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Monday, June 27, 2011
Free agency in the East: Wide receivers

By Dan Graziano

Our position-by-position look at potential four-year unrestricted free agency and its impact on the NFC East teams rolls along this afternoon with a look at the wide receivers. Outside of Washington, this isn't a position of great need in the division, but we'll throw the Giants and Eagles in for the sake of keeping it interesting and for the very specific reasons outlined in their blurbs.

NFC East teams in need

Redskins: This is a big-time need position for Washington, and what the Redskins do in free agency could be a very interesting signal about their long-term plans. The thought is that they'll just re-sign Santana Moss and let Anthony Armstrong, Leonard Hankerson and the young guys develop. And it could be difficult to lure a big free-agent wideout when they don't know who their quarterback is going to be. But if they pass up the chance to fill a need this serious, it could be the best indication yet that they plan to make their big play for their franchise quarterback in next year's draft and want to conserve the resources they'll need to (a) draft him, (b) pay him and (c) put the pieces around him once they know who he is.

Giants: Steve Smith's knee injury hurt his chances of getting the great big deal he wanted, and as a result it might help keep him in New York. The Giants want him back, since he fits his role so perfectly and therefore allows Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham to thrive in theirs. Should Smith leave, the Giants would be in the market for receiver help, though it's doubtful they'd have very much in the budget with which to pursue the top available guys.

Eagles: The Eagles don't "need" a receiver. They're in here because they've been linked to Plaxico Burress, whose size and physicality would enable him to fill a very specific role for them if that's what he wants to do. Malcom Floyd, who's on this list, is also the kind of big, physical guy who could be that red zone presence for the Eagles. But he's liable to command a bigger deal than is Burress, and the Eagles have other needs on which to spend money.

Top five potential unrestricted free-agent wide receivers:

1. Santonio Holmes. Given all of the supposed baggage, the early season suspension and the issues he was supposed to have after the trade, Holmes had an incredible year for the Jets, who have said they intend to keep him. Of course, if they do keep him, that could mean teammate Braylon Edwards is on the market.

2. Sidney Rice. The big question with Rice is about his hip, which cost him almost all of the 2010 season. He was a revelation in 2009, teaming with Brett Favre to get the Vikings within an interception or two of the Super Bowl. If he's healthy, he could be a tremendous asset to whomever the Redskins have at quarterback -- this year and beyond.

3. Edwards. Not the same kind of player Holmes is, but not a bad consolation prize either. The knock on him has always been dropped balls, but he showed improvement in that critical area in 2010.

4. Floyd. Assuming the Chargers don't finally trade Vincent Jackson, they're probably going to let the 6-foot-5 Floyd hit the market. He'll be appealing to teams looking for that big, strong red zone target. He just hasn't shown the ability to produce over the long haul the way some of the guys ahead of him on this list have.

5. Smith. His big year was 2009, and had he been an unrestricted free agent then, he'd likely have cashed in big-time on his 100-catch season. But the knee injury that knocked him out in 2010 is likely to hurt his value, and if he can't prove to teams he's 100 percent healthy, he's going to have to wait for that big payday.

Predictions that mean nothing: The Redskins bring back Moss and decide to sit out the bigger-name market while they see what they have in Armstrong et al. The Eagles make a play for Burress, but another team offers more money and a bigger job and he goes to a situation that's less ideal for him. The Eagles then sit out the receiver market as well. Giants sign Smith, though not before Lance Moore's name is thrown around a lot as a potential fallback option.