Even with today’s news that Randy Moss plans to come out of retirement, the bumper crop of free-agent wide receivers appears to be thinning out as we learn more about how teams plan to use their franchise tags.
The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that the Philadelphia Eagles plan to use their franchise tag on DeSean Jackson, one of the NFL’s top deep threats, who made 58 catches for 961 yards and four touchdowns in 2011.
There is also media speculation that the Kansas City Chiefs may use the franchise tag on Dwayne Bowe and the New Orleans Saints could do the same with Marques Colston if they can avoid using it on Drew Brees. New England’s Wes Welker, who led the NFL with 122 catches in 2011, could get tagged by the Patriots, too.
Other free agents scheduled to hit the market include Vincent Jackson of the San Diego Chargers, Reggie Wayne of the Indianapolis Colts, and Steve Johnson of the Buffalo Bills.
At the Ravens’ season-ending press conference two weeks ago, general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome identified wide receiver as one of three areas the team hopes to address this offseason. But it’s unclear whether the Ravens will look to do that in free agency, April’s NFL draft or both.
It seems unlikely that they can make a big splash with a free-agent wide receiver, unless they first shed salary by releasing veterans like they did last summer with Derrick Mason and Todd Heap. However, even if they are not in the hunt for a DeSean Jackson or a Dwayne Bowe, those receivers being retained by their respective teams would dry up the supply of wideouts, meaning second-tier players would be in greater demand and their price would go up.
Some notable second-tier free-agent receivers are Brandon Lloyd of the St. Louis Rams, Mario Manningham of the New York Giants, Pierre Garcon of the Colts, Eddie Royal of the Denver Broncos, and Robert Meachem of the Saints. And, yes, Randy Moss.
The Ravens have gone the veteran route at wide receiver the past two offseasons -- trading for Lee Evans this past season and signing T.J. Houshmandzadeh in 2010 -- so you probably shouldn’t rule anything out. But the Ravens like their young wide receivers, especially Torrey Smith, who had a very good rookie season.
Would Moss fit in Baltimore? My guess is no, but this is purely speculation. Moss turned 35 today, he didn’t play in 2011, and he bounced from New England to Minnesota then Tennessee in his turbulent 2010 season. It’s fair to wonder how much Moss can contribute physically and whether his heart is in the right place as he attempts his comeback to the NFL. I’m sure he will generate some interest. But we will see if any comes from the Ravens.