Monday, February 25, 2008

Free Agency Preview: Wide Receivers

This is Part III of an ongoing look at Miami's options in free agency. For the previous installments, see:

Part I: Quarterbacks, Part II: Running backs

The current situation: Last season, Miami traded away its top receiver, Chris Chambers, and this offseason they ditched their other veteran presence at the position - Marty Booker. Miami's remaining pass catchers are greener than a well-manicured golf course, with an up-and-coming Ted Ginn as the best and most promising of the bunch. Aside from Ginn, the Dolphins have an unfocused and inconsistent player in Derek Hagan and a trio of young, project/practice-squad type players. For a rebuilding team, this kind of youth is a good thing, but Miami must find a starting quality receiver to play opposite Ginn and take some of the pressure off of him. A possession receiver would also be a nice addition to pair with Ginn's electric speed.

Free agents:

Randy Moss: Moss is in the perfect situation in New England, and it would make little sense for him to leave. Besides, he clearly needs a great quarterback to thrive and be happy - something that he is not guaranteed to have in Miami. I'd be very surprised if Moss left the Patriots after only one year.

Bernard Berrian: Berrian has managed to post impressive numbers over the past two seasons while playing for a Rex Grossman-led offense. This past season, he almost cracked the 1,000 yard mark. If he can be that effective with Grossman throwing him the ball, I believe he can be just as effective with John Beck or whoever else is lining up under center for the Dolphins as his QB. The biggest draw about Berrian is that he is only 27 years old and still has room to improve. A drawback as far as the Dolphins are concerned, is that Berrian is essentially a speedy deep-threat. They already have that covered with Ginn. Miami could use someone with a bit more diverse skillset.

D.J. Hackett: If I'm Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland, this is the guy that I go out and sign. Hackett is dripping with talent, size (6'2", 208 lbs.), speed, and youth (only 26 years old). He has everything Miami could want. Granted, he's a risk because of his injury history, but this is the kind of risk that Miami should be willing to take on. In his six games last season, he played like a star. In the limited action that he did see, Hackett managed to catch 68.1 percent of the passes thrown his way, dropping just one. Hackett could be a potential steal of a signing, and I think whoever gets him will be very pleased that they did.

Donte' Stallworth: On a team that set so many offensive records, you'd think that Stallworth would have contributed a bit more to the passing attack. In actuality, Stallworth seemed to disappear this year behind Moss and Wes Welker, and even Jabar Gaffney was outplaying him at the end of the season. I'm a little leary about taking a chance on Stallworth after his performance last season, and I have an inkling that he's already reached his full potential. He's still young, so I don't expect a drastic decline in productivity any time soon, and thus he is an option for Miami - just not the best option.

Bryant Johnson: Johnson is the type of possession receiver that Miami should have its eye on, although I think that Derek Hagan can be just as good as Johnson. Johnson gets a lot of attention because he was a first-round draft pick, but I think it's fair to say at this point that he isn't a first-round talent. Of course, that is no reason to exclude him from consideration as a free agent. What may be a viable reason to exclude him is the fact that he dropped four passes out of only 89 targets. Of course, he is still only 26 years old, and Parcells loves big possession receivers, so I expect Miami to take a serious look at Johnson.

Keyshawn Johnson: Speaking of Johnsons, Miami should in no way consider bringing Keyshawn aboard. I realize that Parcells loves him, but he can be of absolutely no help to this team in the long term and of very limited use in the short term. Why bring in Keyshawn if you can get a guy a decade younger who can produce at the same level with the added promise of improvement (aka Bryant Johnson and/or D.J. Hackett)?

While D.J. Hackett and Bryant Johnson are the best options available to Miami in free agency there are several other options that fit the youth and upside characteristics that the Dolphins should be looking for. They include: Justing Gage, Andre Davis, and Drew Carter.

In an otherwise shallow free agency pool, Miami has a lot of options to sift through at receiver, and most of them are still young enough to be able to contribute once the Dolphins are prepared to contend.

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