NFL free-agent rankings: Top 5 WRs includes gambles galore

Yahoo Sports is ranking the top five NFL free agents by position. (Mallory Bielecki/Yahoo Sports)
Yahoo Sports is ranking the top five NFL free agents by position. (Mallory Bielecki/Yahoo Sports)

Teams don't let their best players hit free agency, and that's especially true for receivers.

Last season saw a very weak receiver class in free agency, and this year's class lost some key names long before the legal tampering period. Tee Higgins would have been a huge prize for teams with a ton of cap space, but he was given the franchise tag by the Cincinnati Bengals. Mike Evans was a true No. 1 that could have hit the market, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed him to a two-year extension. Then the Indianapolis Colts gave the franchise tag to Michael Pittman Jr.

There are still some viable options at receiver but not as much as some teams needy at the position would like. Here are the top five free agent wide receivers:

1. Arizona Cardinals WR Marquise Brown

(UPDATE: Signing with Chiefs for 1 year, $11M)

Two years ago, Brown was worth a first-round draft pick in a trade from the Baltimore Ravens to the Cardinals. In two Cardinals seasons he missed eight games due to injury and had just 1,283 yards and seven touchdowns. Subpar quarterback play, when Kyler Murray was injured, played a part in that. He gets quite an upgrade on a one-year prove-it-deal with Patrick Mahomes tossing passes at him. Brown remains a former first-round pick, just 26 years old, and he had a 1,000-yard season in 2021.

2. Calvin Ridley, Jacksonville Jaguars

(UPDATED: Signing four-year deal with Titans)

Not too long ago Ridley was a top-10 receiver. He had 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns in 2020. Then he had a weird 2021 with just five games played, a lost 2022 due to a gambling suspension and his 2023 season wasn't bad but still underwhelmed. He had 1,016 yards in a pretty good Jaguars offense. Now Ridley is 29 years old and that 2020 season seems long ago. But he stands out in a thin WR class.

3. Los Angeles Chargers WR Mike Williams

(UPDATE: Signing with Jets on 1-year, $15M deal)

Williams was cut for salary-cap reasons, and the Chargers had to be disappointed Williams played just 16 games the past two seasons. When the oft-Williams plays he's a top performer. He was the seventh pick of the 2017 draft, has two 1,000-yard seasons and is still just 29 years old. Williams is coming off an ACL injury. But in a very thin receiver market, Williams' talent stands out.

4. Gabe Davis, Buffalo Bills

(UPDATE: Davis and Jaguars agreed to a three-year deal)

The Bills probably wanted Davis back, but there's not a lot of cap space. The Jaguars looked at the best in Davis and bought in. He has been inconsistent but his big games have been tremendous. He's a big-play threat with a 16.7-yard average per catch and 27 career touchdowns in four seasons. He hasn't had more than 836 yards in a season and shouldn't be cast as the Jags' No. 1 but he's surprisingly just 24 years old and can be a strong asset for many years to come.

5. Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals

Boyd is going to turn 30 years old this season, but he's still a strong slot receiver whose production was limited because the Bengals had two superstar receivers out wide. Boyd does have two 1,000-yard seasons on his resume and put up reasonable numbers even with Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins attracting a lot of targets.