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Offseason reset: Breaking down the receiver market

POSTED: May 10, 2011

Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News

Thanks to the NFL lockout, the league's free-agent market didn't open as scheduled in March, and there has been a freeze on player transactions in the two months-plus since.

Whenever teams get back to the business of signing, trading and releasing players, here's a reminder of which veteran receivers are expected to be available. If the league ends up operating on 2010 rules, it would limit the unrestricted free agents to players with six or more accrued seasons.

If that restriction is in place, it would take several exciting receivers off the market, headlined by Santonio Holmes (Jets), Sidney Rice (Vikings) and Malcom Floyd (Chargers). As for pass-catching tight ends, without Zach Miller (Raiders) and Kevin Boss (Giants), the well dries up to the point where Bo Scaife is the best available.

Top unrestricted free agents

1. Braylon Edwards, Jets. Ideally, New York would keep him and Holmes as a seasoned combination to help Mark Sanchez. Edwards has expressed the possibility that he would re-sign for less than market value. If not, he'll need another team with strong coaching to keep him happy and productive.

2. Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars. It's a mystery why Jacksonville didn't want to tender him a contract after two seven-touchdown seasons. At 6-2, 214 pounds and just 26 years old, Sims-Walker doesn't quite have the talent of former UCF teammate Brandon Marshall, but he's a big possession target who would boost a contending team.

3. Mark Clayton, Rams. He found his niche helping fellow former Sooner Sam Bradford on intermediate routes, but a right knee injury (torn patellar tendon) ended his season after five good games. He won't turn 29 until July, and in the right system, he can be very effective.

4. Santana Moss, Redskins. Moss, 31, is coming off an excellent season, considering Washington's quarterback situation. At this stage of his career, he's more of a quick possession slot type than a downfield blazer, but he still packs some big-play punch.

5. Terrell Owens, Bengals. Owens, 37, gets the slight edge over the other popular mercurial veteran, Randy Moss, only because Owens managed to produce well (72 catches, 983 yards, 9 TDs) while spending all of last season with one team. The hard part is matching him with a strong-armed passer with whom he can get along.

Top receiver-needy teams

1. Patriots. They got much out of Tom Brady mighty mite favorites Wes Welker and Deion Branch last season, but they missed Moss' ability to overwhelm undersized corners downfield. New England needs to replace Moss with a bona fide big-play guy.

2. Chargers. Philip Rivers led the Chargers' top-ranked passing game, and it didn't matter who he was throwing to beyond tight end Antonio Gates--they even got a big game out of Seyi Ajirotutu. That means the Chargers could move on without the pricey Vincent Jackson and Floyd, though they'd like to acquire a veteran threat like the Panthers' Steve Smith.

3. Panthers. Cam Newton's best targets look like two second-year players, Brandon LaFell and David Gettis, and a rookie, Kealoha Pilares. They need another experienced presence to join tight end Jeremy Shockey.

4. Bears. They need a big possession receiver to complement speedsters Johnny Knox and Devin Hester. So it's no wonder they might be interested in Sims-Walker.

5. Colts. It wouldn't hurt if they found a wideout to groom opposite Reggie Wayne, but it's unlikely they would go after someone like Edwards. Peyton Manning also could use another slot option, as Anthony Gonzalez, Austin Collie and Blair White have all had it rough going over the middle.

Trade winds

• Chad Ochocinco is likely done in Cincinnati with one year left on his contract, as the Bengals drafted his replacement in A.J. Green. Now the question is: Will another team give up a second-round pick for No. 85? The Patriots have been rumored to be the hottest suitor.

• The Panthers' Steve Smith is also set to move on to his second NFL team. He has been limited by shaky QB play in Carolina, but the diminutive dynamo would impact a talented team with an established passer. The Chargers and Jets are reportedly interested, with the Pats also in that mix.

• San Diego gave Vincent Jackson the franchise tag, but he didn't sign his tender, unhappy about not getting a long-term deal. To land the 6-5, 230-pound star, it will take a big trade and big bucks.

Read more: http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/eagles/eaglespreview/Aol_sportingnews_20110510_Offseason_reset__Breaking_down_the_receiver_market_.html#ixzz1M3cOilhm

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