As we roll into the second half of the 2014 NFL season we also begin to look ahead to a free agent offseason that is fully-loaded with young, impactful wide receivers. We’ll assess the more notable names, and project their value heading into 2015.
Related: The Complete List of 2015 NFL Free Agents
Maclin has quickly become a major player in this list, totaling 18 receptions for 345 yards and 4 TDs in the past two weeks alone. He’s on pace for 90 catches and 1,500 yards, numbers any NFL franchise would accept from a WR1 next year. If the Eagles let him test the market (and they won’t), Maclin should become the “reasonably priced” option for teams who may not be able to bid for a Demaryius Thomas or Dez Bryant. He projects to be worth the $12M per year that Mike Wallace received from the Dolphins 2 free agent classes ago.
Thomas’ production has increased consistently for three years, culminating to a monstrous first half to 2014. He’s on pace for 105 catches, 1,900 yards, and 12 touchdowns this season and was recently valued at a record $21.5M per seasons by our forecast formula. While this figure is improbable, Demaryius Thomas is on pace to become the highest paid wide receiver in football next season (Calvin Johnson, $16.2M).
While Bryant doesn’t have the eye-popping statistics that a Maclin or Thomas have in 2014, he’s doing what the Cowboys have asked him to do. He’s on pace for 95 receptions, 1,300 yards, and 12 TDs – nearly identical numbers from his 2012, and 2013 seasons. Prior to the season we valued Dez Bryant at $14M per season, a figure that most likely still holds true heading into the second half of the season.
Cobb remains somewhat under the radar, with bigger, flashier receivers in this group. But outside of a 2013 injury, his statistics and production are impressive. He’s currently on pace for 80 receptions, 1,200 yards, and 16 TDs as the #2 option in Green Bay (Jordy Nelson). It’s likely he values somewhere in between Eric Decker and Jordy Nelson, falling in at around $8M per year going forward (quite the upgrade from his current $802,355 average).
While his targets are down in 2014 thus far, Smith has been a consistent option for Flacco and the Ravens over the the past 3 1/2 seasons. He’s on pace for 50 catches and 750 yards, after a 2013 with 65 receptions and 1,100 yards – but he’s also set to catch 10 TDs in 2014. It’s likely Smith figures to land a deal similar to Emmanuel Sanders’ 3 year $15 million contract with the Broncos this past offseason.
While the numbers for Crabtree aren’t anywhere near where many projected his potential to be, the 49ers wideout is currently on pace for 75 receptions and 750 yards, along with 6 TDs. He’s been targeted 60 times in 2014, a figure that matches Cobb, and Smith thus far, but well behind Thomas/Bryant’s 85+. It’s perfectly possible that a change of scenery brings out a more productive Crabtree in 2015, though he’s probably played himself into a lower value deal heading into the offseason (projecting at around $3M-5M per year).
- Cecil Shorts | Age: 26 | Jacksonville Jaguars – Projecting $7M-$9M
- Wes Welker | Age: 33 | Denver Broncos – Projected $4M-$6M
- Reggie Wayne | Age: 35 | Indianapolis Colts – Projected $6M
- Eddie Royal | Age: 28 | San Diego Chargers – Projected $3M-$4M
- Nate Washington | Age: 31 | Tennessee Titans – Projected $3M-$4M