NFL Free Agency Preview Part 3: Wide Receivers – 2023

by Matt Babich · Contracts & Free Agency

Welcome to the NFL Free Agency Preview Part 3: Wide Receivers! The 2022 fantasy season is over, which means it’s time to dig into the 2023 free-agent class. Every offseason, there are dozens of moving pieces around the league. These free-agent moves will play a pivotal role in how teams address the NFL draft and will change the fantasy landscape in the upcoming season.

In this four-part series, I’ll highlight the players to watch in the 2023 quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end free agent classes. For each notable free agent, I’ll discuss the likelihood of being re-signed, fitting destinations, and the expected landing spot. 

About the Free Agency Period

The legal tampering window, when preliminary talks can begin with unrestricted free agents, begins March 13, 2023 at 12 pm EST. The free agency window opens up on March 15, 2023 at 4 pm EST. Then, all free agents can begin discussions with NFL teams.

Teams can negotiate with their own players set to hit free agency beginning leading up through the franchise tag deadline of March 7, 2023. The franchise tag period opens up on February 21, 2023. Once a player is tagged, the team will have up until the July 15, 2023 deadline to sign that player to a long-term extension.

Teams with a notable starter or backup on the market

  • New England (Jakobi Meyers)
  • Kansas City (JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman)
  • Detroit (D.J. Chark)
  • Green Bay (Allen Lazard)
  • Indianapolis (Parris Campbell, Ashton Dulin)
  • New York Giants (Darius Slayton, Richie James, Sterling Sheppard)
  • Arizona Cardinals (Greg Dortch)
  • Jacksonville (Marvin Jones)

Jakobi Meyers

Once an undrafted free agent, Jakobi Meyers is now the most talented receiver in his free-agent class. He’s led the Patriots in receiving for the third consecutive season, earning a 23-percent Target Share over the span. As a talent, Meyers is consistently underrated. He’s a route-running savant, winning at least 40-percent of his routes versus man coverage in two straight seasons. Commanding 302 targets and 3,048 Air Yards since 2020, he’s fit to lead an NFL receiving core and deserves a contract that reflects as such.

Bill Belichick hasn’t always been loyal to steady producers when it comes to contracts. If there’s anyone who deserves a long-term extension, though, it’s Meyers. With New England lacking talent at the position and the free agent landscape looking scarce, they are likely to reach an agreement for Meyers to return next season. His estimated annual salary is $12.5 million (, and the Patriots are swimming in over $40 million in cap space.

Projected Landing Spot: New England

Other Potential Destinations: Chicago, Las Vegas, New York Giants

JuJu Smith-Schuster

JuJu Smith-Schuster took a bet on himself last season. He signed a one-year prove-it deal worth under $4 million dollars. Failing to reach 1,000 receiving yards and scoring only 3 (No. 50) touchdowns, this bet didn’t pan out the way he’d hoped. He earned a target share under 20-percent for the fourth straight season but did draw eight or more targets in six of his eight games prior to sustaining a nasty concussion. In spite of box score stats, his +64.8 (No. 10) Expected Points Added, 52.5-percent (No. 6) Route Win Rate, and 454 (No. 11) Yards After Catch paint a more accurate picture of his value to the franchise.

While he won’t earn the lucrative contract he was hoping for, he’s still a top name in this year’s class and should collect an annual salary between $16 and $18 million. The Chiefs’ best bet at replacing the veteran would be signing Jakobi Meyers or trying their luck in the draft once again. With the Chiefs perennially in win-now mode, they’ll attempt to resign Smith-Schuster to a multi-year deal. If there’s a team with more cap room that’s willing to surprise us and go above and beyond, as the Jaguars did with Christian Kirk, then we’ll see Smith-Schuster in a new uniform in 2023.

Projected Landing Spot: Kansas City

Other Potential Landing Spots: New York Giants, Chicago, Indianapolis

D.J. Chark

After missing 21 games due to seven different injuries in his first four seasons, D.J. Chark signed a 1-year deal with the Lions. The fifth-year veteran said it wasn’t over a lack of long-term offers, but the culture Detroit was building. The explosive downfield threat provided value to the Lions’ offense, posting a 49.7-percent (No. 11) Route Win Rate and +9.1 (No. 12) Production Premium. He’s an effective field stretcher, cashing in on 9.7 (No. 10) Yards per Target and +30.8 (No. 41) Expected Points Added in his 11 games played. That’s a valuable role for an offense, but supporting roles come with supporting contracts.

Chark should yield a 3-year, $30 million contract with a team-friendly structure similar to Russell Gage. Although Jameson Williams is presumably set to take over as the team’s secondary target, the Lions have financial interests in extending Chark. Detroit is out $6 million in cap space on his contract regardless of whether he plays due to two voided years upon signing. So, keeping the veteran around on another prove-it deal to push off and/or restructure his cap figures makes sense for Detroit. Chark has expressed his desire to return in 2023, and that’s what I expect to occur.

Projected Landing Spot: Detroit

Other Potential Destinations: New England, Chicago, Kansas City, Tennessee

Allen Lazard

With the departure of Davante Adams, Allen Lazard played his first season as the Packers’ go-to target. He surpassed a 20-percent Target Share and 1,000 Air Yards for the first time in his career but failed to reach 800 receiving yards. Lazard is a mid-level talent. He’s never produced efficiently, and he’s lost over 65-percent of his routes in each of the last two seasons. With Green Bay in a tough cap spot, they haven’t seen enough from Lazard to warrant a new contract unless Rodgers returns for another season.

Lazard is a good bet to follow Aaron Rodgers wherever he lands this off-season. At this point, the best destination would be the Las Vegas Raiders. What a reunion it would be to have Rodgers, Lazard, and Adams all together again. The Raiders have plenty of cap space to acquire Rodgers, re-sign Josh Jacobs, and bring in Lazard. Rodgers would have a spoil of riches to work with, and Lazard gets to retain the starting quarterback he’s played with his entire career.

Projected Landing Spot: Las Vegas

Other Potential Destinations: Green Bay, Chicago, Tennessee

Parris Campbell

The Colts wasted Parris Campbell for the majority of this season. Despite winning 193 (No. 5) of his 561 (No. 8) routes, he drew just 92 (No. 42) targets. The slot receiver with blazing speed was given only 6 (No. 96) Deep Targets on a 6.3 (No. 96) Average Depth of Target. He performed well when the Colts featured him in the passing game, averaging a 6.3-60.7-0.5 receiving line in games where he earned six or more targets. Campbell is an underrated talent and one the Colts will look to hold onto as they make their rebuild.

Parris Campbell Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Given previous contracts of players with similar age and talent, Campbell should receive a contract where he earns around $4 million annually and has a chance to re-enter the market in 2024 or 2025. He still has a lot to prove to earn a lucrative deal. With a thin free-agent market leaving few vacancies to fill, it makes the most sense for Campbell to return to the Colts. Indianapolis has plenty of cap room and will potentially draft a quarterback with their top-10 pick.

Projected Landing Spot: Indianapolis

Other Potential Destinations: Tennessee, Houston, New York Giants

Darius Slayton

Darius Slayton was unexpectedly thrust into the team’s leading receiver role, drawing six or more targets in eight of his last 12 games. The deep threat had his most efficient season yet in the NFL, setting career highs in Yards per Route Run, Yards per Target, and Yards per Reception. Still, the veteran has never reached 800 receiving yards in his career. His playoff performance is an example of why he deserves a starting spot on this team next season.

Battling through years of injuries, Slayton has a similar career arc as Allen Lazard (albeit with many different skill sets). It makes sense for him to garner a similarly valued contract as Lazard, somewhere near $3.5 million annually. With the Giants having all three starting receivers hit the market and Slayton putting up a memorable playoff performance, the Giants should retain Slayton on a cheap short-term deal while they retool through the draft or trade.

Projected Landing Spot: New York Giants

Other Potential Destinations: Chicago, New England, Houston, Tennessee

Mecole Hardman

Just when Mecole Hardman looked to be hitting his stride, he went on season-ending IR. The fourth-year receiver had yet to produce 700 receiving yards or even earn a 15-percent Target Share. In his last four games before the injury, he gathered seven red zone targets, produced 261 total yards, and scored five touchdowns. He made leaps as a route runner this season, winning 62.4-percent of his routes and 51.5-percent of his routes versus man coverage. Given Hardman’s athletic profile and age, he’ll hit the open market with plenty of intrigue.

Mecole Hardman Advanced Stats & Metric Profile

The former second-round pick should receive an offer near $10 million annually, due to the contracts Nelson Agholor and Russell Gage have recently signed. With the team having only $14 million in cap space and Kadarius Toney performing well in Hardman’s role, the Chiefs could opt to spend their money elsewhere. However, it’s more logical to bring back Hardman and part ways with Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Unless New England or Las Vegas make an unmatchable offer, the Chiefs will retain their dynamic playmaker.

Projected Landing Spot: Kansas City

Other Possible Destinations: New England, Las Vegas, Tennessee, Green Bay

Greg Dortch

After hardly stepping on the field his first two seasons in the NFL, Greg Dortch got his chance. In his six games relieving Rondale Moore, he was a driving force for the Arizona offense, totaling 38 receptions and 341 receiving yards. He also notched his first career game of 100 receiving yards in Week 11 with both Moore and DeAndre Hopkins Active.

The former undrafted free agent will garner interest on the market entering his fourth career season. Dortch is a restricted free agent, meaning Arizona can match any offer he receives. Due to this and Arizona needing to spend their little remaining cap space elsewhere, any multi-million dollar offer likely won’t be matched. Multiple teams could use a shifty slot receiver. With over $115 million in cap space, the Bears could slightly overspend on a short-term deal and allow Dortch (who is much better than Dante Pettis) to compete for first-team reps.

Projected Landing Spot: Chicago

Other Possible Destinations: Arizona, Tennessee, Indianapolis

Marvin Jones

Marvin Jones will hit the market once again going into his age 33-season. Despite earning five targets per game, he ended the season with near-career lows in receiving yards per game and total touchdowns. It’s safe to say his best days are behind him, but the veteran can still put defenders on skates with his routes finishing 2022 with a 42.1-percent (No. 49) Route Win Rate.  There likely won’t be too much interest in the veteran.

If he returns to play for his 11th season, a return to Jacksonville would make the most sense. Paying a large sum to Zay Jones and Christian Kirk, the team will draft Jones’s replacement and keep Jones around as more of a player-coach. The Jaguars look to have turned into true contenders, making it likely Jones sticks around for one more season to run it back.

Projected Landing Spot: Jacksonville

Other Possible Destinations: Retirement, Las Vegas, Green Bay

Richie James

After a failed stint in San Francisco, Richie James found himself in a starting role after signing a one-year deal with the New York Giants. He set career highs in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. The 27-year-old made it easy on Daniel Jones, posting a 49.1-percent (No. 13) Route Win Rate and 118.8 (No. 6) QB Rating per Target. The reliable route runner is also sure-handed, with only four career drops. Those two traits keep players on the field.

Still unproven, James won’t yield much on the market. The Giants have only Kenny Golladay and Isaiah Hodgins under contract and sit No. 2 in the NFL in available cap space. There’s a culture being built in New York, and this receiving core is a big part of it. After providing the Giants a lot of value down the stretch, I expect the Giants to extend James on a short-term deal.

Projected Landing Spot: New York Giants

Other Possible Destinations: Tennessee, Houston, Arizona

Ashton Dulin

I know that he hasn’t produced much over his career, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight Rotounderworld’s favorite Ashton Dulin. He’s produced over 1.5 Yards per Route Run in three straight seasons and won over 50-percent of his routes this season. He earned 13 targets in the first two games of 2022 and put up a five-catch, 73-yard performance in Week 2. The Colts then decided to give more playing time to Alec Pierce, who they spent a second-round pick on.

Ashton Dulin Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Dulin has an exciting athletic profile and has shown flashes of being a player worth getting excited about. After being buried in the depth chart year after year, his time in Indianapolis is likely over. Coincidentally, the Jalen Guyton and DeAndre Carter experiments are ending in Los Angeles. Dulin is a similar athlete, but is much younger than Carter and far more talented than Guyton. I think the fit makes sense and would love to see the deep threat being utilized correctly by none other than Justin “Howitzer” Herbert.

Projected Landing Spot: Los Angeles Chargers

Other Possible Destinations: Las Vegas, Kansas City, Houston, Indianapolis

Odell Beckham Jr.

Odell Beckham Jr. paraded himself around the league, visiting teams on his list of desirable suitors. With concerns about his health still present, no team opted to sign him. It’s been nearly a year since we saw Beckham on the field last. His resurgence began when he was traded to Los Angeles in 2021. He averaged 4.7 receptions on 6.8 targets per game and scored six touchdowns in his 10 healthy games as a Ram. His 2022 season effectively ended when he tore his ACL in the midst of an impressive Super Bowl performance.

There will be plenty of teams interested in bringing in the 30-year-old veteran at the right price. The Giants, already light at receiver, will likely part ways with Sterling Shepard and are the top dogs to sign Beckham this offseason. The desire for a return seems mutual between him and those in the locker room that he knows. Teams like New England and Dallas who need a veteran staple with upside will also make a push. In the end, it’s up to Beckham.

Projected Landing Spot: New York Giants

Other Possible Destinations: New England, Dallas, Las Vegas


  • Jakobi Meyers: New England → New England
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster: Kansas City → Kansas City
  • Mecole Hardman: Kansas City → Kansas City
  • D.J. Chark: Detroit → Detroit
  • Allen Lazard: Green Bay → Las Vegas
  • Parris Campbell: Indianapolis → Indianapolis
  • Ashton Dulin: Indianapolis → Los Angeles
  • Darius Slayton: New York Giants → New York Giants
  • Richie James: New York Giants → New York Giants
  • Marvin Jones: Jacksonville → Jacksonville
  • Greg Dortch: Arizona → Chicago
  • Odell Beckham Jr: Free Agent → New York Giants


The wide receiver free agent class is rather disappointing overall. While many predict these “carousels” of players moving on to new teams, very few teams have a reason to heavily pursue these free agents outside of their current employers. The top-level talent is going to be wanted back by their current clubs, and there is no reason for most teams to break up their current receiving core for the mid-level talent. Even franchises like Houston and Tennessee have their three-receiver sets filled out enough to be able to pass on a lot of names on this list. Surely, I could be dead wrong, but I’m predicting we see many receivers stay put this season.

The moves that are made will change how we’ll approach our fantasy drafts this summer. There have been very few official reports on free agents since the season has not yet ended, so take any predictions as conjecture. Next, in the series’s final installment, we’ll break down scenarios for free-agent tight ends. Thanks for reading!