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Titans 2009 offseason positional analysis – wide receivers

Once again, Total Titans will be doing analyses on all the different positions or position groups this offseason, viewing the current situation, analyzing the players, and having a look ahead to see what needs to be done in free agency and the draft. We’ll also be doing another review after the draft and minicamps to update the situation going into the preseason.
We’ll start this year by looking at the wide receivers and I believe we all agree that’s an area that needs to be addressed in free agency and the draft. The 2008 Tennessee Titans were 28th in the league in receiving and that stat is misleading because neither of the team’s top two leaders in receptions were wide receivers.

While I hate to prophesy doom and gloom, things may get a lot worse before they get better for the Titans receiving corps. Remember the 2005 Titans? They had only two veteran receivers, Drew Bennett and Tyrone Calico, going into the season. The Titans drafted three rookie WRs that year and Ray Sherman, who was then the WR position coach, informed the three that he wasn’t going to treat them like rookies. He told them he was counting on them to play and to produce.
The situation could be similar this year. There’s only one experienced receiver who we know will be back this season, Justin Gage. Two other veterans, Brandon Jones and Justin McCareins, may each leave as unrestricted free agents and I’m not exactly thrilled by either of them, although I do like McCareins as a blocker.
So if you lose both Jones and McCareins, you go down the depth chart and see the inexperienced Lavelle Hawkins, who had only seven receptions. I have no confidence in Chris Davis or Paul Williams, who combined for three catches last year. The coaching staff doesn’t seem to have much confidence in them, either. They’ve each had two years to prove themselves and haven’t done so. I’ll be surprised if either of them makes the team next season. If we can’t find two guys who can beat them out, we’re really in trouble. Biren Ealy remains as a project on the practice squad. We may have to draft another batch of rookie wideouts if we can’t get a veteran or two in free agency. That’s scary.
I don’t believe you can count much on a rookie receiver. I certainly won’t pin my hopes on one. Not a single NFL team deemed one worthy of being selected in the first round of last year’s draft. Eddie Royal, selected by the Broncos in the second round last year, was the most productive WR in last year’s rookie class. That was mainly because Denver had a terrible defense and a rash of injuries to their running backs, so they threw the ball more often than any other team in the league last year except for the Saints. DeSean Jackson had a good season in Philadelphia. That was pretty much about it for the 2008 rookie WRs.
Of the three rookie WRs the Titans drafted in 2005, Jones is the only one who lasted for his entire four-year contract. Courtney Roby and Roydell Williams were both released.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh seems to be the best WR on the free agent market, assuming he doesn’t re-sign with the Bengals. I’ll bet he’ll be too expensive for Mike Reinfeldt’s blood so we probably won’t get him,
Speaking of the Saints, Devery Henderson is scheduled to be unrestricted and Marques Colston a restricted free agent. But they’ll probably be out of Reinfeldt’s price range too, assuming they won’t be kept by New Orleans. By the way, if what you want is a deep threat who can stretch the field, Henderson is your man. He averaged 25 yards per catch last year and has averaged 22 yards per reception for his career.
I don’t know if any of those three potential free agents have any baggage which would preclude them from being considered. If you happen to know, please speak up.
Are there any other free agent WRs out there that you like? Drexel just wrote a fine article in which he suggested Jeremy Maclin and Percy Harvin as potential draft picks. Any other suggestions you have there?