After examining some wide outs that may be available for the Ravens choosing when free agency begins, ‘Part Two’ (find Part 1 HERE) will look into other pass-catching options with free agency nearing. The open sale on fresh NFL bodies begins in two weeks (on March 11 at 4pm), as all teams are still doing their due diligence on anyone without a contract. Ozzie Newsome will get creative on adding weapons for Joe Flacco this off season, including looking into Wide Receivers on free agent market, in the draft and trades. This is the second look at possible targets at WR this off season.
GOLDEN TATE (Seattle Seahawks)
The Seahawks came off a miraculous season, with their defense leading them to a Super Bowl title against the Denver Broncos. But the offensive efficiency went under the radar, as they had a collection of role players around QB Russell Wilson and RB Marshawn Lynch. None may be more underappreciated than Tate, who led the team in receiving yards, after losing big money WRs, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin, for the most of the season.
Though he has never developed into a star, after being taken in the second round of the 2010 draft, he has grown each season with Seattle. Tate has good hands and a solid build to catch balls over the middle of the field. He has become a move-the-chains third down option, leading the Seahawks with 41 first downs in 2013. His measureables may not wow anyone, but is versatile, with the ability to lineup in any position on the offense (including RB). His toughness in traffic and catch ability draws comparisons to a “poor man’s” Anquan Boldin.
Tate has already stated his wishes to remain with the Super Bowl champions, announcing his willingness for a home-town discount to stick with the team that drafted him. Though Seattle is set to start handing out big money deals to some of their star players, they may be inclined to let Tate walk in order to stay under the cap; while also banking on Percy Harvin returning to full strength and filling Tate’s role in their offense. Many teams will bid on Tate, but ideally, he is best suited to lineup as a No. 2 or 3 WR, across from an established deep threat (like the Ravens have in Torrey Smith).
JASON AVANT (Philadelphia Eagles)
After the resigning of Riley Cooper (along with long term extensions for OL Jason Peters and Jason Kelce), the Eagles may be looking to shed some money off their cap. Releasing Avant will free up over $4 Million in money, even though he has been a a steady veteran on the field and in the locker room. He is not a star by all means, but can be a valuable role player in the middle of the field.
Avant certainly does not have explosive speed, but has a thick frame (6’0″ 212lbs.) and some of the best hands in the NFL. He has never been more than a third or fourth option in the passing game, but was a go-to receiver on third down for years. He has filled in on the outside in the past, but is best suited to work in the slot.
There are no secrets in Avant; you know what your getting with him production wise (he has never surpassed the 700 yard mark in his eight seasons). If he is a cap casualties, teams will not be lining up immediately for his services, but will looked at him as a secondary option, after the bigger dominoes fall. His ability to move the chains will get him a job, even if there is little potential for growth in his game. He could be good mentor to not only young receivers, but a good leader in the locker room as well, which comes relatively cheap in dollar and year amount.
SIDNEY RICE (Seattle Seahawks)
The Seahawks were forced to release Rice, as his cap number did not fit his production and (as mentioned before) they will be giving out hefty raises to some key contributors. After his breakout season in 2009 (122 catches, 1312 yards, 8 touchdowns), with the Vikings, he has not come close to eclipsing the 1000 yard mark since. Injuries have played a major role in his lack of production, where he has only played a full season twice in his eight year career.
Rice certainly passes the eye test for a starting WR, standing at 6’4″ with a great speed for his size. He has never lived up to his potential, after being a 2nd round pick. But he is only 27, entering his “prime” as a pass catcher; their is still potential for growth, if he can remain on the field and has proven his ability when playing with a good QB, on a explosive offense.
After his lackluster stint in Seattle, Rice will be looking to re-establish his value this off season. He is probably not looking for more than a one year “show me” deal, coming on the cheap for a player with his great skill set. Some GMs will view him as a low risk, high reward deal, with Rice not counting against compensatory picks in 2015; something Ozzie Newsome values drastically.