Free Agent Focus

Free Agency Preview -- WRs

12:00am EST 3/6/13

Teams in need of WR help this offseason will have plenty of opportunities to improve at the position. While the incoming rookie WR class lacks star power, there's plenty of depth at the group. We could see 10+ come off the board in the first 2 rounds of this April's draft. Conversely, the free-agent WR group doesn't go deep, but there's plenty of quality at the top of the list. Dwayne Bowe's long term deal with the Chiefs took one stud off the market, and it sounds like Wes Welker and Brian Hartline are close to re-upping with their respective franchises. But there are still a bona fide field stretcher, a well-rounded veteran and a shifty slot man looking for new homes. On top of that, there are a few intriguing restricted free-agents. We'll touch on them below, although we're not expecting any of them to change teams. The biggest name of all isn't a free agent, but there's been a persistent buzz that he'll be changing uniforms this offseason. We'll get to him eventually. Let's start with the guys who will be free to sign wherever they want when the market opens on March 12… Top Free-Agent WRs 1. Mike Wallace He picked a bad time to have a down year. Playing for his first big contract, Wallace finished 2012 with just 64 catches for 838 yards -- his worst marks since his 2009 rookie campaign. That 13.1 yards-per-catch average was 5.5 yards below his career mark coming into the year. Part of the blame there goes to OC Todd Haley's quick-hitting passing game. But Wallace's 31 targets 20+ yards downfield last season were actually a career high. He caught just 6 of those though. His hands were the bigger issue. Pro Football Focus charged Wallace with 6 drops -- and that's generous. There were plenty of other balls that elite WRs catch but Wallace couldn't come up with. We're chalking up 2012 as an aberration though. He dropped just 18 balls across his first 52 games. And this dude is a playmaker. He's made 27 receptions of 40+ yards in his first 4 seasons. Among WRs with at least 100 catches over that span, only 3 have averaged more yards per catch than Wallace. His 32 receiving TDs are 6th-most league-wide. He blazed a 4.33 40-yard dash at the 2009 Combine and plays even faster than that. At 26 years old, Wallace is just entering his prime. He's reportedly looking for a deal that would pay him $12 million per year. And he might get it. Just not from the Steelers. The Dolphins -- high on cap space and low on WR talent -- are expected to make a run at Wallace. The Browns have also been rumored as a potential suitor. A sleeper team for Wallace's services? The Colts, who have plenty of money to spend and need a replacement for the aging Reggie Wayne. 2. Wes Welker

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