After much dispute over the last year about his contract, Desean Jackson has now completed the last year of his contract and is available as a free agent, and he’s one of several top tier wide receivers who could be available in the free market.
And with the increased focus around the league on the passing game, there are several teams that could benefit by an additional receiver (or two). Even just looking at the four Championship Game teams – two of them have needs at wide receiver. The 49ers are definitely in need of an upgrade at receiver, and the Patriots could use a deep threat to complement Welker, Gronkowski and Hernandez (the role that Ochocinco was expected to fill).
DeSean Jackson is among the fastest players in the NFL, and has the ability to stretch defenses and is also a dangerous threat in the return game (something I’m sure isn’t lost on 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh).
Although his contract dispute was one of several distractions within the Eagles organization this season, their extravagant spending on free agents while refusing to renegotiate a contract for one of their top playmakers, who was paid less than their long snapper, was a slap in the face to Jackson. New scenery could serve him extremely well.
Other talented receivers that are available on the market this year include:
Vincent Jackson – the Chargers are believed to be letting 29-year old wide receiver Vincent Jackson go. Excluding 2010, where he missed 9 games with injuries, Jackson has over 1,000 yards and 7 or more TDs in each of the last 4 years.
Reggie Wayne’s contract is up, and with the Colts going into full rebuilding mode, his future in Indy is anything but certain. The 33-year old WR had seven consecutive 1,000 yard seasons before this year, and despite all of the problems the Colts had this past season at QB, Wayne still had 75 catches for 960 yards.
Mario Manningham is also a free agent. While he was the third option on the New York Giants, he showed the ability to make big plays and would be a number 2 option for most teams in the league. His production was down this year with the emergence of Victor Cruz, but at age 25, with two 800-yard receiving seasons under his belt, Manningham could be a strong #2 receiver.
Saints receivers Marques Colston and Robert Meachem are both free agents, and it is very possible that at least one of them could have a new home in 2012. Colston had 1143 yards this season, and Meachem had 620. Meachem is most likely the one to be gone, as the Saints have a lot of weapons and Meachem has become expendable.
Wes Welker’s contract is up in New England, but it is widely believed that he will either receive a long term contract or a franchise tag. Dwayne Bowe’s contract is up as well, but he is also expected to either get a long term deal, or a franchise tag.