Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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The 2011 Wide Receiver Market

Friday, May 20, 2011

2. Sidney Rice, Vikings

Scouting Report: Rice has a rare makeup at 6-foot-4, 202 with incredible ball skills, a massive catch radius, and the ability to take over a game. According to Pro Football Focus, Rice has dropped just five of his 212 targets over the past three seasons. Only 24 years old, Rice's arrow is pointing skyward, assuming he can overcome the injury bug. Rice was dogged by a bum hamstring and high ankle sprain as a rookie, a right PCL sprain in 2008, major hip surgery in 2010, and a concussion to close out last season. He was particularly slow to recover from the knee and hip injuries. Still, this is a true "No. 1 receiver" with 18 touchdowns in 26 career starts.

Availability: The Vikings offered Rice a multi-year deal in February. The proposal was rejected, so the team countered with a first-round tender. Rice still hopes to test unrestricted free agency as a four-year vet, and in April Pro Football Weekly reported that the Rams had interest. The Vikings hold his rights, however, and have no intentions of letting Rice get away.

Prediction: Vikings on a four-year, $37.5 million contract.

3. James Jones, Packers

Scouting Report: Jones is a physical receiver with elite run-after-catch skills, just a notch below Brandon Marshall and Anquan Boldin as a tackle breaker. He also accelerates well enough to beat defensive backs downfield. At 6-foot-1, 218, Jones is a prototypical flanker in a West Coast offense, but a penchant for back-breaking drops has been his downfall in the pros. Jones has 17 drops over the past two years, and his last two would've gone for long touchdowns in the playoffs. The miscues could be partially related to Jones' focus during inconsistent playing time. He's been a rotational player in Green Bay, only playing around 55 percent of the snaps.

Availability: Jones, 27, was extended an original pick tender in February, but the Packers went on to use the 64th pick on Randall Cobb. Donald Driver is expected back behind Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson. Brett Swain also figures into the mix. The Packers may balk at paying Jones roughly $2 million to be a backup, and instead rescind the tender. As a free agent, Jones could draw significant interest from ex-Packers personnel man John Schneider in Seattle.

Prediction: Seahawks on a two-year, $7.5 million contract.

4. Steve Breaston, Cardinals

Scouting Report: Viewed as a kick return-only prospect out of Michigan, Breaston exceeded expectations enough for the Cardinals to eventually deem Anquan Boldin expendable. Breaston has delivered three straight 700-plus yard seasons, though the team grew tired of his achy right knee down the stretch of 2010. Breaston has battled the same bad knee since 2009. He had surgery on the joint last September, and fell behind rookie Andre Roberts on the depth chart after experiencing late-season swelling. Breaston can run, but is a poor blocker and dropped eight of his 82 targets last season. We haven't seen annual growth from the 27-year-old (28 in August).

Availability: The Cardinals assigned a first-round restricted tender to Breaston, protecting themselves in case 2010 labor rules continue into 2011. He won't be an unrestricted free agent barring a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Our assumption for now is that the tender will stand, and Breaston will play the 2011 season in Arizona for roughly $2.5 million.

Prediction: Cardinals on his one-year tender.

5. Malcom Floyd, Chargers

Scouting Report: Floyd is a long-armed, big-bodied receiver at 6-foot-5, 225. He's been used as a deep threat in San Diego's vertical scheme, averaging 17.96 yards per catch over the past three seasons. Floyd has reliable hands and is essentially a poor man's Vincent Jackson. Playing alongside V-Jax and Antonio Gates throughout his career, however, Floyd has never dealt with double-team coverage and blocks poorly for his size. He is merely a complementary wideout with a career high of 45 catches. Floyd was a late bloomer and turns 30 before the season.

Availability: Floyd received a first- and third-round tender after playing last season on a one-year, $3.168 million deal. The Chargers could rescind the tender if they acquire Steve Smith from Carolina, as is rumored. Floyd is more replaceable part than indispensable talent, but he could find a home with the Panthers based on his background with new OC Rob Chudzinski.

Prediction: Panthers on a three-year, $13.5 million contract.

6. Steve Smith, Giants

Scouting Report: Smith's December microfracture surgery is the biggest blow to his stock. Already short on deep speed, Smith's game relies on quickness and a knack for finding soft spots in zone defenses. It's believed he may open the year on PUP, costing him the first six games. On the bright side, Smith's age (26) gives him better odds of healing fully. At 100 percent, Smith is a savvy route runner who operates primarily in the slot, and on underneath routes when positioned at flanker. He has reliable hands, but averages just 10.85 yards per catch in his career.

Availability: Smith's major knee surgery will make him unattractive to other teams, and there are indications the Giants have prepared for life without him. They used the 83rd overall pick on slot receiver Jerrel Jernigan, and extended Smith an original pick tender when the rest of their restricted free agents got more expensive tags. Giants GM Jerry Reese also balked at signing Smith to the long-term deal he requested. No team will aggressively pursue this player.

Prediction: Giants on his one-year tender.

Other three- to five-year restricted wide receivers: Jacoby Jones, Lance Moore, Early Doucet, Brad Smith, Laurent Robinson, Maurice Stovall, Eric Weems, Derek Hagan, Micheal Spurlock, David Clowney, Johnnie Lee Higgins.

Trade Candidates

1. Steve Smith, Panthers

Scouting Report: A double team-commanding All Pro in his prime, Smith has battled nagging injuries and atrocious QB play over the last two seasons. His yards-per-catch average is down three years running, and Smith has started 16 games just once in his career. Injuries and declining production are red flags for any 32-year-old, though there is reason to believe Smith has been more affected by his situation than physical letdown. He continued to show explosive ability when working from the slot last year, and was a scoring machine with Matt Moore leading the Carolina offense in 2009. There is risk here, but a potentially big-time reward.

Availability: Smith has requested a trade -- even if he won't say so explicitly -- and leaked to the media his preference to play for the Ravens or Chargers. One obstacle could be his contract, set to pay Smith $14.75 million over the next two years. It's possible he'll be willing to restructure to play for a contender. New England is also a rumored landing spot, but aggressive San Diego GM A.J. Smith has confirmed interest and the offense to fit Smith's skills nicely.

Prediction: Chargers via trade.

2. Lee Evans, Bills

Scouting Report: Evans appeared to be emerging as one of the NFL's top deep threats from 2004 to 2008, averaging 16.03 yards per catch with 32 touchdowns in 73 starts. He's followed up with back-to-back career lows in receptions and yards, while being unseated as Buffalo's No. 1 receiver by Steve Johnson. Now 30 years old, Evans remains a relatively efficient pass catcher, but his explosiveness seems to be waning. The Bills have also installed a shotgun-heavy, short-passing based offense to suit weak-armed quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. In turn, the scheme doesn't play to Evans' strengths as a field-stretching vertical wideout.

Availability: Evans is due a $1.5 million bonus on the fifth day of the league year, which begins after the lockout. That bonus would be followed by a $3.275 million salary. While the Bills' decision to pass on A.J. Green in the draft indicates they are counting on another year of Evans, they may be all ears when trading is allowed. Second-year wideouts David Nelson, Donald Jones, Naaman Roosevelt, and Marcus Easley all have promise and warrant more playing time.

Prediction: Stays with Bills, traded in 2012.

More Wide Receiver Trade Candidates: Limas Sweed, Mardy Gilyard, Malcolm Kelly.

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

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