The No. 1 reason why Randy Moss’s attempt at a comeback is very likely to resemble Tiki Barber’s attempt from a year ago? The market for free-agent wide receivers is simply going to be too crowded.
Yesterday we learned that the Bills likely won’t use the franchise tag on Stevie Johnson, which could expose the young, talented wideout to the open market. Vincent Jackson is probably in the same situation in San Diego. And last week it was established that the Steelers might have a difficult time keeping impending restricted free agent Mike Wallace in town.
If Johnson and Jackson and Brandon Lloyd and maybe even Marques Colston and Dwayne Bowe hit the open market and the speedy Wallace can be had for a new contract and a first-round pick, where does that leave Moss?
Probably in the same spot T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Terrell Owens and Moss himself found themselves in last year. All three weren’t able to find jobs despite being part of a free-agent receiver class with less star power or overall talent.
Things will be particularly interesting (as they always are) at the top. While Johnson, Vincent Jackson, Colston and Bowe are borderline No. 1 wideouts and likely to come at decent prices due to market saturation, Wallace stands out as a 25-year-old who can change an offense with his home-run ability. It’s rare that a player like that becomes available.
The problem is that while Wallace can be had for the right price, the trade market is likely to contain another 25-year-old speedster with big-play ability. I didn’t list DeSean Jackson above as a potential free agent, because the Eagles are almost certain to use the franchise tag on him prior to the March 5 deadline. But after that, there’s also a good chance the team seeks to trade Jackson, who would be a holdout waiting to happen with sky-high demands.
What happens if both Wallace and Jackson are for sale? Their problem is that they’re very similar players.
Wallace and Jackson rank first and second, respectively, in catches of 25-plus yards the last two seasons, according to ESPN’s NFL Live. The two receivers averaged the exact same yards per catch last year (16.6). And among wide receivers with at least 40 catches in 2010, Jackson (22.5) and Wallace (21.0) finished first and second in yards per catch.
But in most major receiving categories, Wallace has the slight edge. Here’s a comparison of their last two seasons:
Wallace: 132 REC, 2,450 YDS, 18 TD
Jackson: 105 REC, 2,017 YDS, 10 TD
The real winners here: 31 of the 32 NFL teams (the Steelers would see their chances of keeping Wallace increase).
The real losers: DeSean Jackson (who might have to hold out or play under the tag) and the Eagles (who could either have to stick with Jackson at a high price or let him walk for free).
Oh, and Randy Moss.