The top wide receivers in the National Football League are true game-changers, safety blankets for quarterbacks and guys who touch the ball somewhere around 75-110 times per season. New and altered NFL rules and regulations favor QBs and WRs, and the league is now more pass-oriented than it has ever been before.
Somewhat interesting, considering that several of the wide receivers spotlighted in this piece played for what were losing teams in 2013. Only one is a member of the defending Super Bowl champions the Seattle Seahawks.
As you'll read, he barely saw the field last fall.
These are the highest-paid NFL wide receivers for the 2014/15 season.
Cap hits per Spotrac
10 Marques Colston -- New Orleans Saints: $8.3 million cap hit
Colston had what was, for him, a down season in 2013. He reeled in 75 of 110 passes, but he finished the campaign with under 1,000 receiving yards (943) for only the second time in his NFL career. Colston's five touchdown catches matched a pro career low for the veteran of eight seasons.
The 31-year-old has admitted this summer that he sees the twilight of his NFL career looming ahead. Colston's lingering foot injuries are seemingly healed, and he arrived at training camp lighter than he had been in previous summers. With quarterback Drew Brees still at an elite level, Colston could, so long as he is able to remain healthy, be in for a bounce-back season.
9 Larry Fitzgerald -- Arizona Cardinals: $8.6 million cap hit
Fitzgerald is maybe the greatest offensive player in the history of the Cardinals franchise. He is just about guaranteed to be in the Hall of Fame a decade or so down the road. Some will consider Fitzgerald to be the best wide receiver of his generation to not win a title if he never hoists the Vince Lombardi Trophy in celebration.
That said, his days in Arizona could come to an end next winter.
Fitzgerald, as per the terms of his current contract, will have a cap hit of over $23 million for next season. That is a massive figure for any player let alone for a wide receiver who will be 31 years old at the beginning of this coming September.
Enjoy Fitzgerald while you can, Cardinals fans.
8 Brandon Marshall -- Chicago Bears: $9.375 million cap hit
Marshall is one person who's happy that the Bears went all-in on quarterback Jay Cutler last winter. The 30-year-old wide receiver has, in two seasons with Cutler in Chicago, gone for 218 catches and over 2,800 receiving yards. Marshall has found the end zone 23 times since joining the Bears before the 2012 regular season.
A veteran of eight NFL seasons, Marshall is one of several receivers featured in this piece who could be eyeing life after playing in the pros. He will be working as an analyst for Showtime program “Inside the NFL” this fall. The Bears are apparently fine with Marshall flying to New York every Tuesday for his TV gig.
At least they are so long as he produces on the field on Sundays.
7 Pierre Garcon -- Washington Redskins: $9.7 million cap hit
The Redskins were downright terrible in 2013, but Garcon was not part of the problem. He finished the season with career highs in receptions (113), receiving yards (1,346) and receiving first downs (60). While Garcon has been nursing a bum hamstring in August, there is no reason to believe he won't be 100 percent fit and ready to go for the start of the upcoming season.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III will need Garcon to be at his best. RG3 is looking to show that he can remain healthy and consistently win in the NFL. Having Garcon available for an average of over ten throws per game is a must for Griffin and for Washington.
6 Dwayne Bowe -- Kansas City Chiefs: $12 million cap hit
Bowe could, if he fails to get his act together, soon find himself off of this list. He has been disappointing in his past two seasons with the Chiefs, and he was arrested last November on charges of speeding and possession of marijuana. That arrest resulted in Bowe being suspended for the first game of the 2014 regular season.
The ban impacts more than Bowe being a spectator for Week 1 of the upcoming season. It gives the Chiefs the option of voiding the player's deal. While Bowe would certainly be picked up by another team were KC to go that route, he likely wouldn't land a contract mirroring that awarded to him by the Chiefs.
5 Vincent Jackson -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $12.432 million cap hit
Jackson has been a consistent weapon for the Tampa Bay offense since joining the club in 2012. He has played in all of his team's regular season games over the past two years, and he has 150 catches and 15 receiving touchdowns since signing for the Bucs. Word out of Tampa Bay is that Jackson was the big star of the team's 2014 training camp practice sessions, and Bucs analysts are expecting the 31-year-old to have another big campaign.
Fans of the Buccaneers may want to pump the breaks on such expectations. Quarterback Josh McCown is a journeyman veteran who could prove to be a reach for the club. Tampa Bay has essentially given up on the Mike Glennon experiment. If McCown stumbles at any point during the fall, Jackson and the Bucs could struggle to make positive noise in 2014.
4 Calvin Johnson -- Detroit Lions: $13.508 million cap hit
Johnson could, all things considered, be the best wide receiver in the game today. The 28-year-old remains in his prime, and he should have several top-tier seasons ahead of him. He is, so long as he avoids injuries or other hiccups, seemingly a lock to go for no fewer than 75 catches and 10 receiving touchdowns every season.
Johnson is also, as surprising as it may be to read, part of Detroit's problem.
The Lions are in a mess as far as the club's cap situation, to the point that some are calling for the club to trade star defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh before the start of the upcoming season. Johnson's cap hit will rise to over $24 million after the 2015 campaign. His dead money value will be nearly $13 million at that same time.
3 Percy Harvin -- Seattle Seahawks: $13.4 million cap hit
Harvin's physical gifts cannot be denied. He is an explosive play-maker who can burn opponents while on offense or returning kicks. Only one thing has been able to slow Harvin down over the past five years; the injury bug.
Harvin appeared in a single regular season game for the Seahawks in 2013. He has only survived a full 16-game campaign once since 2009. Harvin is already banged up (foot), and the preseason is only halfway finished.
2 Andre Johnson -- Houston Texans: $15,644,583 cap hit
Johnson has, over the past several months, served as a reminder that money alone doesn't always buy happiness for pro athletes. The 11-year NFL veteran is reportedly upset that the Texans are, on paper, on the verge of another losing season, to the point that he has been seeking a trade from the club. Houston has not yet caved in to Johnson's demands, but the situation could change if the Texans are winless in early October.
Possible destinations for Johnson, were he to be dealt, are the Cleveland Browns and New England Patriots. The Browns could find themselves without star wide receiver Josh Gordon for the entire 2013 season as Gordon is facing a possible indefinite suspension for repeated violations of the league's substance abuse policy. New England could use a talented No. 1 WR to team up with quarterback Tom Brady.
1 Mike Wallace -- Miami Dolphins: $17.25 million cap hit
Wallace had an up-and-down season in his first year as a member of the Dolphins. He recorded a career-high 73 total receptions. His receiving yards per catch and receiving touchdowns in 2013 were, on the other hand, both career lows. Five touchdowns is, simply put, not enough for a player with such a hefty price tag.
Early reports out of Miami are at least slightly alarming regarding the 2014 campaign. Wallace and quarterback Ryan Tannehill are apparently not gelling in what is, for Miami, a new offense. That is not something that Dolphins fans expecting Wallace to be the team's missing piece want to read or hear in August.