If your favorite team is looking to make a splash at wide receiver they will consider free agent options like Mike Wallace or Greg Jennings. Both will command Vincent Jackson type money and may earn their paycheck depending upon whether they can stay healthy and get along with their new team for an extended period of time. Budget conscious teams have options on the perimeter too. Much like last week when we highlighted under the radar running backs that teams will target, players like Steve Breaston, Dominik Hixon, Julian Edelman, Austin Collie, and Brian Hartline can all provide upside on the outside without breaking the bank.
During his first two NFL season's Steve Breaston was buried on the Cardinals depth chart behind Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. In 2008, Breaston started six games when Boldin was hurt. Playing with Kurt Warner he put together a 77 catch, 1,000 yard season. Since then the University of Michigan product has looked like a third receiver. However, it is hard to excel when half of your career has been dependent on Derek Anderson and Matt Cassel getting you the ball. After barely seeing the field with the Chiefs last season, Breaston will not get a huge amount of money. He is a capable third receiver, and has potential to surprise if teamed with a quality quarterback.
Domenik Hixon is a young 28. He hasn't played enough to have a lot of mileage on his body and when called upon has produced. Hixon has been behind Plaxico Burress, Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks, and Victor Cruz for most of his career with the Giants. When Burress was suspended in 2008 Hixon stepped in and caught 43 passes for nearly 600 yards. This past season, as nothing more than an extra option, he played in 13 games and grabbed 39 balls for 567 yards. Born in Germany, Hixon was drafted by the Broncos out of Akron. At times during his career he has proven to be an elusive punt and kick returner.
Another player that has been buried on the depth chart is Julian Edelman. Sometimes referred to as a mini version of Wes Welker, Edelman can play the slot, return kicks, occasionally run the ball, and has even played defense in spot duty. On a team full of weapons, Edelman has never been given a full opportunity to excel. He has also been injury prone. However, an undersized receiver with good hands, that runs good routes, and does not have breakaway speed profiles a like Dolphin slot man Devone Bess. If Edelman finds a team that uses him frequently, catching 70 passes and gaining 700 or 800 yards is very possible.
Like Edelman, Austin Collie is coming off an injury. Collie missed all but one game with the Colts last year because of a torn patellar tendon. The Indianapolis Star's Bob Kravitz quoted a source saying that had Collie come into the league with Peyton Manning and remained healthy “he would have put up Welker like numbers.” Collie caught 54 passes two years ago for a team that featured Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky, and Kerry Collins at quarterback. The previous two years he played behind Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon posting a total of 118 receptions for more than 1,300 yards.
Brian Hartline hits free agency at age 26 and coming off his best season in the NFL. The Dolphins wideout snared 74 passes last year for 1,083 yards. Given a greater role when Miami traded Brandon Marshall to Chicago, Hartline excelled. He tallied a franchise record 253 yards in a game early last season against the Cardinals. During 10 different games last year he hauled in a pass of 20 yards or more. He began his career at Ohio State as a quarterback before moving to wide receiver. While Hartline will get a decent contract, it will not be for huge dollars, and he is a reliable and durable second option for most teams.
Having capable receivers is vitally important for any quarterback. Among this group are some good possibilities for teams looking to enhance their group of receivers particularly as the second or third options at a reasonable price.