A Look Back
The San Diego Chargers danced on a fine line during the 2014 NFL season. Their top 3 WRs each had serious injury issues in their past, and their bottom 2 WRs were not considered viable replacements for anyone in the top 3.
Luck, which is something the Chargers didn't have a lot of this past season, actually tipped in the team's favor when it came to their WRs. Malcom Floyd stayed healthy for 16 games (!), Eddie Royal was mostly healthy throughout the season, and Keenan Allen was on the field until breaking his collarbone late in the season.
Dontrelle Inman, a bit of a project that the team signed out of the CFL, played quite well in place of Allen. He could have a future in the league, but I don't think the team should anoint him with a starting job just yet.
A Look Ahead
Here are the WRs on the Chargers roster that are signed through next season:
- Keenan Allen
- Malcom Floyd
- Dontrelle Inman
That's it! That is all there is unless you count practice squad players Torrence Allen and Javontee Herndon, and I do not.
Eddie Royal will hit free agency for the second time in his career, which is an amazing feat at 28 years old. While the Chargers would probably like to have him back, they won't be the only ones bidding for his services.
Seyi Ajirotutu is also a free agent and will also likely have some teams trying to sign him for the special teams demon that he is. With Darrell Stuckey, Nick Novak, and Mike Scifres already getting paid a bunch for their work on special teams, could the Chargers afford to bring back Ajirotutu?
A Cautionary Word of Caution
There's something that needs to be considered here, even if it's a depressing thought:
Just because Malcom Floyd made it through 2014 without a major injury does not mean that he will make it through 2015 without a major injury.
Free Agency, Ahoy!
Personally, I love free agency for Wide Receivers. There are a handful of positions where I really believe in spending big bucks in free agency, and this is one of them. A great wide receiver really can be, and often is, the difference between being in the playoffs and watching them from home.
Take a deep breath, because I'm about to share with you the list of #1 WRs that will be free agents this offseason:
- Jeremy Maclin
- Michael Crabtree
- Demaryius Thomas
- Dez Bryant
- Torrey Smith
- Randall Cobb
That's not even all of them! That's leaving out a few guys that are over the hill (Reggie Wayne), injury prone (Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Britt) and inconsistent (Denarius Moore).
Above is a list of six guys that would all, theoretically, be the best WR on the San Diego Chargers before the ink dried on their contract.
You can let out that deep breath now. Like the air coming out of a balloon, I'm about to share some bad news with you. Most of the guys listed above will return to their current team, either with a new contract or via the franchise tag. Let's do a brief team-by-team:
Eagles: They have almost no major free agents this offseason. If they want to use their franchise tag on Maclin, they certainly can. However, there are rumors that Chip Kelly is not a huge fan, so he could hit the market.
49ers: Crabtree is probably the biggest FA the 49ers have this offseason, if they are ready to walk away from Mike Iupati. A franchise tag might be too big of a price tag for Crabtree, but it wouldn't surprise me if they used it to keep the offense in place for a new head coach.
Broncos: Demaryius Thomas is probably not the Broncos' most important free agent. In fact, he may not even be their most important free agent with the last name of Thomas. Negotiations with Julius Thomas will determine whether or not Denver can use their franchise tag on their star WR.
Cowboys: They have said that they will franchise Dez Bryant if they have to. He's not going anywhere.
Ravens: I keep hearing that Smith is going to be a free agent, but I can't see who else they would franchise instead of him. Not sure he'll be available.
Zeroing in on a Target
So, the two most likely targets for the Chargers are Randall Cobb and Demaryius Thomas.
If they were to sign Thomas, they could pair him with Malcom Floyd on the outside and use Keenan Allen along with Antonio Gates on the inside. That group of four would be just about unstoppable.
I'm not as well-versed as some with Cobb. I haven't seen a ton of him this year, but I always loved his work in the slot. My guess is that, if signed, he would play an Eddie Royal type of role with his speed adding a deep-threat element that has been sorely missed from San Diego's offense.
So, which free agent WR would you like to see the Chargers go after?