NFL free agency: Who are the best avaliable wide recievers? Odell Beckham Jr., Jakobi Meyers...
The NFL free agency officially begins in just a few weeks when we’ll see some of the top players heading for other teams and signing new contracts.
The Super Bowl winners Kansas City Chiefs may be the only NFL team relaxing a bit after finishing the season as champions just a few weeks ago, but even they have some changes coming to the team. With the free agency officially opening up on March 15, teams will be looking to upgrade their roster and make it further next year (or in the Chiefs’ case, stay the best of the best).
As the NFL has recently become more of a passing league, the wide receiver position is increasingly important. So let’s take a look at the top receivers available in the free market.
2023 top NFL free agent wide receivers
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kansas City Chiefs
JuJu Smith-Schuster is a free agent now, but before even winning the Super Bowl with the Chiefs, he said he would like to return to the team next year. In the Super Bowl, Smith-Schuster had seven receptions for 53 yards plus drew the Holding call on the Eagles that sealed their win.
He was signed on a one-year, $3.76 million “prove-it deal” after spending five years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the last of which he played in just five games when he was injured. He proved it, and now he’s estimated to be worth a four-year deal at around $15 million a year. Now, the Chiefs will have to make a choice. They will have three receivers, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, and Kadarius Toney returning next year, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try to keep JSS around too. His price may have gone up quite a bit, but it’s still around half of the going rate for top tier receivers.
Several other teams are in the market for a receiver as well, though. If the Chiefs end up making other moves that don’t allow them to keep Smith-Schuster, the New York Giants and Chicago Bears could be interested as they are desperate for help at the receiving position. The Los Angeles Chargers are another potential suitor, as Keenan Allen is likely out this year and could use another veteran alongside Joshua Palmer.
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
Michael Thomas only played in three games in 2022 and in general has barely been able to play at all since 2019. Of course, when he is healthy, he’s an elite receiver. In his three games in 2022, he was 12th among WRs with a 77.4 receiving grade, tied for 2nd with his three touchdown catches, and his eight contested catches were the most in the league over the first three weeks.
It’s highly unlikely Thomas signs with the Saints again this year, after his base salary last year went from $15.5 million to $1.165 million and his roster bonus spiked to $31.8 million. They’re likely getting rid of him before that guarantee hits on March 17. It’s possible that the Chiefs could pursue Thomas and do just what they did with Smith-Schuster, which would work out in Thomas’ favor for the following year as well.
Odell Beckham Jr., free agent
OBJ has been a free agent since the end of the 2021 season, after he won the Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams. It was rumoured that the Dallas Cowboys may have taken him towards the end of the 2022 season, and though they did not, they still could.
He’s been rehabbing an ACL injury in his time away, and though he has not played a 1,000-yard season since 2019, when healthy, he was among the best. In the Rams’ playoff run, Beckham ranked fourth among receivers with an 84.7 receiving grade, tied for the most contested catches (four), and tied for third-most explosive receptions (eight). In his 12 games with the Rams including the postseason, he caught 48 passes for 593 yards and seven touchdown grabs. He is an affordable player after his bout of injuries, but still has a lot of value as a route runner and would make a decent WR2. The Cowboys could be willing to give OBJ the roots he’s looking to plant.
Jakobi Meyers, New England Patriots
Jakobi Meyers is entering the market after finishing the season with 67 catches for 804 yards and six touchdowns with the Patriots. He’s always been a good catcher, recording at least 700 yards in the last three seasons, but it took him a while to find the end zone. In 2021, he was the NFL’s all-time leading WR to have never scored a TD. Now that he has recorded six though, he’s a solid WR2 option.
A good fit for Meyers next would be the Houston Texans, who ranked 25th in the league in passing yards per game (196.7) in 2022. They are expected to use their early draft pick on a quarterback and Meyers has proven he can work well with rookie QBs, seeing 50 more targets than any other Pats player in 2021 when he played with rookie Mac Jones. He led the league in targets again this year.
D.J. Chark Jr., Detroit Lions
Like Smith-Schuster, D.J. Chark was on a one-year “prove-it deal” with the Lions after coming off an ankle injury suffered early in 2021. After a slow start to the season and re-aggravating the injury, Clark finally found his groove with Jared Goff, really taking off in Week 13. He’s stated that he’d like to stay with the Lions, but it’s unclear if they want to make that happen.
Chark’s speed may be attractive to the Minnesota Vikings, who are at risk of losing their receiver Adam Thielen. Chark could help to create problems for defenses with his speed and size, playing well alongside Justin Jefferson and tight end T.J. Hockenson. Despite his injury struggles and lack of playing time, Chark ranks tied for 14th with 33 receptions on passes thrown and tied for eighth with 11 touchdown catches over the last four seasons. He’s not a bad pick, and due to his injury history, he will come cheap.