It’s been an interesting offseason so far for name-brand NFL wide receivers. Seven of the Top 14 in career receptions — among active wideouts, that is — have either been released (3), traded (1) or had their contracts run out without being re-signed (3). Seems like a lot, doesn’t it? (And an eighth, let’s not forget, Larry Fitzgerald, reworked his deal to save the Cardinals nearly $13 million on their 2015 cap.)
The disposability of running backs has been a major topic of conversation the past few years, but any player in his 30s — as all of these receivers can attest — lives a fragile existence, too. If you’re still drawing a hefty salary at the age, you’d better be putting up the numbers to justify it. Otherwise your team might decide you’re in a Death Spiral and put you in the recycle bin. With a younger player, there’s more patience with ups and downs, but with a guy in his 30s it’s different. One off year, after all, could easily foreshadow a second . . . and a third.
Dwayne Bowe is the youngest of the aforementioned wideouts (31 in September), Reggie Wayne the oldest (37 in November, if there is another November for him). You could argue that the bell has tolled for some of them — Wayne and Santana Moss, say, and (maybe) the oft-concussed Wes Welker. But Bowe and Greg Jennings had three years remaining on their contracts, and Brandon Marshall and Andre Johnson had two. So there’s a significant Bail-Out Factor here as well.
Nobody can tell me that some of them don’t have some good seasons left – in the right offense with the right quarterback. But it’s the way of the NFL world now. A well-paid wideout in his 30s has a less-than-stellar year and, regardless of the circumstances (instability at QB, injuries, etc.), isn’t brought back.
Marshall’s trade to the Jets was a virtual giveaway. (“Take his contract (and personality) — please!” ) All the Bears got in return was a fifth-round pick. They even had to throw in a seventh-rounder themselves. Here’s the rundown on the Not-So-Magnificent (Anymore) Seven:
THE COMINGS AND GOINGS OF SOME TOP-RANKED WIDEOUTS
|Rank||Wide Receiver, Last Team||Catches||Status|
|1||Reggie Wayne,Colts||1,070||Unsigned FA|
|2||Andre Johnson, Texans||1,012||Cut, signed with Colts|
|6||Wes Welker, Broncos||890||Unsigned FA|
|8||Brandon Marshall, Bears||773||Traded to Jets|
|10||Santana Moss, Redskins||732||Unsigned FA|
|13||Greg Jennings, Vikings||552||Cut|
|14||Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs||532||Cut|
And here are their individual situations:
● Wayne (37 in November): 3-year, $17.5M deal expired.
● Johnson (34 when season starts): Had 2 years left on a 5-year, $67.8M deal ($15.6M cap number for 2015). Signed with the Colts for 3 years, $21M ($10M guaranteed).
● Welker (34 when season starts): 2-year, $12M deal expired.
● Marshall (31 when season starts): Traded to the Jets with 2 years left on a 3-year, $30M deal ($22.3M guaranteed). The Bears received a 2015 No. 5 pick for him but also sent the Jets a No. 7.
● Moss (36 when season starts): 1-year, $1.02M deal expired.
● Jennings (32 in September): Had 3 years left on a 5-year, $45M deal ($11M cap number for 2015). The Vikings replaced him with Mike Wallace in a trade similar to the Marshall swap.
● Bowe (31 in September): Had 3 years left on 5-year, $56M deal ($14M cap number for 2015).
Sources: pro-football-reference.com, spotrac.com