The weeks leading up to NFL free agency are for dreamers. Fans, sportswriters and radio talk show hosts compile a wish list for the local team, giving no thought to salary cap limitations or franchise tags eliminating availability on the open market.
Just listen to the buzz in Cleveland.
“Think of the shot of adrenaline for the Browns if they could rip away Joe Flacco from a team they despise,” Peter King wrote in Sports Illustrated. “What sweet irony for Cleveland, to steal the Super Bowl winning quarterback from the team that stole their franchise? Imagine Cleveland signing Flacco for five years and $110 million, making him the highest paid player in NFL history.”
Oh, it’s possible, but just plain silly. Then again, some thought it was silly the Broncos would land Peyton Manning.
So what should the Broncos do with the $12 to 15 million they’ll be able to spend in free agency after they sign Ryan Clady?
My wish list starts with asking Manning to put St. Louis running back Steven Jackson on his speed dial. An every-down back that can get tough yards on third down, catch the ball out of the backfield and play at least three more years would make Denver’s offense Super Bowl ready.
Next, I would go after Bills safety Jairus Byrd if he isn’t franchised by the Bills. But he likely will be. And I would spend the rest of the money to lock down defensive tackle Richard Seymour to a one-year deal.
If my wish list gets scrapped, and it likely will be, veteran safety Ed Reed is an intriguing option, as well as defensive tackle Henry Melton. But Melton would be costly and the draft has plenty of defensive tackles.
It’s fair to say the Broncos have room to upgrade at a number of positions, but no significant money should be considered on an impressive crop of wide receivers: Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace and Wes Welker.
Thanks, but no thanks.
Oh, it would be great if one of them helped reincarnate the Three Amigos with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, but it’s not worth it. This offense needs depth at wide out more than a high-priced playmaker to compliment Manning.
I’ll concede that today’s NFL is built around a high-powered passing offense, but it’s more about the quarterback than the wide receiver. The last Hall of Fame caliber wide out to win a Super Bowl was Marvin Harrison. And you have to go all the way back to 1995-96 to find the second-to-last Hall of Fame wide receiver to win a title – Michael Irvin.
“The Hall of Fame kind of bears out the argument that the quarterback makes the wide receiver with wide receivers struggling to get into the Hall of Fame,” former NFL wide receiver Mike Pritchard told me on our radio show, Afternoon Drive with Mac and Goodman (M-F | 3p-6p | AM 1510 and FM 93.7), yesterday afternoon.
Welker was an afterthought until he hooked up with Tom Brady in New England in 2007. And do you really think Decker nearly doubled his production from 2011 because he changed his offseason workouts?
Quarterbacks make wide receivers, not the other way around.
“The wide receiver position is a big-play position, but it’s not one where you have to be consistent play in and play out,” added Prichard. “It’s a potent weapon offensively, but where it matters is the every down of the running game, your offensive line and your quarterback. Those positions need to be consistent on every play, whether it’s blocking assignments, pass protection or carrying the football.”
If quarterback and offensive line are the foundation of your house, then wide receivers are the granite countertops and stainless steel appliances to make your home more attractive. Upgrading your kitchen is pointless if your home might collapse.
It’s tempting to upgrade because wide receiver is a sexy position, but it’s not money well spent. If Manning is good enough to take a sixth-round pick out of Mount Union and turn him into a multi-millionaire, then I’m confident the Broncos can find the next Pierre Garcon in the draft.
Splurging on a wide receiver in free agency would redefine the silly season at Dove Valley.
Eric Goodman hosts Afternoon Drive with Mac and Goodman from 3p-6p Monday through Friday on Mile High Sports Radio (AM1510 | FM 93.7).
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