NFL Free Agency

49ers' Jennings among top 10 free-agent receivers this offseason

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In need of an upgrade at wide receiver? On a scale of one through 10, this year's class is somewhere between a six and a 6.5.

There's one true No. 1 option, one potential No. 1 option and several solid second and third options.

Some statuses could change depending on franchise tags and various tenders, though these are the players worth targeting regardless.

Let's look at 10 of the top free-agent wide receivers, along with some honorable mentions, in no particular order:

Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (UFA)

Evans, who is the first player to record 10 straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons since entering the league, is the best option in the class. His franchise tag seems too high for the Buccaneers to want to use, so they'll have to negotiate a long-term deal. The 30-year-old still has plenty left in the tank and will be a hot commodity if available in the open market.

Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts (UFA)

Pittman Jr., a 2020 second-round pick, is coming off a career year in Indianapolis where he logged a career-high 109 catches for 1,152 yards, also a career best. He accumulated 1,082 receiving yards as a sophomore in 2021 and came close in 2022 with 925. The 26-year-old wideout still has room to grow, so if the Colts don't tag him to pair with Anthony Richardson, he's the next best option.

Calvin Ridley, Jacksonville Jaguars (UFA)

Ridley returned to the field with a bang after being suspended for all of 2022. In his first season in Jacksonville, the 29-year-old caught 76 passes on 136 targets for 1,016 yards and eight touchdowns. If a team can bring him in as a second option, he should deliver similar production.

Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals (UFA)

Higgins, 25, is quite a curious case. Another 2020 second-rounder, he's coming off several career lows in a year where Joe Burrow suffered a season-ending injury. Higgins caught 42 passes on 76 targets for 656 yards and five touchdowns. All stats were the lowest of his four-season career. He had two straight 1,000-yard campaigns entering 2023, so there's definitely room to bounce back. If the Bengals don't tag him, plenty of teams could look to give him a chance.

Noah Brown, Houston Texans (UFA)

The Texans suffered multiple injuries in the wide-receiving department, with Brown being one of them. But in the 10 games he played, the 28-year-old 2017 seventh-rounder logged 33 catches on 55 targets for 567 yards and two touchdowns. If Houston can't retain him on a cheap deal, he can serve as a marginal upgrade on another roster.

Gabe Davis, Buffalo Bills (UFA)

A 2020 fourth-round pick by Buffalo, Davis made a name for himself thanks to postseason outings but failed to prove he could be consistent throughout a full year. This past year ended similarly, as he caught 45 passes on 81 targets for 746 yards and seven touchdowns. He'd have a 100-yard game then go quiet. The Bills don't have too much money to work with and need improvements in this position, but a change of scenery is likely best for Davis.

Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals (UFA)

It's unlikely the Bengals retain both Higgins and Boyd, but the latter can still help another team as the third option. A 2016 second-round pick by Cincinnati, Boyd has two 1,000-yard seasons under his belt but hasn't hit those marks since 2019. That's when Higgins entered the frame, then Ja'Marr Chase followed. Boyd, 29, in 2023 caught 67 passes on 98 targets for 667 yards and two touchdowns.

Jauan Jennings, San Francisco 49ers (RFA)

Jennings will be a restricted free agent, so the 49ers can place one of a few tenders to make it easier to keep him. Nicknamed "Third and Jauan," Jennings, a 2020 seventh-round pick, made a name for himself as one of the most clutch players in the league. His stats aren't eye-popping, as he caught just 19 passes on 33 targets for 265 yards and a touchdown in 2023, but the 26-year-old can certainly flourish in a larger role. He threw for and caught a touchdown in Super Bowl LVIII, which could've bumped his stock.

Curtis Samuel, Washington Commanders (UFA)

Samuel, a 2017 second-round pick, hasn't lived up to his potential but could become a robust third option for a contender, or a second option on a rebuilding side. In 2023 with the Commanders, he caught 62 passes on 91 targets for 613 yards and four touchdowns. He'll be 28 when the 2024 season begins and can bring reliable production at an affordable price.

Rashid Shaheed, New Orleans Saints (ERFA)

Shaheed, a 25-year-old undrafted wideout, is coming off a mini-breakout sophomore year and will be an exclusive restricted free agent. The Saints can easily keep him by placing a minimum tender, but in the unlikely scenario they don't, a team would get a wideout who caught 46 passes on 75 targets for 719 yards and five touchdowns in 2023.

Honorable mentions

Odell Beckham Jr., Baltimore Ravens (UFA): The Ravens definitely overpaid for the 31-year-old Beckham Jr., but he could still help a contender as an affordable third option.

Hollywood Brown, Arizona Cardinals (UFA): Brown has steadily declined in two seasons with Arizona since a 1,000-yard campaign in Baltimore, which makes the soon-to-be 27-year-old another curious target.

Cedrick Wilson Jr., Miami Dolphins (UFA): Wilson Jr., a soon-to-be 29-year-old, had a mini-breakout year with the Cowboys in 2021 but never saw the same targets with the Dolphins in 2022 and 2023. He'll likely go elsewhere to be a third option.

Kendrick Bourne, New England Patriots (UFA): Bourne, who will be 29 for the 2024 season, has steadily declined in production since joining the Patriots in 2021. But he could be a solid get for a playoff hopeful.

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