I think it is pretty obvious the 49ers need to upgrade the wide receiver position during free agency if they want to have a solid group at that position. Josh Morgan won't cut it as a #2 wide receiver and it is high time that the front office recognizes that.
Additionally, San Francisco spent a top 10 pick on a wide receiver, Michael Crabtree, a couple years ago. This leads me to believe that the top end of the draft isn't a direction that the 49ers want to look for a wide receiver moving forward. The 49ers have the salary cap room to go after a top flight receiver this off-seasons, and I fully expect them to do that.
The great news is that there are a bunch of those type of receiver available once free agency begins. After the jump, I will take a look at this solid group of free agents and give you my opinion on who the 49ers should target.
Steve Breaston, Arizona Cardinals
2010 Stats: 47 Receptions, 718 Yards, 1 TD (Missed 3 Games)
Analysis: When healthy, Breaston is an extremely solid #2 option on a playoff team. The problem is that he has is seen as a major injury risk. However, he has only missed four games in his career. I think that if San Francisco looks for a receiver this off-season it will be for either a proven #1 or a player that can eventually turn into a number one option. Breaston isn't that type of receiver, and I don't think he ever will be.
Mark Clayton, St. Louis Rams
2010 Stats: 23 Receptions, 306 Games, 1 TD (Missed 11 Games)
Analysis: Came on big time when he hit the field for St. Louis, catching 23 passes in only five games. Look for the Rams to make a major attempt to re-sign Clayton because he appears to have a nice connection with Sam Bradford.
Braylon Edwards, New York Jets
2010 Stats: 53 Receptions, 904 Yards, 7 TD
Analysis: I think that this is a player San Francisco will target once free agency starts. Edwards has had issues with dropping balls in the past, but those issues seemed to take care of themselves over the last season and a half.
He is a solid #1 option with upside, however, there is some character concerns with Edwards as he seems to be a "me first type of player". The 49ers may already have that in Michael Crabtree.
Malcom Floyd, San Diego Chargers
2010 Stats: 37 Receptions, 707 Yards, 6 TD (Missed 5 Games)
Analysis: The Chargers may be forced to let Floyd walk because of the amount of money it is going to cost to retain Vincent Jackson. On the other hand, they may choose to trade Jackson instead and save some money.
I think that Floyd could eventually turn into a #1 wide receiver in the NFL, and he is still young. This is the type of player I would like to see the 49ers go after. It all depends on what the market is for Floyd and how much it would cost to acquire him. If it is going to be top tier money, there are more viable options out there with players that have performed at a higher level.
Santonio Holmes, New York Jets
2010 Stats: 52 Receptions, 746 Yards, 6 TD (Missed 4 Games)
Analysis: Didn't miss a step after missing the first four games due to injury, Holmes has a chance to be an elite receiver in the NFL. That said, it is all but certain that he will remain with the Jets on a long term contract. They have salary cap issues, but it has been well documented that Holmes is their top priority.
The market will be humming for Holmes when free agency begins, which should drive up his price. If I were the 49ers I would say far away from that type of negotiation and look elsewhere for an upgrade.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Baltimore Ravens
2010 Stats: 30 Receptions, 3983 Yards, 3 TD
Analysis: Housh has lost several steps since his best days in Cincinnati. He isn't much more than a #3 receiver at this point in his career. The 49ers don't need a washed up veteran that isn't able to produce at a high level anymore.
Jacoby Jones, Houston Texans
2010 Stats: 51 Receptions, 562 Yards 3 TD
Analysis: Would be a nice complementary receiver to Michael Crabtree. I really like Jones' game and believe he has the tools to become a solid starting receiver moving forward. Additionally, Jones is still relatively young and hasn't hit his prime yet. This is the exact type of player San Francisco should look into at the wide receiver position.
James Jones, Green Bay Packers
2010 Stats: 50 Receptions, 679 Yards, 5 TD
Analysis: I don't think Green Bay is prepared to offer Jones a long term contract at this point. They have other options at wide receiver and could spend the money elsewhere. Look for Jones to move on from Green Bay and get a lucrative deal elsewhere. San Francisco should seriously consider bringing Jones in because he has #1 wide receiver potential and is still incredibly young.
Lance Moore, New Orleans Saints
2010 Stats: 66 Receptions, 763 Yards, 8 TD
Analysis: The Saints offensive scheme seems to inflate numbers and Moore was a beneficiary of that the last couple of seasons. I am not sold on him having a major impact going to a less pass happy offense. This is the type of free agent deal that could set a team back a couple years at the receiver position. San Francisco should stay far away from Moore this off-season.
Randy Moss, Tennessee Titans
2010 Stats: 28 Receptions, 393 Yards, 5 TD
Analysis: Put a fork in Moss, he is done. I have no doubt that Moss will look to catch on with a team, and he will. However, it was quite apparent in Minnesota and Tennessee that his days are numbered as an NFL receiver. Obviously, it goes without saying that he won't be an option for the 49ers.
Santana Moss, Washington Redskins
2010 Stats: 93 Receptions, 1115 Yards, 6 TD
Analysis: Moss had one of the best years of his long career in 2010, and hasn't shown any sings of slowing down. I fully expect the Redskins to make a strong push to retain him, but he could be a nice veteran option for San Francisco as their #2 receiver.
Terrell Owens, Cincinnati Bengals
2010 Stats: 72 Receptions, 983 Yards, 9 TD
Analysis: Due to a recent ACL injury it appears that Owens will not be back on the football field until late November at the earliest. So, don't expect him to get a lot of play in the off-season. I do think that a contending team will target Owens if he shows the ability to recover from that devastating injury. Could that team be San Francisco come November? Well, only time will tell.
Sidney Rice, Minnesota Vikings
2010 Stats: 17 Receptions, 280 Yards, 2 TD (Missed 10 Games)
Analysis: This is a player San Francisco needs to go hard after this off-season. In his last healthy season, 2010, Rice was one of the best receivers in the NFL and I expect him to maintain that level over the next several years. Right now, Rice is a true #1 wide receiver and he hasn't hit his prime yet. Minnesota will try like the dickens to re-sign Moss, but he doesn't appear to be 100 percent happy there. It would cost about 9-12 million a year to acquire Rice, but that could be well worth it moving forward.
Mike Sims-Walker, Jacksonville Jaguars
2010 Stats: 43 Receptions, 562 Yards, 7 TD
Analysis: I have always been a fan of Walker's, but his 2010 season didn't impress.A lot of people expected Walker to take the next step, yet it just didn't happen. At this point I am not sure if he is anything more than a #3 receiver on a good football team.
Steve Smith, New York Giants
2010 Stats: 48 Receptions, 529 Yards, 3 TD (Missed 7 Games)
Analysis: If Sidney Rice is option #1, Steve Smith isn't a bad fall back for San Francisco. He has performed at an extremely high level everywhere he has played including the Big Apple. Some teams may be scared away because of his recent injury, but I think that would be a mistake. Smith isn't a break away option, instead he is a great possession receiver that will give you 100 receptions on a yearly basis. May not be exactly what San Francisco is looking for, but Smith is still a solid option.
Vincent Jackson, San Diego Chargers
2010 Stats: 14 Receptions, 248 Yards, 4 TD (Missed 12 Game)
Analysis: No team is going to spend two 1st round picks to acquire Jackson, but he may end up playing somewhere other than San Diego in 2011. I fully expect the Chargers to explore trade partners for the talented yet troubled wide receiver. San Francisco would be a great fit, but I am not prepared to spend a 1st round pick on a player that seems egocentric. That said, if the 49ers could get away with a 2nd and 4th for Jackson, they seriously need to consider it.
Overview: There are a lot of solid options for San Francisco in the free agent market if they decide to go after a receiver; which I fully expect them to. The 49ers would have to find someone that is going to be an upgrade over Josh Morgan and slide into the starting role opposite Crabtree. If you look at it that way, there aren't as many options.
Obviously, my top two targets would be Sidney Rice and Steve Smith. However, the 49ers may want to take a long look at the likes of Malcom Floyd, James Jones, Braylon Edwards and Vincent Jackson. As it is, I am not sold on the 49ers receiver corp as it is currently constructed. After Michael Crabtree, they really don't have a player that should be starting for a good team. At least, at this point in their respective careers. I do see a nice amount of upside with Ronald Johnson and Kyle Williams, but both of them are years away from being able to even be considered for that spot.
Josh Morgan is no better than a #3 wide receiver on a good team, and San Francisco needs to find Alex Smith more options short term and CK7 more options long term.