It's no secret, Justin Fields needs more people to throw to. I think many of us hoped that Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool wouldn't really be a WR1/WR2 combo, but perhaps they could become a WR1.5/WR1.5 combo, and even if they didn't have an elite target for Fields, they would have two very good ones.
With every offseason comes wide receiver drama. This offseason should be no different. Over the last couple of years, there are wide receivers that everybody assumed wouldn't be on the move, but suddenly Tyreek Hill is on the Miami Dolphins, and Davante Adams is on the Las Vegas Raiders.
Who could be those types of wide receivers on the move this offseason? Here are five receivers that teams could be looking to move.
Hopkins is the most obvious one on this list. With a new GM and coach in Arizona, they may want to go another direction in 2023 than try to placate a 31-year-old receiver coming off a PED suspension.
Hopkins has two years left on his deal. The compensation that Arizona receives will probably depend on how much money the acquiring team is willing to absorb. Obviously, the Chicago Bears have significant cap space and could absorb most or all of his contract and push the compensation down to perhaps as low as a fourth-round pick.
Acquiring Hopkins absolutely comes with risk, but he's a dynamic target that Fields could really utilize on those 3rd and 8s when you just need a receiver that can go get the ball and keep the chains moving.
The Cincinnati Bengals will have some decisions to make with Higgins. They have already said they are prioritizing a contract extension for Joe Burrow this offseason, and they absolutely should do that. Higgins is also available for a contract extension this offseason, and as a second-round pick, there is no fifth-round option to utilize, which means Higgins could be an unrestricted free agent after 2023.
The Bengals are also going to have to make Ja'Marr Chase the highest paid wide receiver in the NFL after 2023 when he becomes a free agent.
How will the Bengals make this work financially? They could extend Burrow this offseason, extend Chase after 2023 and keep Higgins and tag him after 2023. If they do that, they'll almost certainly have to let Higgins walk for no compensation because they just won't be able to afford to pay all three.
If the Bengals don't want to eventually lose Higgins for nothing, moving him this offseason is what makes sense. Higgins will almost certainly demand a first-round pick, and the Bears obviously aren't giving up the number one pick for Higgins, but after maneuvering in the draft, nobody knows exactly what other picks Ryan Poles will pick up along the way.
Higgins could absolutely become available and would be a great option for the Bears.
Aiyuk is another guy that goes into a similar category to Higgins. Aiyuk is a key part of the 49ers' offense, but with so many players due big contracts in San Francisco, could Aiyuk find himself on the trade block?
First of all, nobody knows what's happening at the QB position for San Francisco. Could Jimmy Garoppolo be back? Will they commit to Trey Lance as a starter again? Could they go out and get Tom Brady? It will be interesting to see what John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan do there.
Christian McCaffrey and George Kittle already have large contracts, as do Trent Williams and Deebo Samuel. Nick Bosa is also going to be due a big chunk of change as well. At some point, you just can't fit everyone under the cap.
Could the 49ers move on from Aiyuk? It's something that Lynch will have to consider. Aiyuk is another player that is going to have a pretty steep price tag. Would Ryan Poles be willing to pay that hefty of a tag? If he wants a big time target for Fields, he may not have a choice.
Mike Evans has stated that he loves it in Tampa and doesn't want to leave. But it appears that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on the verge of a massive teardown. Tom Brady is almost certainly not going to be back, and the team has a lot of aging veterans that may not fit into the rebuild that they may have to take on.
Evans will be 30 when the 2023 season starts up in September. His consistency is unmatched, going over 1,000 yards in every one of his nine seasons with 81 TDs as well.
Evans loves it in Tampa, but will he want to stay in a rebuild with potentially Kyle Trask throwing him passes? Would he be tempted to have a QB with a beautiful deep ball like Fields that can utilize Evans' skillset every game?
Evans has just one year remaining on his contract. He's the exact type of player that the Bucs should be looking to trade and get back what they can. With only one year left on his deal at the age of 30, his compensation shouldn't be astronomical, and he would be a fun player to watch play with Fields.
The availability of DJ Moore may depend directly on what the Carolina Panthers decide to do at quarterback. With the 9th pick in the draft, they currently sit within striking distance to go up and get one of the top three QBs in the draft (Bryce Young, CJ Stroud, Will Levis). They could even strike a deal with the Bears and go up to number one.
Could including someone like Moore in a deal like that make sense for Carolina? When teams trade up, rarely is a player included in a trade like that as judging compensation becomes murkier when trading a player and not just draft choices.
If the Panthers decide to go the veteran route and try to bring in someone like Derek Carr, they almost certainly would keep Moore, but if they are looking to hit the reset button and draft a QB, they may look to move Moore and start loading up draft picks around their new QB. If they decide to keep Moore to give their rookie QB a reliable target (which is sensible), Moore would become a free agent again about the time the Panthers would be ready to start competing for a Super Bowl around their new QB.
This is a critical offseason for Poles and the Bears. You can make the argument that this is the most important offseason in the history of the franchise. Poles may be content to roll with Mooney and Claypool and add further depth to the group by signing someone like Jakobi Meyers or spending a day one or day two pick on drafting a wide receiver.
But if Poles wants to go out and get a true WR1, he's going to have to be willing to trade some draft capital. The price on these five is wildly different. Some will require a first-round pick, others could be a day-two pick or perhaps even early on day three. But Poles knows he needs to give Fields more weapons, and if he wants a top guy, any of these could bring significant value to the offense.