Wide Receiver is perhaps the position of most dire need for the Detroit Lions to address in the offseason. With the release of veteran Nate Burleson, the possibility of the Lions to acquire a receiver in both free agency and the draft is very high. So the second of my five-part feature on free agency will focus on this position. Plenty of options set to become free agents that can make an impact in 2014.
Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants:
Pros: Very young, has had good success in the NFL.
Cons: Injuries have been a problem, had a terrible 2013 season.
A lot of upside comes from a player like Hakeem Nicks. Has good speed and has found some success as a number one wide receiver. However, Nicks has had his share of injuries in his career, as he has never played a full season. On top of that, Nicks had an awful 2013 campaign, catching only 56 passes for 896 while not scoring one touchdown. In fact, Nicks has not been very good since the Giants’ Super Bowl run of 2011, as his 2012 numbers were just as bad. Early rumors report that Nicks will still be seeking a large contract in the offseason, which may cause the Lions to stray away from signing him. At the moment, however, it seems unlikely that he will get his wish, so there is a good chance Nicks is a target for Detroit.
Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles:
Pros: Great speed, very athletic, very dangerous receiver.
Cons: Coming off big injury, has yet to post a 1,000 yard season.
Jeremy Maclin is a very interesting player on the market. There is no doubt the talent is there, but it appears that he has underachieved in his five year career. A torn ACL in training camp last year took him out of the entire 2013 season. The four years prior leave a lot to be desired though. Maclin’s best season as a pro was his second season in the league back in 2010, where he posted 70 catches for 964 yards and 10 touchdowns. That is the only season where he has eclipsed more than 900 yards, let alone get close to 1,000 yards. The numbers are still good, he has had nice production overall, it just won’t allow him to gain a large contract, especially coming off a torn ACL. Despite the uncertainty, Maclin coming with a cheaper price along with his talent may make him the player the Lions target.
Eric Decker, Denver Broncos:
Pros: Runs good routes, respectable hands.
Cons: Price tag, “Peyton Manning effect.”
A popular choice amongst fans, Eric Decker appears to be set to be the most sought after free agent wide receiver on the market. Decker has put up some good numbers the last two seasons to look for a good contract, catching 172 passes for 2352 yards and 24 touchdowns. Despite Decker having the ability to run good routes, it appears his success is in effect from Peyton Manning being his quarterback. In Decker’s first two seasons in the NFL, he recorded only 50 receptions for 718 yards and nine touchdowns. Sure, you can say that was due to Tim Tebow being his quarterback for some of those games, but Tebow only started 14 of the possible 32 games. Decker may get the most looks amongst teams, including Detroit, but the combination of too high of an asking price with numbers that don’t appear to be enough for the Lions to justify giving him a contract.
Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans:
Pros: Very talented receiver.
Cons: Off-field issues have ruined his career.
Britt has been a problem child his entire NFL career. When he didn’t have an occasional injury, he was facing suspension from the league for constant misbehavior off the field. Britt has an arrest record that has reached eight arrests during his five year career. All of that mixed together has diminished his production on the field to not look very good. How the Titans decided to keep him through his entire rookie contract just goes to show that talent will trump many other things in the NFL. Although a cheap option for the 2014 season, the Lions most likely will not want to take a chance on Britt due to off-field issues (see Young, Titus).
Of course, there are plenty of options Martin Mayhew may look at in terms of free agent wide receiver. Players like James Jones, Riley Cooper and Emmanuel Sanders are among the other options. Receiver may be the position Detroit most likely targets during the process, so it is important to remember all the names listed above.