2013 NFL free agent grades: Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe top receiver contracts

Joe Sargent

In a somewhat small market for receivers, Wallace and Bowe both found gold at the end of the rainbow.

The 2013 NFL free agency period is certainly cooling off at this point, with almost all the big names having found a home. Of course, there are always a few still looking like Brian Urlacher, but by and large the recognizable faces are settled in.

When it comes to the wide receivers, the name players that were set to hit the market included Mike Wallace, Greg Jennings and Dwayne Bowe. All three are relatively young - Jennings being the old man of the group - and still highly productive.

Wide Receivers

Biggest contracts

Mike Wallace, Miami Dolphins - Five years, $60 million ($12 million per season, $11 million signing bonus, $27 million guaranteed)

Wallace took home the largest contract of any receiver after having four nice years for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Wallace is actually coming off a somewhat down year, only amassing 836 yards, the lowest total since his rookie campaign. However, Miami is paying on potential and believes they found a stud for years to come to pair with quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs - Five years, $56 million ($11.2 million per season, $15 million signing bonus, $20 million guaranteed)

Bowe was set to hit the open market before the Chiefs made him an offer he simply couldn't refuse. Kansas City signed Bowe to a five-year deal, locking up the most productive wide receiver the franchise has had since Otis Taylor. With a new quarterback in Alex Smith and a new coach in Andy Reid, Bowe was seen as a must-sign.

Greg Jennings, Minnesota Vikings - Five years, $45 million ($9 million per season, $10 million signing bonus, $17.8 million guaranteed)

Jennings committed treason to get paid, signing with a blood rival of his old team, the Green Bay Packers. For a while, it seemed like Jennings would go back to the Pack, but eventually Vikings general manager Rick Spielman was able to lure the talented playmaker to Minnesota. Last year, Jennings had the worst year of his career with only 336 yards, playing in only eight games.

Danny Amendola, New England Patriots - Five years, $31 million ($6.2 million per season, $6 million signing bonus, $10 million guaranteed)

Amendola goes to New England in hopes of filling Wes Welker's shoes, as the longtime Patriot signed with the Denver Broncos. It's a risky move for the Patriots considering Amendola's inability to stay healthy, but Bill Belichick and co. believe it can work. Last year, Amendola played 11 games and hauled in 63 catches for 666 yards.

Still on the market

Victor Cruz, New York Giants - Cruz is technically a free agent, although restricted. To sign Cruz, a team would need to give up its first-round pick to the Giants, something most teams would hesitate to do. However, it might be a bargain. Cruz has been ultra-tough to stop the last two seasons. In 2011, Cruz had 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns before gaining 1,092 yards and scoring 10 times last season.

Brandon Lloyd, New England Patriots

Lloyd only spent one year in New England before it was apparent that he might not be a great fit for the offense. The Patriots are always pining for a receiver who can stretch the field, but in reality they rely more on tight ends and slot receivers more than any team in the league. As a result, Lloyd was still solid with 911 yards and four scores, but nowhere near one of the top players at his position. He could bounce back nicely elsewhere.

Julian Edelman, New England Patriots

Edelman has never proven the ability to be a terrific receiver, but he has potential and can return kicks, both things that will earn him a contract somewhere. Edelman's best year was in 2009, his rookie season, when he registered 359 yards. Given an opportunity to start consistently in the slot, Edelman might prove to be a steal.

Steve Breaston, Kansas City Chiefs

Breaston signed a five-year deal with the Chiefs and only made it through two of them. Although it should be noted he dealt with perhaps the worst coaching staff ever put together last season, which inexplicably benched him in favor of rookie Devon Wylie who was decidedly mediocre. In 2011 Breaston was excellent, gaining 785 yards. He's worth a look as a third receiver on a good team.

Laurent Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars

Robinson is an interesting case. Two years ago, Robinson played very well for the Dallas Cowboys, catching 54 passes for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns, seven more scores than in his previous four years in the NFL. Jacksonville promptly signed him only to watch him do nothing, gaining 252 yards and never finding the end zone. At 27 years old, does he have a future?

Josh Cribbs, Cleveland Browns

After eight terrific years in Cleveland, it appears Cribbs and the team are ready to go in different directions. Cribbs is an electrifying return man who can also make the occasional play on offense. In truth, Cribbs isn't worth signing if your team needs a receiver, but as a returner he still has plenty of value.

Early Doucet, Arizona Cardinals

Doucet appeared as though he was coming into his own in 2011, snagging 54 passes for 689 yards. However, Doucet's production took a sharp downturn last year, gaining 207 yards in only 12 games. Any team that invests in him will be taking little risk since virtually no guaranteed money will have to be floated his way, so maybe it's worth the gamble.

For the sake of comparison, below are the top five contracts handed out to wide receivers one year ago, during the 2012 free agency period. A slight increase in the 2013 salary cap, and a dearth of options at the position meant huge paydays this offseason for the likes of Wallace, Bowe and Jennings. However, big offseason paydays for wide receivers are nothing new, as the five contracts below illustrate.

2012's Biggest WR Contracts

1. Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - five years, $55.56 million ($11.11 million per season, $26 million guaranteed)

2. DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles - five years, $47 million ($9.4 million per season, $10 million signing bonus, $15 million guaranteed)

3. Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints - five years, $36.6 million ($7.26 million per season, $10 million signing bonus, $17.7 million guaranteed)

4. Stevie Johnson, Buffalo Bills - five years, $36.25 million ($7.25 million per season, $8.5 million signing bonus, $18.05 million guaranteed)

5. Laurent Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars - five years, $32.5 million ($3.78 million per season, $14 million guaranteed)

The talent that was on the market at the wide receiver position in 2012 was comparable to what was available in 2013 and so was the money. Nobody signed a $60 million contract in 2012 like they did in 2013, but Vincent Jackson's $55 million contract isn't too far off.

Three of last year's biggest free agent deals represented contract extensions with the player's team. Kansas City spent big to keep Dwayne Bowe from hitting the market this year. The receiver market is never as robust as it could be because teams understand the value of established receivers, no surprise given the league's evolution.

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