In what is unquestionably a pass-heavy league in the modern day, it's no secret that wide receiver is one of the most important positions on the field. Sure, a good quarterback can elevate the receiving corps as a whole, but it still takes a talented pass-catcher to pull his own weight in any half-decent offense. With free agency just around the corner, and the NFL offseason about to fully kick into gear, there's no doubt that we're going to be seeing some shakeups at this position for much of the league, in one form or another.
Whether it's a contractual dispute, a bad attitude, or simply a lack of production on the field, there are many wide receivers currently on a roster that simply aren't going to make the cut in their incumbent situation. NFL front offices know they can't afford to settle at a position that has a big hand in improving their offense. Let's take a look at some receivers who will be on the hot seat this offseason, and some players that may be taking their place.
Ranked below are 8 NFL wide receivers most likely to lose their jobs, and 8 candidates to replace them.
16 Lose Their Job: Terrelle Pryor
Simply a disaster by the mid-point of last season, Pryor didn't excel in Washington the way many expected him to, after breaking out with the Browns in 2016. The converted quarterback is undeniably a good athlete, but can he sustain success in the NFL as a wide receiver? That remains to be seen, and it's likely that the Redskins have seen enough. They probably won't be offering him a contract extension.
Washington currently has several in-house replacements available to them, including former 1st-round pick Josh Doctson, so there won't be an issue on that front. Pryor will get a chance on another roster for the 2018 season, but he won't have the hype attached to him that he did coming into 2017, so it actually could work to his advantage, if he goes to the right situation.
15 Replace Him: Josh Doctson
As mentioned, Doctson is an in-house candidate to become the confirmed go-to receiver for the Redskins this upcoming season. There were flashes of brilliance in 2017, despite a slow start to his career, and now he could be primed to break out for his first 1,000-yard season in the NFL. Without question, Doctson is the young receiver with the most sheer ability on the Washington roster at the moment.
So he'll likely be the guy to step up and take charge for this position group. There are other options available to the Redskins, but Doctson has the continuity and overall skill to make him the premier pass-catcher on the team for the foreseeable future. He'll probably get first dibs on the starting job, until he proves that it was a mistake.
14 Lose Their Job: Dez Bryant
The relationship between Bryant and the Cowboys has been slowly severing over the past few years, and there's little question that his days are numbered in Dallas. While he's been one of the team's all-time best receiver at some points in his career, in recent years the production just hasn't been up to his usual standard, despite still receiving far and away the most targets on the team.
He's a potential trade candidate in the offseason, and is still young enough, hovering around the age of 30, that another team will want to give him a shot. The Cowboys could be intent on cutting some of his contract, and allowing someone else to take the top spot on the receiver depth chart for 2018. We could see a swap between him and our following entry...
13 Replace Him: Mike Wallace
Wallace is getting up there in age, but his production was in line with what Bryant was doing last season, and on top of it, he'll come at a cheaper price. The Cowboys won't have many options available to them to instantly replace a go-to wide receiver (their cap situation isn't the best), but Wallace is an option that will come relatively cheap, and could have some decent output as a stopgap, until they get another true blue-chip receiver.
Making his reputation as an NFL nomad, we all know that Wallace has no problem changing teams. It's pretty much what he does every time his contract has been up, so this offseason should be no different. He may not end up landing in Dallas, but they should at least give him a look for the price.
12 Lose Their Job: Jordan Matthews
While the deal for Matthews may have been more about the draft received from the Bills' perspective, they still needed help at wide receiver, and he seemed like a lower-cost option that could come in and be effective. Unfortunately, Matthews had a down season in a run-heavy offense, and also suffered some significant injury. He's a free agent this year, and there's really no guarantee that Buffalo would be willing to bring him back.
In 10 games played, his production was pedestrian, and certainly was a prompt for the team to make the trade for Kelvin Benjamin midway through the season. Matthews can have success in the right system, but it's clear that Buffalo has soured on him quickly, and he'll probably hit the open market.
11 Replace Him: Kelvin Benjamin
The aforementioned Benjamin is primed to be the main receiver in Buffalo, effectively immediately. He may have been so-s0 with the team during this past season, but that was with him coming into the system mid-way through the year. The prospects for Benjamin's production appear much better for the 2018 season.
We've seen him play near an elite level before in Carolina, and if the Bills' passing attack is going to improve, it'll be up to him, as well as 2nd-year man Zay Jones next year. With an entire offseason of preparation, it's a good bet that Benjamin will once again be among the league's best receivers next year, and more than a suitable replacement for Matthews at the number one target on the roster.
10 Lose Their Job: Kevin White
It's time for the Bears to pull the plug on the Kevin White experiment. For as much potential as he had coming out of West Virginia, and subsequently being a top-10 pick in the 2015 draft, he just can't stay healthy at the NFL level whatsoever. He's played a dismal five games in his entire career, and the dependability just isn't where it needs to be.
Especially with a new young quarterback at the helm in Mitch Trubisky, the Bears need pass-catchers that they can trust to remain on the field for the better part of every season going forward. White hasn't proven that in the least, and they'll be looking for replacement options immediately.
9 Replace Him: Cam Meredith
Maybe an odd choice for a replacement as a starting outside receiver, given the fact that he was coming off a debilitating injury as well, but he still hasn't been as as injury-prone as White's been over his career. Meredith actually put together an extremely impressive 2016 season. He was undoubtedly effective, and if the injury doesn't persist, he should be in line for a starting job next season.
It's a nice contrast to the veteran-nature of a receiver like Kendall Wright, who should be retained by Chicago for next season. There's a good chance that Trubisky will have some intriguing weapons to throw to next season, and he'll begin to establish continuity. The Bears could go after an option in free agency, but given Meredith has already had a productive season under his belt, they'd be wise to stick with him.
8 Lose Their Job: Torrey Smith
Smith served as the fourth or fifth receiving option on the Eagles' Super Bowl-winning roster last season, and the veteran wideout generally did his job. He wasn't spectacular, but on an offense with so many weapons he didn't have to be. The problem is that Philly is looking at the league's worst cap situation at the present moment, and Smith will likely have to be on the chopping block barring a contract restructure.
He'll land somewhere else for sure, but he's clearly on the downswing of his career at this point. The Eagles can't afford to keep him. Although Alshon Jeffery is clearly the first option at wide receiver for this team, they'll be looking for a Smith replacement at the second.
7 Replace Him: Mack Hollins
The rookie wide receiver showed flashes in the 2017 season, including a 70-yard touchdown reception off the arm of Carson Wentz against Washington. Hollins is a high-upside player who in theory would be a perfect replacement for Smith. Although it's not yet confirmed, the Eagles will likely be looking internally to fill this position hole.
Hollins is a former 4th-round pick, and already a quality special teams player, so he'll definitely be on the team regardless. Such a standing presents a great opportunity for him to be a starter as an outside receiver next season, and begin to establish an even greater rapport with the returning Wentz.
6 Lose Their Job: John Brown
The Cardinals are coming under a new coaching regime headed by Steve Wilks this season, and Brown isn't likely to carry over from the Bruce Arians era. Brown has talent, but a slew of injuries have rendered him ineffective for the past several seasons, and his time to make an impact is running out. There's little reason for him to be favored for a starting job this season.
Brown is a free agent this offseason, and the Cardinals probably aren't going to bring him back. He'll likely remain in the league, but at a reduced price, looking to earn playing time on a new roster. Wilks and co. probably won't want to keep around an injury liability on a new contract.
5 Replace Him: J.J. Nelson
Nelson is a certified deep threat, and probably a better receiver than many people realize. He's dealt with somewhat of a quarterback carousel in Arizona the past few years due to Carson Palmer's injuries, and he deserves a chance for consistent playing time. He hasn't posted otherworldly numbers, but he's been good enough to warrant a chance, and doesn't pose much of an injury risk.
His skill set is a compliment to Larry Fitzgerald's, who will be returning for one more season. The Cardinals should give a look to Nelson, on the last year of his contract, to see if he's able to be a reliable part of the puzzle moving forward. His talent warrants at least one season as a starter.
4 Lose Their Job: Eric Decker
The Titans signed Decker on a cheap prove-it contract for the 2017 season, and he didn't prove it. He was sub-par this season, and at times just looked flat-out disinterested. He probably won't be retained this year, and with a new coaching staff coming into the fold, Decker is likely going to be seen as dead weight, especially for a team with a young quarterback that needs all the help he can get.
Sure, Decker was a good receiver in his prime, but combined with his injuries over the past few years, it's clear he's over the hill at this point. He's worth it as a depth option for a contending team, but as far as being a starter, he's likely past the point of no return.
3 Replace Him: Corey Davis
There's no reason for the Titans to still not be bullish on Davis' long-term ability. He was a top-10 pick, and sooner or later he needs to start for an entire season. May as well be next season, now that he's acclimated with the personnel on Tennessee's roster. It would be a big surprise for the Titans to go out and acquire yet another starting-caliber wide receiver, when Davis can be had in-house with tons of potential.
Many thought that he was the best receiver in last year's draft, and there's still a chance that it ends up being the case. Davis really does have a high ceiling, and as he progresses in his NFL maturity, there's no reason why he can't be one of the better players in the league. Expect him to get a ton of snaps beginning week one of the 2018 season.
2 Lose Their Job: Jarvis Landry
The contract dispute between Landry and the Dolphins has come to a head, and there's a chance that he could be out the door. It's clear that the Adam Gase-regime in Miami isn't keen on keeping players they don't view as team-first, for better or worse, and evidence by the Jay Ajayi trade mid-season.
Landry has consistently proven himself to be one of the best slot receivers in the game today over the past four season, and his sheer reception total is always one of the best in the game. He's a reliable talent, and while he may not be truly elite, he's in the tier of receivers just below it. He'd be a worthy pickup for any team with a stable quarterback situation, who has some degree of cap space to spend for receiving help. It seems like Miami just isn't going to be the long-term destination for him at this point.
1 Replace Him: DeVante Parker
While the speedster on the Miami offense may be Kenny Stills, who they inked to a long-term deal after the 2016 season, Parker is the player that will assume Landry's possession-based role, in the event that he leaves. A former 1st-round pick in 2014, it's now time for Parker to prove that he can carry the weight of an NFL receiving corps. With such a resource invested into him, and under team control for another two years, they have little choice.
Parker's been good-not-great so far in his NFL career, and he'll have to step it up another level in order to maintain the job for the long-term. He has lots of ability, and perhaps a returning Ryan Tannehill will make his production take the leap that it needs to. Without question, this is a money season for Parker and his NFL future.