The best wide receivers in the NFL absolutely earn the massive paydays that they are given either from the teams that draft them or from a different franchise in the open market. A great WR who avoids injuries can give up to a decade of excellent service to his club. The likes of Larry Fitzgerald, DeSean Jackson and even Plaxico Burress before he forgot about the “no sweatpants in the club” rule are all big-money receivers.
It's when discussing the middle-of-the-road guys who have played for several years in the NFL that things get a bit tricky regarding cap numbers. Those receivers get more and more expensive with each season, and their teams are often forced to send an ultimatum in the offseason:
Either restructure your contract to free up some cap space, or get cut.
The following 10 players are the biggest busts at wide receiver in the NFL for the 2013 season.
10 Eddie Royal - San Diego Chargers: $4.5 million in 2013
Royal was far from awful. He had eight receiving touchdowns, and he caught 47 passes for 631 yards. That's not too shabby for somebody who was playing through the pain that comes with turf toe for about three months.
Joke about the name of the injury all you want, but turf toe is bad times.
There were rumors immediately after San Diego's season came to an end that the Chargers could considering cutting Royal. His cap number goes up to $6 million in 2014. Eric Williams of ESPN.com has, however, reported that San Diego will retain Royal for next season.
9 Lance Moore - New Orleans Saints: $4,568,750 in 2013
Moore has played a significant role in the New Orleans offense through the years, but you can't help but wonder if age is starting to catch up with him. He caught 37 of 54 regular season targets, he had just four receptions in two postseason contests, and he was relegated to third on the depth chart.
There's, no pun intended, more. Moore's cap number will increase by $500,000 in each of the next two seasons. There's no doubt that the Saints could get better and at a fraction of the cost from a younger WR. Don't be shocked if Moore ends up being a cap casualty.
8 Nate Washington - Tennessee Titans: $5.1 million in 2013
Here is a stats breakdown to explain why Washington is on the list:
Washington caught 58 of 105 passes thrown his way and finished the season with 919 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
Teammate Kendall Wright caught 94 of 139 passes thrown this way, went for over 1,000 receiving yards, and he had only two touchdowns. Wright's rookie contract was in affect last year, and thus his cap number was just shy of $1.9 million.
I understand how important it is for a team to have a veteran presence at a position, and also that Washington's cap number drops by $300,000 in 2014. Nobody can say for sure if the Titans would get better from another older WR next season, but making a switch should at least be considered.
7 Michael Crabtree - San Francisco 49ers: $5,770,439 in 2013
Crabtree produced decent numbers coming off of Achilles' tendon surgery. He caught 19 passes and scored one touchdown in five regular season games. His postseason numbers matched those he put up in the regular season, as Crabtree averaged five grabs per contest. He was also, unfortunately for him, on the wrong side of one of the most famous plays in NFC Championship Game history.
Some would argue that placing Crabtree anywhere on this list is harsh. There were, after all, undeniably some rust issues after Crabtree was cleared to play. That said, he didn't look like the player of old. I wasn't the only person to notice.
6 Steve Johnson - Buffalo Bills: $5.65 million in 2013
Johnson had his worst season in four years. He appeared in twelve games, he reeled in 52 of 100 passes, and he found the end zone only thrice. There are also concerns that he could be a bit of a diva, and one rumor swirling about is that he and head coach Doug Marrone may be on different pages.
Buffalo parting ways with Johnson wouldn't make a ton of sense. It wouldn't save the team much against the cap, and he turns 28 years old in the summer. Johnson still has plenty of good days ahead of him.
5 Josh Morgan - Washington Redskins: $5.1 million in 2013
Morgan has stated that he would like to continue playing in his hometown. He didn't earn the right to make that decision with his play. Morgan appeared in 14 games, and he finished the season with only 20 catches and not a single touchdown. Truth be told, there's an argument to be had that he should be higher up on this list.
Morgan has publicly complained about how he was utilized by what is now Washington's former coaching staff. Playing time is earned in games and during midweek practices. Morgan didn't do enough to reach out and grab the attention of those running the club, and that, to me, is telling.
4 Mike Williams - Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $8,334,562 in 2013
What was originally thought to be a strained hamstring in the fall was eventually found to be a torn hamstring, and Williams was placed on injured reserve near the end of October. His season, and that of the Bucs, wasn't going all that well before Williams was sidelined. He caught 22 passes and he had just two touchdowns while appearing in six games.
Williams then seemed to be enjoying not being able to play football a bit too much. Whether or not the current Tampa Bay coaching staff would want to release the player is not entirely known. However, evidence suggests that the organization is getting fed up with Williams. Head coach Lovie Smith has expressed his and GM Jason Licht's disappointment with Williams and his recent misdemeanor charges, saying "We're disappointed in some of the off-the-field issues that have come up, and we just aren't going to put up with it."
3 Davone Bess - Cleveland Browns: $2,683,334 in 2013
Throw Bess' stats out the window when reviewing what he meant – or did – to the Browns. Bess muffed a punt that prevented Cleveland from potentially pulling off an upset victory against the Kansas City Chiefs. He was leading the NFL in dropped passes in December.
Then, he went away. Odds are that he isn't coming back. Bess has made plenty of headlines for some curious off-the-field activity and for an arrest since the end of the season. The Browns are going to do anything possible to recover the money that was wasted on Bess.
2 Sidney Rice - Seattle Seahawks: $9.7 million in 2013
Professional football is often a cruel game. Rice's situation is a reminder of that. He tore his ACL back in October, and a player who has a long history of injuries couldn't contribute during what turned out to be his team's Super Bowl run.
Rice was recently cut from Seattle's roster, ending what has been an injury-riddled tenure with the team. That's just the way the NFL works.
It's not personal. It's business.
1 Santonio Holmes - New York Jets: $9.0 million in 2013
Holmes made a famous catch on the biggest stage of all of North American professional sports. He then cashed in on a big deal. Good on him.
His stint with the Jets just hasn't worked out. Holmes played in only 15 games in the past two seasons, during which he caught just 43 passes and averaged one touchdown a year. All signs point to Gang Green cutting ties with the eight-year veteran.