McLaurin would make the Washington passing attack instantly fearsome.

If Washington swings for the fences with a top-tier WR signing this month, I’d prefer Golladay over Allen Robinson.


Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Wild Card Round - Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Washington Football Team Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Godwin can look forward to receiving a shiny new super bowl ring very soon. Bruce Arians proclaimed loudly that the Buccaneers would bring him back in 2021 as Arians committed to bringing everybody back. The realities of the salary cap may make a liar out of Tampa Bay head coach.

Tampa Bay has over 20 players heading to free agency, and only an estimated $12m in cap space. This isn’t just a collection of backups with expiring contracts, either. The free agent list includes Shaq Barrett, Lavonte David, Rob Gronkowski, Ndamukong Suh, Leonard Fournette, Antonio Brown, and, of course, Chris Godwin.

In other words, the TB front office is gonna have some tough decisions to make when it comes to keeping the band together.

If Godwin is allowed to hit the open market, he does so with the chance to be one of the top free agent receivers in a very deep group.

Second fiddle

While Godwin’s production has been more modest than, say, Kenny Golladay’s, Godwin has made his mark on the NFL playing behind Mike Evans, while Golladay was the lead dog in Detroit. Godwin, who briefly took over Evans’ spot for the team leader in receiving yards in 2019, accumulated 1,333 receiving yards to Evans’ 1,157 yards on three more targets in Jameis Winston’s final season in Tampa Bay.

In the 2020 regular season, Evans regained the top spot with 1,006 yards, due in part to Godwin’s absence for four games as he dealt with a lingering finger injury. On only five fewer receptions, Godwin posted a respectable 840 receiving yards and seven touchdowns with Brady behind center.

Godwin, the former Nittany Lion, has amassed 244 catches, 3,540 yards, and 24 touchdowns in his 4-year NFL career, while missing only six regular season games.

The dropsies

During the playoffs, the broadcast team talked about Tom Brady describing Godwin as “having the best hands” of anybody Brady had ever played with. Godwin went on to drop numerous balls during the playoffs. Despite that apparent off-season choke, Godwin is expected to garner a lot of interest if he enters the free agent market this month.

How would he fit with the Washington Football Team?

Godwin is smaller than Golladay; he is, in fact similar to Terry McLaurin in size and build at 6’1” and 209 pounds. He has respectable speed (4.42 40 time at the combine) and is a good blocker.

One would think that Godwin, who is just 24 years old, would want to stay in Tampa Bay with Tom Brady. If given the chance to stay, I imagine he would grab it. The reality is, the Bucs probably won’t have the cap space to keep all of their free agents, so Godwin may become available.

If he does, he could be an attractive target for the Washington Football Team to pursue.


JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

There’s no doubt about JuJu’s talent. The young man can play. He has, however, been a bit up-and-down in his career in Pittsburgh.

JJSS pulled in 111 balls for over 1,400 yards in 2018 playing opposite Antonio Brown. When Brown left the Steelers, the bets were heavy on both sides on the question of whether JuJu would step up and take over as Pittsburgh’s go-to guy, or whether his production would fall off without the dangerous Antonio Brown to occupy defenses.

For whatever reasons, the reality has been more the latter than the former, as Smith-Schuster produced fewer yards in 2019 & 2020 combined than he did in his sophomore season of 2018.

That’s not to say JuJu has faded away. In Pittsburgh’s new quick pass offense that was unveiled in 2020, the receiver pulled in 97 receptions on 128 targets, but after averaging no less than 12.8 yards per reception in his first three years in the league, JuJu averaged just 8.6 yards per reception last year.

It seems inevitable that JuJu’s production will increase if he signs with a team with a more traditional and explosive passing attack. Depending on what happens at quarterback, that could describe Washington in 2021.

JJSS played well opposite AB, and last season opposite Chase Claypool. He offers teams a talented target who’ll move the chains and step up in the red zone.

How would he fit with the Washington Football Team?

All things considered, I see JuJu Smith-Schuster as the least desirable of the potential top-tier free agents based on his on-field play over four years. His breakout season of 2018 came in an explosive offense that featured a hall of fame passer and receiver, but JJSS hasn’t been able to maintain that level of production without AB as Big Ben has slowed down and broken down.

Questions about JuJu’s personal style also seem to have followed him during his first four seasons, with some people expressing distaste for the 24-year-old receiver’s showboating style. It’s unclear how Rivera and his staff perceive Smith-Schuster or exactly how he would blend with the rather serious Terry McLaurin. It could be a very good fit, but I’m a bit skeptical.

JuJu is almost certain to reach free agency, as the Steelers have three young receivers (including Claypool) and just $3.6m in estimated cap space per OverTheCap. Of the three receivers highlighted in today’s article, JJSS is the most likely to be available in free agency, but the one I would least value as a potential WFT signing.