At one point last year the Seattle Seahawks had Percy Harvin (traded), Sidney Rice (released, re-signed, retired), Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Paul Richardson (ACL), and Kevin Norwood. When they reached the biggest game of their season though, they were left to target Chris Matthews and Ricardo Lockette at some of the biggest moments.
Not that Matthews or Lockette shouldn't be commended for their efforts (unless you're Darrell Bevell* am I right?) but that is really not what I would consider a "Super Bowl-level" group of receivers. It's kind of amazing that the Seahawks were actually one play away from winning the Super Bowl after all the players they had lost to injury or otherwise leading up to that final play.
*Hey Darrell, thanks for reading. JK about the Lockette stuff. Can I have a job? Or at least $5,000?
But now entering their sixth offseason under Pete Carroll and John Schneider, Seattle is once again searching for help at receiver. And perhaps it's needed now more than ever.
The Seahawks don't have a ton of cap space to spend on players outside of the organization though, so it's unlikely that Demaryius Thomas, Randall Cobb, Dez Bryant, or Jeremy Maclin will wind up in Seattle. (If one of them do, my vote is for Maclin because there is absolutely no way they sign Bryant) but there are still plenty of other options. Options that don't cost nearly as much but could potentially become quite valuable.
Even if none of them ever crack the 1,000-yard mark with the Seahawks.
Torrey Smith, Ravens, 26, 6'1, 215 lbs
He could be the "Golden Tate" of this free agent class and land a deal in the $5-6 million range per year over four or five years but Smith chose the worst possible time to have a down season. He caught 49 of 92 targets, 8.2 yards per target, zero games over 100 yards, and 11 drops, second-most in the NFL. He caught 11 touchdowns but does Smith really stand out in a sea of talented receivers, especially when he's really proven to to be better playing next to someone like Anquan Boldin or Steve Smith, rather than as the "main guy." He's just not a number one.
Can we be sure that Smith is significantly better than a receiver that costs half, or half of half, of what Smith might cost?
Likelihood of gaining a whopping 671 yards: High. Even playing with Joe Flacco he's never had fewer than 700.
Cecil Shorts, Jaguars, 27, 6', 200 lbs
Did somebody flip the direction of the pipeline from Jacksonville to Seattle? If so, then: Red rover, Red rover, Sen'Derrick Marks on over!
Shorts' value peaked in 2012 when he caught 55 passes for 979 yards and seven touchdowns. In his career he's played about as well as you can expect a receiver to play that's catching passes from Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne, and Blake Bortles. Shorts caught only 53 of 110 targets last year for 557 yards and one touchdown, with seven drops and a fumble. That decreases his value on the open market but on the brightside, that decreases his value on the open market.
Last year, Jerome Simpson signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Vikings. Simpson is listed at 6'1, 193, and he had one good year out of three. He was only one year older than Shorts is now. The max deal he might receive would be something like what Brandon LaFell signed in New England: three years, $11 million.
Likelihood of gaining a whopping 671 yards: Medium. He's got 558 yards written all over him.
Michael Crabtree, 49ers, 27, 6'2, 215 lbs
Crabtree has been in the NFL for six years and he had one "breakout season" three years ago. Looking for a similar free agent from a year ago? Try on Hakeem Nicks for size.
Nicks was even younger than Crabtree when he signed with the Colts, and all he got was one year and $3.975 million. They were that adamant that Nicks wasn't worth $4 million that they withheld the final $25,000! One less Honda Accord for you, Mr. Nicks.
After five mostly-disappointing seasons, Crabtree still managed career-lows in yards per catch and yards per game in 2014. However, he's still young and could have a big rebuilding season in him at a low-risk cost of one year and maybe $4-5 million. Maybe even less. Plus, I think what we all want -- nay, what we all deserve -- is Crabs and Richard Sherman on the same team.
Likelihood of gaining a whopping 671 yards: Medium-High. He won't be covered by Sherman anymore.
Hakeem Nicks, Colts, 27, 6', 210 lbs
Speaking of which, Nicks couldn't rebuild his career on a team that passes it more times per quarter than the Seahawks do per game. That figure might not be 100% accurate, but then again, it might be. I'll tell you the same thing about Nicks that I told my stock broker about buying a yacht: Don't spend more than a million bucks until you're sure you'll get five years out of it!
Likelihood of gaining a whopping 671 yards: Medium. He topped that figure in each of his first five seasons until last year when he played with Andrew Luck, who is only half the QB that Russell Wilson is.
Kenny Britt, Rams, 26, 6'3, 215 lbs
Britt flashed "number one stuff" going into 2011 but got hurt in Week 3 that year, ending his season. After that he looked more like a number two -- innuendo intended.
But Britt signed a one-year reclamation deal with the Rams last year and had 48 catches for 748 yards, which is like 60 catches and 1,000 yards anywhere else. Britt's deal was for one-year and $1.4 million and that was coming off a horrific season with the Titans, so he should get more this time around.
However, longer than a two-year commitment seems unlikely and unwise for a receiver that has had problems off of the field and is still a little underwhelming on it.
Likelihood of gaining a whopping 671 yards: Medium-High. If he did it with Austin Davis and Shaun Hill, he can do it with Wilson.
Eddie Royal, Chargers, 28, 5'10, 182 lbs
A reliable slot receiver that doesn't return punts or kicks very well. We got that covered.
Likelihood of gaining a whopping 671 yards: Low. He might only gain a measly 392 yards.
Nate Washington, Titans, 31, 6'1, 185 lbs
Last year, Jerricho Cotchery signed a 5-year, $8 million deal with the Panthers. Teams should feel similarly confidant that Washington could be an adequate target for another three or more seasons and will get his services at a low price that can't be beat. Maybe he's not going to get better, but you can feel reasonably good about the idea that he won't get worse.
Washington hasn't missed a game since becoming a regular in 2006.
Likelihood of gaining a whopping 671 yards: Medium-perfect. He'll gain exactly a whopping 671 yards.
Denarius Moore, Raiders, 26, 6', 195 lbs
I remember when Moore was going into his rookie season there was a lot of buzz about this fifth round rookie that was way ahead of the curve. Give him credit for being productive in his first three seasons, but Moore is still kind of living off of that buzz.
He caught 12 of 27 targets a year ago. He might sign a deal similar to what Damian Williams got a year ago: One year and maybe $800k.
Likelihood of gaining a whopping 671 yards: Low. He clearly tops out at 670 yards.
Vincent Brown, Raiders, 26, 5'11, 184 lbs
Brown is as much of a flier now as Joe Morgan was for the Saints last year when they re-signed him for $495k. You don't expect much from Brown, but there's still potential there.
Likelihood of gaining a whopping 671 yards: Does he even have a whopping 671 yards in his career?
Leonard Hankerson, Redskins, 26, 6'1, 205 lbs
He missed last season with a knee injury but Hankerson is only 26 and showed promise early in his career. His deal should only be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, more than most of us will make in the next five years.
Likelihood of gaining a whopping 671 yards: I'd just be happy if he played in a whopping 10 games.