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Monday, March 11, 2013
Free-agent fit: Wide receiver

By Mike Reiss

Eighth in a multi-part series on free-agent fits at various positions leading into the start of free agency March 12.

Position: Wide receiver

Players under contract for 2013: Kamar Aiken, Jeremy Ebert, Andre Holmes, Brandon Lloyd, Matthew Slater

Level of need: High

Wes Welker
Whether Wes Welker will be back is probably the top Patriots storyline of free agency.
Projected top targets: Julian Edelman (Patriots), Mohamed Massaquoi (Browns), David Nelson (Bills), Wes Welker (Patriots)

Why Edelman fits: He’s one of the NFL’s top punt returners and, if he stays healthy, adds an element of speed and dynamic play at receiver. He is recovering from a foot injury that landed him on injured reserve last December.

Why Massaquoi fits: At 6-2 and 204 pounds, he could fit as a potential low-risk, high-reward signing. Drafted in the second round by the Browns in 2009, he’s battled injuries similar to Edelman since entering the league. One also has to consider that his production is tied, in part, to the shaky quarterback play in Cleveland. He has a background with Patriots assistant Brian Daboll.

Why Nelson fits: Bill Belichick called him after the draft in 2010 as a recruiting push to sign him as a rookie free agent. Belichick has since been complimentary of Nelson (6-5, 214), whose presence in the red zone could be a boost.

Why Welker fits: Playing the last six seasons in New England, he’s been the NFL’s most productive receiver. No further explanation needed.

Other names of note: Danny Amendola (Rams), Donnie Avery (Colts), Ramses Barden (Giants), Deion Branch (Patriots), Plaxico Burress (Steelers), Austin Collie (Colts), Josh Cribbs (Browns), Braylon Edwards (Jets), Brandon Gibson (Rams), Ted Ginn (49ers), Devery Henderson (Saints), Domenik Hixon (Giants), Greg Jennings (Packers), Stefan Logan (Lions), Randy Moss (49ers), Louis Murphy (Panthers), Roscoe Parrish (Buccaneers), Jerome Simpson (Vikings), Brandon Stokley (Broncos), Brandon Tate (Bengals), Mike Wallace (Steelers)

Market conditions: There aren’t any pure outside No. 1 options in the crop, including Mike Wallace, who could be in line for a big-money contract. But teams looking to add a receiver can still find value, whether it’s for someone in the slot or the outside. Anquan Boldin’s status in Baltimore bears watching, as he could join this group.

Questions to answer at position: Will the Patriots pick up Brandon Lloyd’s $3 million option bonus in mid-March? … Does Wes Welker receive much interest elsewhere? … Can Bill Belichick turn back the clock to 2002 (Deion Branch, David Givens) for some draft success at the position?

YOUR TURN: Which of these would you like to see in a Patriots uniform? Share your thoughts in the comments section of this blog entry.