Free agent wide receivers the Titans should avoid overpaying

Every offseason, we witness a couple of free agents around the NFL receive large sums of money that don’t equal their actual value.

“Overpaying” is the right word here, and the consequences of that single concept has led so many teams to bury their future salary cap and on-field situations into the ground. It’s why so many teams are in tune with the new-era cap flexibility of the modern NFL, so those backbreaking mistakes don’t come back to bite them.

Easy to understand right?

But for a team like the Tennessee Titans, one that’s set to contend while still possessing a number of key holes on the roster, the concept of avoiding big cap hits and free agent mistakes is more prone to being thrown out the window — it’s like Bruce Arians says, “No risk it, no biscuit.”

The Titans are still in need of a top-tier pass rusher, and potentially a new WR2 depending on how Corey Davis’ free agency process pans out. There’s plenty of good options on the market to address their needs, but some will come at a price only salary cap-rich teams can comfortably afford.

Unfortunately for Tennessee, they’re not one of those teams. In fact, they’re closer to being in the red than the green when it comes to cap space.

They’re in a little bit of a seesaw situation here.

Do you try to save money while still targeting serviceable talent? Or do you go wild, swing for the fences, and try for a title while your window is still open?

No matter what route the Titans take, they have to remain grounded in their pursuit of talent. That means no gross underpayments, no hesitant negotiating tactics, and zero examples of overpaying for whatever free agents they set their eyes on.

Today, we’ll focus on some wide receivers the Titans should avoid overpaying when free agency opens next month. Check back tomorrow for edge rushers.

Wide Receivers to Avoid Overpaying

Corey Davis is set to command a pretty penny once he officially hits the market next month.

With the Titans still riding their contender status and preaching continuity, it’s best if the team retains the former fifth overall pick’s services. But let’s say the Titans want to upgrade from Davis and his inconsistency issues. If so, there’s a few candidates out there.

Allen Robinson

Allen Robinson has torched the league for the vast majority of his successful career. But what’s made his success so special is that he’s found it while playing with bottom-of-the-barrel quarterback talent.

Blake Bortles, Mitchell Trubisky, Nick Foles… those are just three of the quarterbacks Robinson has had the honor of catching footballs from. If you’ve simply watched these guys over the last five or so combined years, you know not to run them out as starters, even if your life depended on it.

Despite that though, Robinson has remained consistent with his production, and now he is primed to fully explode in an offense with a good quarterback and a good structure.

So how about Tennessee?

We know how explosive that offense was last season before falling flat on its face against Baltimore in the playoffs. It might be attractive to a free agent receiver: the running game is dominant, your potential running mate A.J. Brown is arguably the best young wide receiver in football, and Ryan Tannehill will waltz into the 2021 season as a consensus preseason top-ten quarterback.

It sounds like a great opportunity for a player like Robinson, doesn’t it?

But for the Titans, I think it’s best they stay away. Robinson is going to command a lot of money on a per-year basis, probably nothing less than $15M annually, and perhaps considerably more. Spotrac projects his market value at over $20M per year.

Mike Vrabel’s team is already dealing with a difficult cap situation and a more important need in an instant-impact pass rusher. The best idea here is to hold off and spend your big money elsewhere. There are a number of talented wide receivers in this upcoming draft class who could fill Davis’ shoes.

All that said, Allen Robinson in this offense would be salivating.

Josh Reynolds

This is an interesting one.

In his first three years with the Los Angeles Rams, Reynolds never really elevated past his WR4 role, but with Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Brandin Cooks holding the top three spots hostage, it’s easy to understand why.

Once Cooks was traded to Houston last offseason, Reynolds was finally given his chance to make a big impact, this time as WR3 behind Kupp and Woods.

The former Texas A&M product didn’t disappoint, hauling in 52 catches for 618 yards and two touchdowns while doing most of his work behind the sticks to fit the bill of the Rams’ short passing game.

It’s also fair to wonder how much his production was limited by Jared Goff’s underwhelming performance in 2020, but we’ll save that discussion for another day.

Reynolds’ uptick in production along with his increased role could result in a decent contract this offseason. He’s a big-bodied wide receiver with good hands, decent route-running skills, a familiarity with the West Coast offensive system, and he possesses a skill the Titans have utilized with their receivers for a few years now:

The ability to rip off loads of yards after the catch.

Reynolds is likely viewed as a WR3 at best for most teams, and that may be because he hasn’t had the opportunity to be more productive over the course of his short career.

But he possesses some traits that might tempt teams into giving him a bigger deal and an increased role, especially if the team has an offense that fits his unique skill set. I’d be in favor of the Titans looking at Reynolds as a potential option for the WR2 role, but he’d have to come at a reasonable price. It would be unwise to overpay for a mostly unproven player.

Corey Davis

Of course, the best option to replace Corey Davis would be to avoid having to replace him at all. But here’s the deal with re-signing Davis…

I’m sure the Titans would love to have him back. He combined with Brown to create a lethal one-two punch at wide receiver for the Titans in 2020, and his underrated skills as a run blocker helps this Titans run game a ton. He’s already familiar with the offensive system, the coaching staff, and the other players, and he has an established rapport with Tannehill.

But he’s going to receive a lot of interest on the market, simply due to the fact that he’s a big-bodied, physical wide receiver who can make things happen before and after the catch, along with the plethora of skills that make him so special.

Spotrac currently has his market value at around $9.8M per year, which I feel like is too low compared to the offers he truly might receive once free agency officially begins.

If you can get Davis back for under $10M, that seems like a bargain. But if the bidding gets to prices around $11M, $12M or anything above that, Jon Robinson and the Titans will just have to balk at the chance of retaining Davis’ services.

Tennessee needs to set aside as much money as possible to acquire a top-tier pass rusher in free agency. Overpaying for Davis is one of the ways to eliminate any possibility of that, so Robinson has to remain disciplined.

And as mentioned above, there will be plenty of wide receiver talent available in free agency and the draft, so even if the Titans lose Davis, they’re in a good spot to quickly find a suitable replacement.

Let us know your thoughts on the Titans’ wide receiver situation in the comments below!

Comments

  1. Allen Robinson’s price tag isn’t what concerns me, it’s how he gets his production and scheme fit.

    He’s a high volume WR and had 158 targets last year.

    For comparison, AJ Brown had 116, while Davis had 94.

    Will he be happy with fewer targets in Tennessee?

    If that’s not an issue and he can have similar or better production than Davis, I say sign him.

    Cap is a non-issue for Tennessee. They can free up $50 million through restructures alone and can keep Robinson’s initial cap hit low.

    Tennessee has some major holes behind Brown. If you can replace Davis with Robinson, Godwin, JuJu or Galloway, go for it.

  2. “There are a number of talented wide receivers in this upcoming draft class who could fill Davis’ shoes.” This comment ignores our franchise’s decades-long history of drafting underperforming receivers. Simply put, we’ve always stunk at it. We are not Pittsburgh, where All-Pro receivers seemingly fall from the sky. I’d much rather stick to a pairing we know is good, rather than roll the dice with the draft for our #2, to be honest.

    1. That is true but considering JRob’s drafted receiver history, he’s been pretty great. Tajae Sharpe was a solid find in the 5th round who contributed on his rookie contract, Corey Davis is the guy we’re talking about needing to replace, and A.J. Brown is one of the best young WRs in the league. JRob may have an eye for this position (he was also in Tampa when they drafted Mike Evans).

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