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For Free-Agent Receivers, It’s the Sound of Silence, Not Cha-Ching

Why? Take a look at the receivers in free agency and another look at SI.com's Top 100 NFL Draft Big Board.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Four days into free agency, the amount of money spent at wide receiver has been staggering.

As in staggeringly minimal.

Through Thursday evening, just six free-agent receivers had agreed to contracts. Only one of those signed for any real money, relatively speaking, with former Packers receiver Randall Cobb agreeing to a three-year, $27 million deal with Houston after spending 2019 with Dallas. (Note: Dallas re-signed Amari Cooper before the official start of free agency.)

Compare that to 2019, when six receivers signed contracts worth more than $25 million in total, seven signed deals with at least $10 million in guaranteed money and eight signed deals worth more than $7 million per season.

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NFL free agency might seem like it’s strewn with Monopoly money, but it also follows the basic economic laws of supply and demand. Demand is practically nonexistent because there’s so little proven talent in free agency and so much potential talent in next month’s draft. That’s why so many teams – including the receiver-needy Green Bay Packers – have steered clear of the free-agent market.

At 6-foot-3 and with 4.34 speed in the 40, few players in the league can match Robby Anderson’s physical skill-set, which is why he’ll eventually get paid. His tools haven’t translated into consistent production, though, with four-year averages of 52 receptions for 765 yards (14.8 average) and five touchdowns. The 33-year-old Emmanuel Sanders was a nonfactor in games last year against Green Bay while with Denver and San Francisco, and has averaged 61 receptions for 764 yards (12.5 average) and four touchdowns the past three seasons. Breshad Perriman (first round, 2015) has gone through three teams in five years and caught a career-high 36 passes last year for Tampa Bay. Devin Funchess (second round, 2015) missed most of last season with the Colts due to injury, has one season of 45-plus catches and has a career catch rate of 51.9 percent. Nelson Agholor (first round, 2015) caught just 39 passes and averaged 9.3 yards per catch last year for Philadelphia. Paul Richardson (second round, 2014) had 48 catches in two years for Washington. Phillip Dorsett (first round, 2015) never has caught more than 33 passes in his five seasons.

The receiver class, however, is packed with talent.

Just how good? In Kevin Hanson’s Top 100 Big Board at Sports Illustrated, eight of his top 35, 11 of the top 58 and 14 of the top 100 are receivers. That includes four players in the vicinity of Green Bay’s pick at No. 30: Clemson’s Tee Higgins, Colorado’s Laviska Shenault, Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk and Baylor’s Denzel Mims.

There’s probably a similar basic-economics factor at play at running back. Only three free-agent running backs have signed, with Jordan Howard’s two-year, $10 million deal representing the only significant contract and Melvin Gordon still looking for work. Meanwhile, running backs take five of the top 59 spots in SI’s Top 100.