Free Agent Primer: Wide receivers

Free Agent Primer: Wide receivers

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

When and if the labor situation gets settled, the NFL's free agent shopping period will follow soon after. Who's out there? What do the Patriots need? What do the Patriots have? We'll go position-by-position to bring you up-to-speed. WIDE RECEIVERStatus Report: The Patriots scored 31 or more points in every game after the Cleveland debacle. 39, 31, 45, 45, 36, 31, 34, 38. Five players caught more than 30 balls, six players were over 375 yards receiving. Their passing game is excellent. Their wide receivers had a terrific year. But still...there's something that makes you feel they could be more complete at the position. And better stocked for the future.Who They Got: Wes Welker is entering the final year of his contract and is about to turn30.Coming off the ACL injury, he hada modest year by his recent standards - 86 catches for 848 yards and 9.9 average. His could be a sticky renegotiation.Deion Branch is 32. His presence kick-started the offense and - in an upset - opened things up for diversity the way Randy Moss didn't. Brandon Tate remains raw but he's their X receiver. Julian Edelman had a very disappointing second year and was plagued by drops. Taylor Price performed a season-long apprenticeship as a rookie before making three catches in the regular-season finale. What They Need:For one thing, they need to panic less than the region did after the playoff loss to the Jets. FIELD STRETCHAAAHHH! THEY NEED A FIELD STRETCHAAHHH! They do need a better outside the numbers threat than simply Tate, though. And they need better depth at all three receiver spots. But the transformation of the passing game from a wideout-based one to one that features tight ends means we have to redefine what they need going forward. The Patriots have made a habit of trying to find smart, veteran receivers who are advanced in the pro passing game. Those are the ones with whom Brady has most success. There have been misses - Torry Holt, Joey Galloway - but they are always looking for that kind of player. Who's Out There: Braylon Edwards (Jets),Sidney Rice(Vikings), Brad Smith (Jets), Steve Smith (Giants), Santonio Holmes (Jets), Santana Moss (Redskins), Terrell Owens (Bengals), Mike Sims-Walker (Jaguars), Randy Moss (Titans), Lance Moore (Saints), Jacoby Jones(Texans) Possible Targets: Santana Moss, Brad Smith, Lance Moore, Jacoby Jones. Braylon's a moron; Santonio and the Giants Steve Smith want to stay where they are. Santana Moss is a smart route runner. Smith is a Swiss Army knife and his gain would be the Jets' loss. One guy the Patriots should explore is the Panthers' Steve Smith. He turns 32 in May and has two years left on his contract. He's got nobody to throw to him in Carolina and his numbers reflect that 46 catches for 554 yards last year. He is the same as a Corey Dillon or Randy Moss - very talented, very competitive and combustible. New England would be Eden for him for a year or two. A third-round pick could get it done on draft day. More than Chad Ochocinco, who - a well-informed source recently told me - has lost his nerve and work ethic - Smith is the kind of player to target.

Mike Giardi: Don’t think Patriots will use franchise tag on Dont'a Hightower

Mike Giardi: Don’t think Patriots will use franchise tag on Dont'a Hightower

Mike Giardi discusses the odds that the New England Patriots franchise tag Dont'a Hightower and what he expects the Pats to get if they were to trade Jimmy Garoppolo.

Arizona Cardinals place franchise tag on Chandler Jones

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Arizona Cardinals place franchise tag on Chandler Jones

PHOENIX - The Arizona Cardinals, in an anticipated move, have placed a non-exclusive franchise tag on outside linebacker Chandler Jones after failing to reach a long-term deal with the player.

The non-exclusive tag allows the Cardinals to continue negotiating with Jones through July 15. If another team makes him an offer, Arizona can either match it or receive two first-round draft picks.

It's unlikely that any team would express interest in Jones, however, given what it would cost.

Under the franchise tag, Jones would receive about $15 million for the coming season.

Acquired in a trade with New England a year ago, Jones had 11 sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 15 tackles for loss last season

Jones has 25 1-2 sacks over the past two seasons, third-most in the NFL over that span.

The Cardinals' move came two days before the NFL deadline for making franchise designations.

It also came on Jones' 27th birthday, prompting teammate David Johnson to tweet "Happy BDay to `The Man,' `Mr. Franchise' himself.....The one and only."

The franchise tag move came as no surprise.

Club President Michael Bidwill has stated all along that Jones would not be going anywhere, that the team didn't make the trade - sending guard Jonathan Cooper and a second-round draft pick to New England - to keep him just for one season.

"We're not going to mess around with that," Bidwill said in a recent interview on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. "He's a great pass rusher, but if we can't agree to terms that work for us, we're just going to franchise him, and his people know that."

Jones immediately upgraded what had been an average Cardinals pass rush at best. His fellow outside linebacker Markus Golden had 12 1-2 sacks and seven tackles for loss. Together they form one of the better outside pass rush combinations in the NFL.

By all accounts, the contract talks with Jones have been cordial and Jones has said he wants to stay in Arizona.

"I love it here," he said near the end of last season. "I love the vibe that the people give off and I can see myself being here for a long time."

Chandler heads a long list of free agents that the Cardinals must either re-sign or let go. That group includes starters defensive tackle Calais Campbell, safety Tony Jefferson and inside linebacker Kevin Minter.