What once looked like a booming free agent market for receivers has been taking hit after hit over the last few days.
Mike Williams and the Chargers came to an agreement on a three-year deal. Davante Adams is sticking with the Packers on the Franchise Tag. Same for Chris Godwin with the Buccaneers. And today, Amari Cooper was sent to the Browns in a trade.
Thus, the market has shifted. And while there are still a large number of worthwhile targets, seeing top-tier players go off the board changes things. So, with that in mind, let’s tweak our expectations accordingly:
FA Receivers I think the Bears have looked at ,include:
Valdez-Scantling, Russell Gage, Demarcus Robinson. Byron Pringle, Christian Kirk, Smith-Schuster, Cedric Wilson and Lazard (if not tendered to high)
— Greg Gabriel (@greggabe) March 10, 2022
As a long-time NFL scout, scouting director, and media personality, Greg Gabriel offers up a unique perspective when he tweets about football. In other words, when Gabriel names names, it is worth entertaining the options he presents. With that being said, let’s discuss.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling — There has been some smoke around MVS and the Bears. It makes sense, too. Valdes-Scantling enters free agency looking for a landing spot that could get him more targets than what he was seeing in Green Bay. Meanwhile, Chicago is a team that needs receivers — specifically, the type who have Valdes-Scantling’s deep-ball prowess. PFF projects a two-year deal worth $20 million, which includes $11.5 million in guarantees. That probably is on the higher end of that middle tier of receivers. But we’ll see how free agency shakes out.
Russell Gage — I could be into Russell Gage, who recently came up for discussion in a set of Bullets earlier in the week. After putting up 61 catches, 742 receiving yards, and 4 touchdowns in 12 games after Calvin Ridley stepped away from the Falcons, I’d guess Gage is ready for a larger slice of the offensive pie. The PFF contract projection for Gage comes with a lower average annual value ($8.5M/yr) but with more years (4), a higher total ($34M), and more in guarantees ($20M) than MVS. Different skill set, too, with Gage fitting more as a possession receiver.
Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle — I’m lumping Robinson and Pringle together because both were with the Chiefs. That means Bears GM Ryan Poles should know what both bring to the table. Moreover, both Robinson (with KC since 2016) and Pringle (since 2019) are players who had their moments in KC’s offense while Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce were eating.
Pringle had a breakout season, snagging more targets (60), catches (42), receiving yards (568), and touchdowns (4) in 17 games last year than he did in the two previous seasons COMBINED (33-25-330-2 in 2019-20). Robinson had his flash season a year earlier, putting up 45 catches, 466 receiving yards, and three scores.
In the end, neither figures to break the bank in free agency. And both could fit as a secondary option as a WR3 or WR4 type to go along with bigger splashes elsewhere.
Christian Kirk — Kirk finds himself on the higher end of that secondary wave of receivers. PFF’s projections have Kirk in the ballpark of a three-year deal worth $42 million that comes with $25 million in guarantees and an AAV of $14 million. Although, it wouldn’t surprise NFL Network insider Tom Pelissero if Kirk was able to land something north of $15 million per year. It feels like it would be asking a lot to give that chunk of change to a receiver who hasn’t eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark. Then again, beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to finding receiver help — can they?
JuJu Smith-Schuster — A second-round pick in 2017, Smith-Schuster was looking special as a third option in an offense headlined by Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. That 1,426-yard season in 2018 was as good as it would get for Smith-Schuster. But just because he hasn’t been able to replicate that season doesn’t mean he can’t be a worthwhile addition. Smith-Schuster has major post-hype sleeper vibes. And with a projected deal of 1-year at $8 million ($6.5M guaranteed), the juice could be worth the squeeze here.
Yes, I realize the injuries could be an issue. But Smith-Schuster’s résumé reminds me of the receiver version of Prince Amukamara when he got a one-year “prove it deal” in 2017, had a strong year, and earned a multi-year deal the following offseason. Just saying … there is a precedent for one of these types of deals working out.
Cedrick Wilson — It isn’t the departing Cowboys receiver at the top of your list. But the fit is enticing:
Free Agent WR Cedrick Wilson Jr. Makes Sense for the Bearshttps://t.co/bFl5lCvyt6
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) February 24, 2022
Allen Lazard — Lazard seems like a long shot. As a restricted free agent, the Packers could still tender him a contract that could come with the right of first refusal or (and/or?) draft pick compensation. If Green Bay didn’t offer up a competitive tender, then Lazard might be a more plausible option. Otherwise, rolling the dice on Lazard and losing a draft pick (to the Packers, of all teams) might be too many risks for this front office to take.