Analyzing the Top 10 WR
We can all agree that upgrading the wide receiver position is the most important of the assignments facing Phil Emery this offseason.
Sure, there are other needs as well—pass rush, cornerback and offensive line come to mind rather easily—but giving Jay Cutler some better weapons to throw to is at the top of my list.
Here is a preview (in no particular order) of all of the unrestricted free agent WRs who are potential difference makers, along with the pros and cons of each.
At least one of these players should be wearing the blue and orange next season.
Vincent Jackson, San Diego Chargers
Pros: Jackson is a true No. 1 wideout with explosive playmaking abilities and proven success in the NFL. He has good size, something the current Bears receiver corps lack.
In 2011, Jackson had 60 receptions for 1,106 yards and nine touchdowns. The 6'5" Jackson would add an element that's missing from the offensive arsenal with the ability to go up and leap for a catch. Only Roy Williams had any size among the current crop of Bears wideouts, and he won't be back in all likelihood.
I believe Jackson wants to return to San Diego, though I'm hearing the Chargers may not put the tag on him. He has averaged 17.5 yards per catch during his career. He's caught 37 TD passes in 92 games. Last season only seven wideouts had more catches of 25-plus yards and Jackson was one of them.
Pair him with Cutler and watch out!
Cons: The Chargers have been reluctant to sign Jackson to a long-term contract at least partially due to injuries. But following his third 1,000-yard season, the Chargers will most likely make a strong play to retain Jackson.
Meanwhile, he's had multiple DUI arrests and has had trouble staying healthy.
Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs
Pros: Emery should be very familiar with Bowe from his time in Kansas City.
He is 27, so he should be entering his prime. At 6'2" has good size and is coming off an 81-catch season for 1,159 yards.
In five seasons, Bowe has produced 1,000 or more receiving yards three times, and in his rookie season missed by just five yards (995).
Cons: The chief are expected to tag Bowe if they can't re-sign him.
Bowe did have one subpar season, in 2009, when he caught just 47 balls for 589 yards.
He scored only five TDs in 2011 after hitting paydirt 15 times the year before.
Robert Meachem, New Orleans Saints
Pros: At 6'2" he offers good size and despite never having had a 1,000-yard season, he is a victim of a Saints offense that likes to throw the ball around to different receivers. He's only 27 and entering his prime.
Meachem caught 40 passes for 620 yards in 2011 (15.5 yard avg) and caught seven passes for 130 yards (18.6 avg) in the playoffs. He's scored 23 TDs in 62 games despite not being the top receiver.
He could be available to a team like the Bears who could offer him the chance to be the No. 1 wideout. He's a good downfield threat and has nice instincts in the red zone.
The Saints have Drew Brees, Marques Colston and Carl Nicks as free agents in addition to Meachem, so he could slip through the cracks.
Cons: Is Meachem a true No. 1? He has never been so far.
Wes Welker, New England Patriots
Pros: Welker has averaged 111 receptions and 1,221 yards over the last five seasons, since joining New England. He's the best slot receiver in the league.
2011 was the fourth season that Welker has gone over 1,000 yards receiving. With Tom Brady throwing to him, Welker caught 122 balls for 1,569 yards and nine TDs.
Welker caught seven passes for 60 yards in Sunday's Super Bowl loss to the Giants. He also rushed the ball twice for 21 yards.
Cons: Welker turns 31 in May. A receiver's prime is usually from 27-32 so a long-term deal would have the Bears paying Welker beyond that timeframe. He will likely remain with the Patriots.
His outstanding season has been overshadowed by a potentially game-changing pass in the fourth quarter that he was unable to catch. Though it wasn't an easy grab, it's a play that Welker usually makes.
DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles
Pros: Jackson finished just short of a 1,000-yard season, and he has finished with more than 900 yards in each of his four seasons in the league.
Jackson just turned 25 in December, so he has a lot of good years left and hasn't even entered his prime yet. He averaged 22.5 yards per catch in 2010.
Cons: Jackson has a big ego and wants to be paid like the best receiver in the NFL, which he is not. If he holds out for top dollar, the Eagles could let him walk, but the Bears won't likely be interested either.
One of the added bonuses of Jackson's play is on special teams, and the Bears have that covered with Devin Hester.
He is also just 5'10", and the Bears would prefer a taller receiver.
Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints
Pros: Colston, when healthy, is a nightmare for any corner in the league. He runs solid routes, is physical and has sure hands. At 6'4", he has the kind of size the Bears are looking for.
Colston caught 80 balls for 1,143 yards in only 14 games in 2011. He caught nine passes for 136 yards and a touchdown in the playoff loss to San Francisco.
He has at least 1,000 yards receiving in five of his six seasons.
Cons: He has had some injuries in his career, so that has to be considered. But I think Drew Brees wants him back, and once Brees himself re-signs, the next order of business for the Saints will be to bring Colston back.
Steve Johnson, Buffalo Bills
Pros: Johnson is only 25 and coming off his second consecutive 1,000-yard season.
He's played all 16 games in each of the last two seasons and has good size at 6'2".
Cons: Johnson is expected to return to the Bills, either through an extension or the franchise tag.
They can afford to bring him back, and they need him back though they want him to stop the touchdown celebrations for some reason.
Mario Manningham, New York Giants
Pros: With the catch is Super Bowl XLVI still fresh on everyone's mind, Manningham should be available if a team gives him a chance to be "the guy" in the offensive plans.
Right now, he's a third option behind Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.
He doesn't turn 26 until May, so he's another younger WR with a lot of good football ahead of him. Despite not being the top options for New York, he did average 58.5 receptions and 883 yards in 2009 and 2010.
Cons: He has good size, at 6'0" but not quite as tall as some of the other free-agent wideouts.
How will he handle being a No. 1 in the Bears system?
That would be new territory for Manningham. He saw his production drop off in 2011 to 39 catches for 523 yards in 12 games.
Brandon Lloyd, St. Louis Rams
Pros: Lloyd quickly established himself as the Rams' top receiver after a trade landed him in St. Louis midway through the year.
His explosive downfield ability and large catching radius make him a legitimate target to help Sam Bradford.
The sad thing is that Lloyd was with the Bears in 2008 though he caught only 26 passes that year. Lloyd led the Rams with 683 yards receiving on 51 receptions in just 11 games with the Rams after he was traded to the team after Week 4.
Cons: The Rams will make a strong play to retain him and Lloyd has expressed interest in playing for coach Jeff Fisher. The former Illini turns 31 in July.
Lloyd is not a true No. 1 WR, with only one season of 1,000 or more yards (2010 with Denver).
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts
Pros: With the Colts rebuilding and Peyton Manning possibly moving on, the Colts may be willing to part with Wayne. He had seven consecutive seasons with more than 1,000 yards receiving until this year.
In 2011, even without Manning throwing to him, he still ended up with 75 receptions and 960 yards, which is not too shabby, though he scored only four TDs.
Cons: Wayne is a free agent after missing the 1,000-yard mark for the first time since 2003. He is 33, so he won't find a long-term deal awaiting him in Chicago, if the Bears show any interest at all.
Last edited by little bear; 02-13-2012 at 09:22 AM.
High Fives / Like - 2 BEAR DOWN!, 0 Dislikes
LB, I guess it comes down to who is available when FA starts. My choices would be Bowe & Meachum but if it ended up being Wayne, Meachum & a draft pick I'd be happy. Good post.