Instant-impact receivers

Free agency can be such a monumental crapshoot. So I’m pleased to report that, through Week 6, four of the NFL’s Top 10 in receiving yards are wideouts who changed jerseys during the offseason. They are:

Rank Receiver, Team Old Team Yards
5th Steve Smith, Ravens Panthers 573
T6th Golden Tate, Lions Seahawks 495
9th DeSean Jackson, Redskins Eagles 479
10th Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos Steelers 473

Granted, there’s plenty of football to be played, but these guys have made a terrific first impression with their new clubs. Smith’s yardage total projects to 1,528 over 16 games. Sanders’ projects to 1514 (because Denver has played only five games). Tate (1,320) and Jackson (1,277) also are on pace for big years. So far, these free-agent dollars have been well spent – and hurray for that.  Too often they aren’t.

Smith, in fact, has a chance to become the first receiver in NFL history to have a 1,500-yard season with two different teams. Only a handful of wideouts have had even a 1,200-yard season with different two teams. The list:


Randy Moss 1,632, ’03 Vikings 1,493 ’07 Patriots
Henry Ellard 1,414, ’88 Rams 1,397, ’94 Redskins
Terrell Owens* 1,451, ’00 49ers 1,355, ’07 Cowboys
Brandon Marshall 1,508, ’12 Bears 1,325, ’07 Broncos
Irving Fryar 1,316, ’97 Eagles 1,270, ’94 Dolphins
Jerry Rice 1,848, ’95 49ers 1,211, ’02 Raiders
Laveranues Coles 1,264, ’02 Jets 1,204, ’03 Redskins

*Also had a 1,200-yard season with the Eagles in 2004.

(Note: If a receiver had multiple 1,200-yard seasons with a team, I listed his best season. Also, as you can see, Coles is the only one to do it in consecutive years. That’s what Jackson is trying to do this year. He had 1,332 receiving yards with the Eagles in 2013.)

Just missed:

Anquan Boldin 1,402, ’05 Cardinals 1,179, ’13 49ers
Keenan McCardell 1,207, ’00 Jaguars 1,174, ’03 Bucs
Keyshawn Johnson 1,266, ’01 Bucs 1,170, ’99 Jets