If you haven’t figured out it already by looking at the current roster, the search for a 3rd wide receiver has officially begun. The Dallas Cowboys are exploring all options as they determine who will play behind Miles Austin and Dez Bryant at wideout this season.
A crop of young wide receivers that includes Kevin Ogletree, Manuel Johnson, Jesse Holley, and rookie Dwayne Harris are all looking to fill the void left by recently released Roy Williams and Sam Hurd. But Dallas is also considering dipping into a dwindling free agent market to fill that need.
“We want a younger receiver on our football team to emerge. And if that doesn’t happen, we’re certainly on the lookout for someone who is not on our football team right now”, said head coach Jason Garrett. He went on to explain how the importance of finding the right player quickly is somewhat diminished due to the team’s strength at the tight end position.
But if Dallas does decide to go into free agency to find a wideout, the options are now somewhat limited. What follows is a breakdown of the best wide receivers currently on the market as of this writing.
Jerricho Cotchery – The eight-year veteran asked to be released this week by the New York Jets due to issues with playing time. Cotchery has quickly drawn major attention as the potential crown jewel of all the wideouts available. The 29 year old had 41 catches and two touchdowns last season, his worst numbers since 2006. With the recent signing of Plaxico Burress, Cotchery was unhappy as the Jet’s 3rd wide receiver. That particular fact doesn’t increase the Cowboy’s chances of signing him. Teams who have expressed interest in the former Jet include the Titans, Cardinals, Chargers, and Ravens.
Steve Smith – The Giants most dependable wide receiver is still recovering from micro-fracture knee surgery. It is doubtful that the four year veteran will be able to play until sometime after week one, which is probably the only reason he remains unsigned. The recovery time for this particular surgery can vary from 3 months to over a year. Despite the injury, the Giant’s currently have an offer on the table for Smith. But rumors say the wideout is in talks with Arizona.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh – The 11th year veteran is coming off a very disappointing year with the Baltimore Ravens. He had just 30 catches for 398 yards, which is a career low. As a Bengal, Houshmandzadeh holds the franchise’s single-season record for most receptions with 112 and is the third in all time franchise history with 507. The 33 year old wideout has expressed interest in returning to the Ravens. And the recent signing of wideout Derrick Mason to the New York Jets makes this scenario more likely.
Bryant Johnson – The former 1st round pick by the Arizona Cardinal’s in the 2003 NFL Draft was recently released by the Detroit Lion’s to create some much-needed salary-cap room. After having only 18 receptions last season (which included two healthy scratches), the underachieving wide out was scheduled to make $3.2 million in base salary this year. Once the Lions drafted Titus Young in the second round of this year’s draft, Johnson became expendable.
Kevin Curtis – The 33 year old unsigned free agent played all of 30 snaps for the Kansas City Chiefs‘ last season. But Curtis is the only player in the NFL with four or more accrued seasons who negotiated Rights of First Refusal. This means the Chiefs get the chance to match any offer Curtis receives from another team. His best year was in 2007 when he caught 77 passes with six touchdowns for the Philadelphia Eagles. Curtis started last year with the Miami Dolphins after battling testicular cancer.
Mike Furrey – One of the more intriguing possible pick ups was two-way player Mike Furrey. Back in 2006, Furrey was the leading receiver in the NFC with 98 receptions as a member of the Detroit Lions. He also played free safety and nickelback with the Rams and Browns. But after spending all of last season on the Washington Redskin’s sidelines due to a concussion, Furrey recently retired. He was just announced as the new Head Football Coach of Kentucky Christian University.
Mark Clayton – Easily rookie Sam Bradford’s best option last year, the 29 year old Clayton was a big part of the St. Louis Ram’s recent resurgence. Unfortunately, that was all before a serious leg injury ended his season. Now, the severity of his knee injury is enough of a concern for most teams around the league to take a wait and see approach before signing him. And although Clayton has expressed interest in returning to St. Louis, the Rams recently signed Mike Sims-Walker and drafted two wideouts to beef up their receiver core. Combine that with the expected return of Donnie Avery and there may just not be enough room for the 8 year veteran.
Terrell Owens – There is no doubt that T.O. is one of the greatest receivers of all time. But do you really think Jerry Jones is prepared to ride this media roller coaster again? Yet, stranger things have happened. But the 37 year old Owens is coming off ACL surgery in April. And after leaving the Cowboys, Owens has done nothing to improve his reputation as a bad teammate. That being said, T.O. keeps himself in top physical shape. He should also be fairly affordable, which is a valid concern for salary cap restricted team like Dallas. And don’t forget he did finish last year with 72 receptions for 983 yards and 9 touchdowns for the Cincinnati Bengals. But it is rumored that Owens is currently in talks with the Cleveland Browns.
Randy Moss – If the 34 year old Moss never plays again, he’ll have a bust in Canton. And even though the 13 year veteran announced his retirement recently, many believe his playing days are not yet over. Especially since Moss’ agent recently announced that Randy was in amazing shape and was looking forward to proving he still had it. And Moss has a lot to prove after his attitude and perceived lack of effort saw him dropped from three different teams last season. But this is the same player who, in 2007, set the single season record for touchdown receptions with 23. Some members of the media are now speculating that Moss likely wants to avoid training camp and will ultimately sign with a team during the season.