Free Agency Review: Wide Receiver Fever 2019

Free agency is about to kick off, which means we’re going to get a whole bunch of nonsense pipe dream scenarios about who the Packers should get.

Sure, it’s a lot of fun to think about what-if, but it’s also a good time to look back at how things have worked out in the past and see if there’s anything we can learn.

Last year, the Packers thought that between MVS, EQ, Geronimo, Kumerow, Lazard, and Shepherd that at least one of them could be a WR2 for 16 games…

Whoops.

While Lazard looks like he could develop into something, he was inconsistent in his flashes and production in 2019. Despite some nice plays, he only hit 70 yards one time all year.

Wide receiver is a top need heading into the draft, but that doesn’t mean the Packers should have done anything different last year.

Let’s step back and look at the alternatives.

First off, as we’ve established, skill position players are a dime a dozen and we know that championship teams have not spent a lot of resources on wide receiver. Yes, the Packers could have went out and got another receiver, but odds are pretty high that another receiver was not the missing piece that was going to get them past a 49ers team that outscored them 74-28 in two games and rushed for 285 yards against them in the playoffs.

Even if the Packers wanted to, it was not a banner year for free agent wide receivers.

Of the top free agents according to NFL.com, the top free agent wide receiver was Tyrell Williams. If you look at the PFT top 100 free agents, the top free agent wide receiver was Golden Tate.

Neither site had a single wide receiver listed in the top 30 free agents.

Looking back, their ratings still might have been a little high.

Tyrell Williams got a 4-year deal from the Raiders for $44M. After catching 41 passes for 653 yards and 5 touchdowns in 16 games in 2018, he responded to his big contract by catching 42 passes for 651 yards and 6 touchdowns in 16 games in 2019.

Golden Tate got the Giants to give him a 4-year $37.5M contract, even though he was 31. After playing 15 games in 2018 and catching 74 balls for 795 yards, he responded to his new contract by catching 49 balls for 676 yards in 15 games.

Do you see anything here that makes you think either of these guys were worth what they were paid?

The biggest names to really hit Wide Receiver Fever 2019 were guys available via trade.

How did those guys work out?

Emmanuel Sanders (and a 5th round pick) went to the 49ers for a 3rd round pick and a 4th round pick. He made nearly $6M from San Francisco and gave them 502 yards and 3 TDs. At least he came through in the playoffs, though, right? In 3 games, he had 5 catches for 71 yard and the same number of touchdowns as I did. Now he’s a free agent again and the 9ers have nothing to show for their investment. 

Mohamed Sanu went to the Patriots for a 2nd round pick. They will pay over $10M for a season and a half of a 30 year old receiver who had 207 yards and 1 TD in 8 games with the team. In the playoffs, he had one catch for 11 yards and the same number of touchdowns as your mom.

Neither of these guys made an impact with their new teams, neither led them to a title. Both cost a lot of money and a Day 2 pick in the draft, where the deepest pool of wide receiver talent ever will be there for the taking.

These trades would have had minimal short-term impact and potentially disastrous long-term impact both in terms of losing the ability to draft a better receiver and in terms of sucking up the Packers limited cap space.

AJ Green was another popular name for the Packers. Many thought sending a 1st round pick to the Bengals would have been a good idea, even though Green is in his 30s and was on the last year of his deal. Since he was too injured to play, such a move would have literally just been flushing a 1st round pick and a bunch of cap space down the toilet.

And then there’s the popular “Antonio Brown for a 1st” idea that was flying around. I was adamantly opposed. This would have been probably the biggest, most distracting disaster imaginable. 

So pretty much any one of the options last year, whether they were a free agent or a trade, would have all been terrible wastes of time, money, and potentially draft picks.

None of these guys were going to get the Packers any farther than they got and, even though it may have been frustrating to watch, the Packers now have a better understanding of the ceiling of their current wide receivers, which puts them in a better spot to work this off-season.

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Remember Dwayne Bowe and Andre Rison? They were both historically terrible free agent wide receivers. There’s a lot to learn about free agency from them, as well as guys like Bryce Paup, Darrelle Revis, and Drew Brees.

Check it all out in our #1 New Release A Fan’s Guide To NFL Free Agency Hits And Misses: Case Studies and Lessons From Landmark Signings Throughout History. It’s available in paperback (with a really cool wraparound cover) and ebook. It’s also free through Kindle Unlimited (and if you don’t have Kindle Unlimited, you can get a free trial of Kindle Unlimited here).

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Check out Packers Draft Central 2020 for all our 2020 NFL Draft coverage!

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