Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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Free Agency Primer: WRs & TEs

Monday, February 23, 2009

Gregg Rosenthal, Chris Wesseling, and I will produce a number of free agency primers by position over the next week. I've lumped tight ends and wide receivers together. Players that have been released can sign elsewhere immediately. Impending free agents must wait until February 27.

Unrestricted Free Agent Wideouts

Top Catch: T.J. Houshmandzadeh

Unlike Bryant, Houshmandzadeh has strong character, can play all three receiver positions, and is a useful downfield blocker. His yards-per-catch average has declined two years running, but that can be attributed to quarterback play. Ryan Fitzpatrick's noodle arm kept Houshmandzadeh running circle routes last season and Carson Palmer was recovering from a torn ACL in 2007. Housh might not be a true "No. 1 receiver" and turns 32 next season, but he produces in the red zone (32 TDs in the last four seasons), is a leader, and likely has two productive seasons left.

Prediction: Eagles - Four years, $10M guaranteed

Highest Long-Term Upside: Nate Washington

Pittsburgh's third receiver since 2006, this 25-year-old offers vertical skills, adequate size (6'1/190), and talent on the rise. Though consistency is an issue, Washington excelled in spot starts when Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward were out of the lineup over the past three seasons. Washington has rare big-play ability and could blossom under constructive coaching.

Prediction: Titans - Three years, $5M guaranteed

Bang for the Buck: Ronald Curry

Curry, released by the Raiders on Friday, was dogged by injuries early in his career and turns 30 in May. Drops got him benched for rookie Chaz Schilens last year, but the former North Carolina point guard has good football awareness and understands how to get open. Curry totaled 117 catches for 1,444 yards (12.3 YPC) and five TDs in 2006-2007. He blocks in the running game and could flourish as a No. 3 option in the right system.

Prediction: Patriots - Two years, $3M guaranteed

Bust Alert: Devery Henderson

Like Washington, Henderson is a deep threat with shaky hands. He comes from a receiver-friendly Saints offense and Sean Payton constantly sought to replace him. Henderson has no experience facing double teams, has fumbled opportunities to be a full-time player, and shouldn't be counted on to start by his next team.

Prediction: Buccaneers - Two years, $2M guaranteed

Best of the Rest

1. Brandon Jones - Has flashed since promising rookie year with Steve McNair, but Jones' inability to beat out Justin McCareins sends up a red flag.

2. Bryant Johnson - Disappoints whenever he gets a chance to play full time. Johnson can help as a situational downfield threat, but doesn't break tackles or get open consistently.

3. Reggie Williams - No. 9 overall pick in 2004 possesses shaky hands, 4.8 speed, and questionable in-game effort. Williams is unattractive as a fourth receiver with no special teams value.

4. Shaun McDonald - Has never produced outside Mike Martz's offense.

5. Jerry Porter - Last year's biggest FA bust can no longer separate and disrupts the locker room.

Others: Michael Clayton, Roydell Williams, Bobby Engram, Amani Toomer, Drew Carter, Ashley Lelie, Koren Robinson, Mike Furrey, Marty Booker, Dante Hall, Jabar Gaffney, Brandon Lloyd, Kelley Washington, Justin McCareins, Darrell Jackson, Keary Colbert, Terrance Copper, Robert Ferguson

Restricted Free Agent Wideouts

1. Miles Austin - Highly unlikely to leave Dallas. 6'4 with big hands and sub-4.5 speed, Austin has a strong chance to be the Cowboys' starting flanker if Terrell Owens is released.

2. Lance Moore - Former undrafted FA is adept at finding soft spots in a zone. Moore is a product of the Saints' system, but could garner some interest after being tendered at the second-round level. New Orleans can match any offer.

3. Demetrius Williams - Former fourth-rounder worth a look if Baltimore gives him a low tender. Injuries ruined his last two seasons, but Williams' vertical speed is hard to find.

4. Hank Baskett - Willing special teamer lacks speed to be an asset in a non-West Coast offense.

5. Malcom Floyd - Effective in red zone (6'5/225) and can be above-average third option, but Floyd will get second-round tender.

Others: Ben Obomanu, Glenn Holt, Ruvell Martin, David Anderson, Jeff Webb

Unrestricted Free Agent Tight Ends

Franchised: Bo Scaife

Bust Alert: L.J. Smith

Smith is a force in the red zone and has some downfield ability when healthy, but he rarely is. The 6'3/258-pounder has missed nine games over the last two years and his yards-per-catch average has dropped in three straight seasons. The Eagles went out of their way to get Smith involved after franchising him in 2008, but he didn't produce. A desperate team will overpay.

Prediction: Bills - Four years, $7M guaranteed

Best of the Rest

1. Chris Baker - Expected to be pursued by Tampa. Baker can block and catch, but he's only valuable around the line of scrimmage.

2. Jim Kleinsasser - Kleinsasser, 31, could catch on as a square-backed lead blocker. The 6'3/272-pound vet hasn't been a passing-game weapon in five seasons, but can still throw his weight around and open holes.

3. Jerramy Stevens - Can function as No. 2 tight end, but consistency, character, and weight are major issues.

Others: Billy Bajema, Daniel Wilcox, Nate Jackson, Will Heller, Justin Peelle, Bubba Franks, Jeb Putzier, Mark Campbell

Restricted Free Agent Tight Ends

1. Owen Daniels - Certain to receive highest possible tender.

2. Leonard Pope - One-dimensional TE likely will be safe with low tender.

3. Jeff King - Another candidate for low tender.

4. Quinn Sypniewski - Blocking specialist coming off a torn ACL.

5. Tory Humphrey - Undersized former undrafted FA figures to lose his spot on the depth chart to Jermichael Finley.

Others: Tony Curtis, Darcy Johnson

Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva

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