Sports

Receivers market is moving slowly again

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NFL receivers run fast, but their free-agent market moves slowly.

For the second straight year, the strength and depth of the upcoming draft class of receivers is dragging down the free-agent class, industry sources explained to The Post. Kenny Golladay, Juju Smith-Schuster, Will Fuller, Curtis Samuel and more all remained available after 30 hours of free agency, which is more unclaimed top talent than at any other position.

It wasn’t supposed to be a repeat of last year, when the Cowboys and Washington reportedly were the only serious players for Amari Cooper, and Robby Anderson’s college coach, the Panthers’ Matt Rhule, finally rescued him from the abyss in April. Cooper still signed a five-year, $100 million deal, while Anderson, the consensus next-best option, settled for two years, $20 million.

The Giants, Dolphins, Packers, Colts, Ravens, Jets, Patriots and Cardinals all count receiver as a big need, and Stefon Diggs and DeAndre Hopkins showed the impact a receiver can have in his first year on a new team, especially alongside a young quarterback.

Kenny Golladay and Juju Smith-Schuster
Kenny Golladay and Juju Smith-Schuster
Getty Images (2)

So, why haven’t there been more significant commitments beyond the Jets-Corey Davis (five years, $37.5 million), Jaguars-Marvin Jones (two years, $14.5 million) and the Patriots’ deals with Nelson Agholor (two years, $22 million) and Kendrick Bourne (three years, $15 million)?

“Teams are wise to the immediate production they can get at a fraction of that price in the draft,” one league source said. “They are spending on other spots.”

There is some thinking it’s the traditional wait-and-see game, where players and agents are waiting for Golladay to set the top of the market before agreeing to deals. Were the Jets smart or foolish to act first?

“You thought Corey Davis would’ve been that domino,” one NFL coach said. “They might’ve gotten a better player for cheaper because he can play inside, he can play outside, he’s big and physical, and he’s not a me-guy. I like what they did.”

Thirteen of the first 59 picks in the 2020 draft were receivers, including five who had at least 800 receiving yards and five who had at least five touchdowns as rookies. Twelve of the first 67 picks in the 2019 draft were receivers and DK Metcalf, Mecole Hardman and A.J. Brown already are Pro Bowlers, with Deebo Samuel and Marquise Brown likely on their way soon.

This is not the same as when free-agent running backs began to be cast aside for younger options. There is still a belief that Golladay will become the 16th receiver in the NFL with an average annual salary of at least $15 million.

But suddenly it doesn’t look so limiting for Allen Robinson and Chris Godwin to be franchise-tagged, even though Robinson reportedly isn’t interested in signing his tag for $18 million in 2021.

“You can get receivers acclimated quicker than you used to,” a source said. “There’s a lot of guys who can run. They only make so many big linemen.”

Here are two other takeaways from Day 2 of NFL free agency:

—  Time for chameleon offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to dust off the playbook he had for Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, because the Patriots added the top two free-agent tight ends. One day after landing Jonnu Smith, the Patriots struck for Hunter Henry — after using two mid-round draft picks on tight ends in 2020.

The idea is the Patriots can pass out of a run formation or run down the throat of a nickel defense. And, even though they had plenty of cap flexibility in 2021, the bulk of the Patriots’ $250 million spending spree on eight players so far appears structured so the numbers are higher in the future to align with an anticipated 2022-23 cap explosion from an influx of new television revenue.

—  The Jaguars entered free agency with the most cap space of any team but haven’t been wild spenders with an eye on 2021, as some thought might be impatient Urban Meyer’s introduction to the NFL. It instead is more in line with growing around soon-to-arrive quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

Their biggest purchases were both in the secondary: top cornerback Shaquill Griffin (three years, $44.5 million) and safety Rayshawn Jenkins (four years, $35 million) to upgrade arguably the weakest position on the team.

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Janice Hill

Janice is a Co-Founder of NetDebaito Official & a family member of Brit Media 360. Our News HUB aiming to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific viewpoint for each story catered. Every project is a proficient journalisms' who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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