Speed still kills in the NFL, and three of the NFL's fastest wide receivers on the market were signed to deals today.
While Breshad Perriman is still on the wire and Brandin Cooks is still on the block and there's always more speed to be had, the final fringes of the receiver market come into view. It's clear teams are looking to add burners to their depth chart; not necessarily as starters but certainly as depth options who can fill a role and create space for the primary pass-catchers to work.
Phillip Dorsett signs with Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks receiving corps isn't lacking for speed, but that doesn't preclude them from adding it — especially when they like to throw the ball downfield as Russell Wilson's 9.4 intended air yards were the fourth-highest in the league.
Additional depth for the Seahawks' corps was a dire need entering free agency. Seattle's starting slot role was aptly filled by stud Tyler Lockett, and the X-receiver role was again well-handled by rookie D.K. Metcalf. Phillip Dorsett will be afforded a lot of single coverage on the outside opposite Metcalf and will still a fair share of underneath and slot play as he rotates roles with Lockett.
Dorsett is only on a one-year deal, however, and has never started more than seven games in a season. If Seattle is serious about the receiver depth problem, it should consider entering the year with Dorsett as its WR4 and spend a Day 2 pick in this rich draft class to select a player to win the WR3 job. Dorsett figures to be a boom-or-bust option who can fill in nicely in the event of injury. While I love how his field-stretch ability marries with the system in the Seahawks, I don't think they want to rely on him that heavily.
But does Seattle get serious about its WR depth problem? I'm worried it won't. The Seahawks are typically skimp at the position. They drafted 3 receivers last year but can't be burned by fourth-round selection Gary Jennings failing to stick on the roster. Seattle has to dive right back into the position to find some new developmental starters.
Travis Benjamin signs with San Francisco 49ers
This isn't as clear cut as the Seahawks. The San Francisco 49ers aren’t nearly starving for receiver depth so much as they are starving for a starter.
Like Seattle, San Francisco struck gold with its second-round rookie Deebo Samuel, who fit well in Kyle Shanahan’s offense as an aggressive yards-after-the-catch player with quality speed. But with Emmanuel Sanders now in New Orleans, the 49ers have a smattering of young players in the wings vying for targets in passing packages. Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd were injured last year, Dante Pettis seems like he's on the outs with the coaching staff, Kendrick Bourne has been a reliable third or fourth option and Richie James sticks because of his returning ability. None are over 25 years old.
James is currently the returner on both kick and punt teams. Travis Benjamin's return ability is a selling point but it's worth wondering if he's on the trade block or simply is being challenged by a potentially better player. With players like James, Pettis and Marquise Goodwin — the starting deep threat — already in the building, I'm not ready to say Benjamin is a lock to make the roster. He's older, couldn't find a foothold in a weak Los Angeles Chargers wideout room, and his skill set is redundant in San Francisco.
Don't mind kicking the tires at all, I just wouldn't get my hopes too high.
Robby Anderson signs with Carolina Panthers
I don't think a lot of people saw this coming down the mountain, but here we are: Robby Anderson will go to the Carolina Panthers on a two-year, $20 million deal.
The signing was more about fit than perhaps any other signing in this free-agency period, and it’s not scheme fit. As a matter of fact, with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater operating the offense in Carolina, it's tough to see Anderson getting a lot of deep bombs, even with Joe Brady’s system as the framework. Bridgewater just doesn't like taking shots.
The fit is more about the people, namely head coach Matt Rhule, who Anderson played with at Temple in the early 2010s.
That is now the second ex-Temple offensive stud added to the roster in just as many days after P.J. Walker, the XFL star quarter who was Rhule's passer at Temple. Rhule has always sold himself as a culture guy, and it seems that his culture has stuck with Walker and Anderson.
Anderson isn't a perfect fit with the Carolina receiving corps. He fills a similar role to that of 2017 second-round pick Curtis Samuel. If the Panthers are happy with those three, I imagine Samuel will move full-time to the slot, where hopefully he can turn gadget plays into explosive gains and show off the route running that has improved across his first couple years in the league.
But don't be surprised if teams start calling about Samuel's availability, as he's never really found a home in that offense, and with running back Christian McCaffrey gobbling up those shallow targets, slot play just isn't near the ceiling on Samuel. He may be on the move for the reimagined Panthers.