Denver Broncos Potential Free Agent Wide Receiver Targets

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 6: Wide receiver Braylon Edwards #17 of the San Francisco 49ers eludes cornerback DeAngelo Hall #23 of the Washington Redskins during the third quarter at FedExField on November 6, 2011 in Landover, Maryland. The San Francisco 49ers won, 19-11. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)


Two free agency periods in just over half a year? Sign me up.

The Denver Broncos are coming off of a season in which they finished 31st in the league in passing, due largely to the fact that when they were winning, it was the running game that was continually dominant and the primary focus of the offensive gameplan.

In 2012, I think we can expect the Broncos to open up the passing game a little bit more, but as of right now, there are only a few guys under contract for 2012. Third year players Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are joined by free agent acquisition Jason Hill and D'Andre Goodwin in the Broncos' receiver group, with both Eddie Royal and Matt Willis set to become free agents in a couple of weeks.

Needless to say, receiver is a position the Broncos need to seek some kind of upgrade, I'm just not sure what kind of upgrade it will be at this point.

Will the Broncos pursue a big name free agent? Former big name free agent? Will they draft another young guy? A combination of some of these? It's all pretty fuzzy for me right now, but I think when you look back at what this team was able to do last year in getting a guy like Willis McGahee at running back, I think you could see a similar acquisition (or two) this year at wide receiver.

Here are some directions I think the Broncos could go when free agency starts in a couple of weeks:

Big Ticket Free Agent Acquisition: Vincent Jackson, San Diego Chargers

Vincent Jackson is one of the best deep ball receivers in the league, and the Broncos showed last year that their passing game is going to try to take a lot of shots downfield. He comes with some character red flags, but personally, I would rather have V-Jax in Denver than San Diego with Philip Rivers.

Jackson is a Colorado native, and he went to school about an hour away from Denver at Northern Colorado. It would be a homecoming of sorts for the receiver, who is one of the best in the business at helping his team put points on the board. He is such a big physical mismatch and is the type of guy who could be a huge addition for our offense, though I am not so sure the Broncos will make such a big move at receiver when you have a former first and third round pick who had actually pretty good sophomore campaigns considering the conditions of the offseason and everything.

I think it would be interesting to add Vincent Jackson, but it's going to take a lot of money for a guy who is going to be 29, has character problems, and it could potentially really limit our young guys.

Low Risk, High Reward Acquisitions: Braylon Edwards, San Francisco 49ers; Steve Smith, Philadelphia Eagles; Early Doucet, Arizona Cardinals; Anthony Gonzalez, Indianapolis Colts

Why are these guys low-risk? Well, I doubt the Broncos would have to break the bank for any of these guys, both in terms of guaranteed money or years on a contract. I think you could give any one of these guys a reasonable two-year contract and it would suffice.

Why are they high-reward guys? Braylon Edwards has a ton of talent, and obviously has big play ability but he has had problems with injury and inconsistency. I think adding him could allow Eric Decker to move to the slot where he is pretty effective, and help give the Broncos a lot of mismatches at the receiver positions.

Steve Smith basically didn't play in 2011 because he had injury problems and clearly was affected by a switch to a new team during the lockout. Maybe giving him a full offseason can get him back to his 2010 form and be a sure-handed third down target that the Broncos need.

Early Doucet is a young, talented guy who probably would be another big name free agent if the Cardinals had a quarterback who could spread the ball around effectively. He's not an elite player by any means, but a solid role player and a guy who can make some plays.

Anthony Gonzalez has missed a majority of the last couple of seasons with injuries, which is sad because the guy can flat out play. If he comes cheap, he is young enough that he has some upside in my opinion and can possibly give the Broncos what we have hoped for from Eddie Royal for years.

Wily Old Veteran Additions: Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts; Plaxico Burress, New York Jets

I'm pretty picky when it comes to this list because you see what certain guys can do, but I think that Reggie Wayne could be an absolutely perfect addition for this team if he were willing to play here.

Wayne is already 33 and on the back end of his career, and I have this sneaking suspicion that he's just going to follow Peyton Manning wherever he goes (Miami), but I would still give us a shot. Wayne has always played pretty well in Denver or against Denver if memory serves me right, so why not just sign him if you can't beat him?

He's still one of the best receivers in the league, and even if he has lost a step, he's still a reliable guy who can run great routes, get open, and not consistently drop passes.

Plaxico Burress is a guy who can pretty much only score touchdowns, but that's okay with me. Still, he might be the most unlikely because of his history and the fact that he is a pretty one-dimensional player at this point. Still, we could sign worse players to fill in at wide receiver.

Former First Round Picks Up for Grabs--Under 30

In addition to some of the other guys I have mentioned, like Edwards, Wayne, and Gonzalez, here are a few guys who were former first round picks under the age of 30. The reason I include that stipulation is because sometimes these guys just don't work out at their first location.

Obviously, Dwayne Bowe will be one of the most hotly contested receivers on the market, that is if he isn't franchised by the Chiefs right away.

Meachem is a guy who could really benefit from a change of scenery, but any time I watch him play it's either feast or famine. He seems like he could be a really good deep threat, but is he really that big of an upgrade over what we already have?

Ted Ginn Jr. has never been a great receiver, or maybe not even a good one. He is a heck of a return man, but we have one of those already in Eddie Royal, who I'm sure would gladly come back if we offer him a fair deal.

Guys Who Will Get Paid Much More Than They Will Produce: Mario Manningham, New York Giants; DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles; Laurent Robinson, Dallas Cowboys; Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis Colts

If I am the Broncos, I probably stay away from these guys for the money they might command. If you could get one of Laurent Robinson or Pierre Garcon at a discounted price, I would snatch them up.

Final Thoughts

I think right now, my flavor of the day is either to sign Reggie Wayne and fill in the other spots with some other guys, but my favorite option is to go after Braylon Edwards, who could come fairly cheap with a shorter deal, probably in the range of 2-4 years.

Obviously, Edwards struggled to find a niche in San Francisco, but he was injured much of the year and I think if he comes back healthy, he could be a valuable addition.
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