Now that Stevie Johnson re-signed with the Bills and Dwayne Bowe got franchised by the Chiefs, let’s re-examine the free agent market for fast wide receivers.
There are two guys in the top tier: Vincent Jackson and Mike Wallace. Both guys want five-year contracts starting around $12 million annually. Jackson is 29 years old. If any team gives him what he’s looking for, it probably won’t be the Niners.
Wallace is just 25, so he’d be worth the investment, but Baalke may balk at the price-tag for the sake for frugality.
If he does, there are three (and only three) second-tier receivers to consider: Pierre Garçon, Laurent Robinson and Robert Meachem.
1. Garçon (6-0, 210 lbs.) ran a 4.42 at his Combine in 2008. He’ll be 26 years old next season. He’s very fast and very strong for a wide receiver, just a tad on the short side. He’s quick and explosive the after the catch, so he’s ideal for slants and screens. He also has excellent straight-line speed, so he’s a deep threat, too.
2. Robinson (6-2, 192 lbs.) ran a 4.38 at his Combine in 2007. He’ll be 27 next season. Robinson caught 11 TD passes in 2011 for the Cowboys despite starting just four games. Is he a one-year wonder or a late bloomer? I say late bloomer.
3. Meachem (6-2, 214 lbs.) ran a 4.39 at his Combine in 2007. He’ll be 28 next season. The 27th pick of the 2007 draft, Meachem’s best season came in 2009 when he caught 45 passes for 722 yards and nine TDs. He hasn’t matched that production since, so he might be a one-year wonder. Also, he’s never been more than a No. 3 receiver in his career, but he’ll want to be paid like a low-end No. 1.
Baalke probably wouldn’t want to make any one of those three wideouts the highest paid player on the Niners offense in 2012. Currently, Vernon Davis will be that guy – his cap number is a little higher than $8 million. So, if bidding pushes the Tier 2 receivers’ contracts over $8 million annual mark to start, Baalke will probably drop out.
And if he does, he’ll have to get his deep-threat in the draft, probably in the first round, probably by trading up, probably for Kendall Wright or Stephen Hill.
In recent mock drafts, a lot of people have the Texans picking Wright at No. 26, and the Patriots picking Hill at 27. So, if the Niners want either guy, they’ll only have to trade-up about five spots, most likely.
How do you see this shaking out?