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Ranking the best WRs and sleeper values in free agency

Even with the franchise tag locking down multiple top wideouts, free agency could see Kenny Golladay reset the market for the position.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Washington Redskins Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 free-agent class of wide receivers once looked to feature as much or more talent than any other position group. However, as often occurs, the franchise tag took most of the top talent off the market.

The franchise-tag deadline claimed two of the league’s top wideouts: the Chicago Bears’ Allen Robinson and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Chris Godwin. Each of the two pass catchers would have commanded salaries at or near the top of the market, and both could conceivably still do so with their respective teams. Still, their removal leaves only one apparent blue-chip wide receiver available in free agency.

Top 5

Kenny Golladay

Of all the wideouts scheduled to hit free agency this offseason, Golladay once seemed the most likely to receive the franchise tag. Instead, the Detroit Lions stayed true to their tear-down mandate and allowed the Pro Bowl receiver to reach the open market. Golladay’s offers rare size and speed as well as a solid track record of production. Even with fewer teams expected to jump headfirst into free agency this year, the 27-year-old can expect a contract that features a top-5 average annual value.

Will Fuller

After serving in a secondary role behind DeAndre Hopkins, Fuller thrived as the Houston Texans’ No. 1 option in 2020. The former first-round pick set new personal records for receptions (53), receiving yards (879), and touchdowns (eight) while also averaging a career-high 16.6 yards per catch. Fuller will miss the first week of the 2021 season due to a PED suspension handed out last year, but that shouldn’t affect his market too significantly.

Corey Davis

Last offseason, the Tennessee Titans considered Davis enough of a disappointment to decline the fifth-year option in his contract. Davis responded with easily the best season of his career, recording 65 catches for 984 yards and five touchdowns. Davis had the advantage of playing opposite star wideout A.J. Brown, a fact that other NFL teams will weigh as they consider pursuing him in free agency. Still, Davis could appeal as a high-upside No. 2 receiver, and that type of player tends to hit pay dirt on the open market.

JuJu Smith-Schuster

When the Pittsburgh Steelers traded away All-Pro wideout Antonio Brown in 2019, they expected Smith-Schuster to transition smoothly into the No. 1 role. That never transpired, with Smith-Schuster struggling to adjust to the heightened coverage and failing to match his 2018 production as a result. That statistical downturn will frighten some teams, but a considerable amount of the blame belongs to the Steelers’ quarterbacks. Additionally, Smith-Schuster remains very young — he turns 25 in late November — and could have untapped potential.

Marvin Jones

Jones lacks the national profile of many of the other free-agent wideouts this year, a symptom of the Detroit Lions’ lack of relevancy in recent years. However, Jones has remained a reasonably productive player during his time in Detroit, averaging eight touchdowns and nearly 1,000 receiving yards per 16 games as a member of the team. Jones just turned 31 and still appears to have another few years left in the tank.

Sleepers

Nelson Agholor

After flopping as a first-round pick with the Philadelphia Eagles, Agholor rejuvenated his career with the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020, recording 48 catches for 896 yards and eight touchdowns. Agholor’s skill set doesn’t fit every offense, but in the right scheme he can continue to produce as a No. 2 wideout.

Tim Patrick

Patrick emerged as a reliable weapon following three years buried on the Denver Broncos’ depth chart. The Broncos retain some control over Patrick, who has not accrued enough seasons to qualify for unrestricted free agency. Still, he could garner significant interest if the team tenders him at the lowest level.

Full list of free-agent wide receivers

2021 Free Agents: Wide Receivers

Pos. First Last 2020 Team 2021 Team
Pos. First Last 2020 Team 2021 Team
WR Larry Fitzgerald Cardinals
WR Trent Sherfield* Cardinals
WR Brandon Powell* Falcons
WR Laquon Treadwell Falcons
WR Willie Snead Ravens
WR Dez Bryant Ravens
WR Chris Moore Ravens
WR DeAndrew White Ravens
WR Isaiah McKenzie Bills
WR Andre Roberts Bills
WR Allen Robinson Bears
WR Cordarrelle Patterson Bears
WR DeAndre Carter Bears
WR Dwayne Harris Bears
WR A.J. Green Bengals
WR Mike Thomas Bengals
WR Alex Erickson Bengals
WR John Ross Bengals
WR KhaDarel Hodge* Browns
WR Rashard Higgins Browns
WR Marvin Hall Browns
WR Taywan Taylor Browns
WR JoJo Natson Browns
WR Cedrick Wilson Cowboys
WR Malik Turner* Cowboys
WR Noah Brown Cowboys
WR Tim Patrick* Broncos
WR Marvin Jones Lions
WR Danny Amendola Lions
WR Mohamed Sanu Lions
WR Kenny Golladay Lions
WR Tavon Austin Packers
WR Will Fuller Texans
WR Zach Pascal* Colts
WR T.Y. Hilton Colts
WR Keelan Cole Jaguars
WR Chris Conley Jaguars
WR Dede Westbrook Jaguars
WR Byron Pringle* Chiefs
WR Demarcus Robinson Chiefs
WR Sammy Watkins Chiefs
WR Nelson Agholor Raiders
WR Zay Jones Raiders
WR Josh Reynolds Rams
WR Isaiah Ford Dolphins
WR Mack Hollins Dolphins
WR Chad Beebe* Vikings
WR Damiere Byrd Patriots
WR Donte Moncrief Patriots
WR Bennie Fowler Saints
WR Justin Hardee Saints
WR C.J. Board* Giants
WR Breshad Perriman Jets
WR Vyncint Smith* Jets
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster Steelers
WR Ray-Ray McCloud* Steelers
WR Kendrick Bourne 49ers
WR Trent Taylor 49ers
WR David Moore Seahawks
WR Phillip Dorsett Seahawks
WR Chris Godwin Buccaneers
WR Antonio Brown Buccaneers
WR Corey Davis Titans
WR Kalif Raymond* Titans
WR Cam Sims* Washington
WR Robert Foster* Washington