Ranking the 5 Best Wide Receivers Available


Super Bowl LVIII is the only game remaining on the NFL’s calendar before the 2024 offseason officially kicks off. And when the league’s free agency period begins March 13 and teams can start spending with hopes of their own eventual Super Bowl run, plenty of premium pass-catchers will be on the open market.

From established veterans to standouts at the end of their rookie deals to injury-hampered players hoping to secure a long-term contract, the 2024 free-agent class is loaded with prominent wide receivers. Newsweek selected the five best unrestricted free agents at the position—along with their projected market and contract values, according to Spotrac—to get a better sense of the options available for receiver-needy teams in the coming weeks.

From Marquise Brown to Tee Higgins, here’s a look at the list.

Tee Higgins, #5 of the Cincinnati Bengals, warms up prior to an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Stadium on December 4, 2023, in Jacksonville, Florida. Higgins may be the prized free…

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5 — Marquise Brown, Arizona Cardinals

Spotrac Market Value: $14.8 million

Spotrac Projected Contract: Four years, $59.5 million

2023 Stats: 51 receptions, 574 yards, four touchdowns (14 games)

The Cardinals brought this speedy wide receiver to town by sending their first-round pick to the Baltimore Ravens (which the Ravens, through another deal, turned into Pro Bowl center Tyler Linderbaum) midway through the 2022 NFL Draft. Two injury-plagued seasons later, and Arizona must now decide if it’s ready to pay up for Brown again—this time via long-term contract extension.

Brown didn’t get the contract he desired ahead of the regular season, so 2023 was a lame-duck campaign of sorts. And a shortened one at that.

The 26-year-old big-play threat has missed eight games over two seasons in Arizona and was sent to injury reserve with a nagging heel ailment in December. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound pass-catcher hasn’t played a full season since 2020 and he also has not had a chance to play an entire schedule with former college teammate and Cardinals QB Kyler Murray, who just worked his way back from an ACL injury. Brown’s injury history, plus the flashes he’s shown when healthy, are factors the Cardinals—or any other team—will have to weigh this offseason.

4 — Calvin Ridley, Jacksonville Jaguars

Spotrac Market Value: $17 million

Spotrac Projected Contract: Four years, $68.2 million

2023 Stats: 76 receptions, 1,016 yards, eight touchdowns (17 games)

Ridley’s past few years have been full of a variety of ups and downs. The former second-team All-Pro was among the best receivers in the NFL during the 2020 season with the Atlanta Falcons, stepped away from football in 2021, served a gambling-related suspension in 2022, and returned to the field with a new team in 2023.

Once Ridley was back on the gridiron, the results were mixed.

The 29-year-old led the Jaguars in receiving yards and touchdowns, though drop issues persisted, and for stretches, Ridley went practically missing in Jacksonville’s passing attack. Ridley may still be capable of taking over games at times (as his two multi-touchdown contests would indicate), but will he do so for the Jags again? Or with a third team in his pro career? Another aspect to consider in this case is the pick the Jaguars will send to the Falcons as part of the previous trade escalates to a second-rounder if the two sides reach an extension.

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3 — Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Spotrac Market Value: $23.8 million

Spotrac Projected Contract: Four years, $95.3 million

2023 Stats: 79 receptions, 1,255 yards, 13 touchdowns (17 games)

Three things you can always count on are death, taxes and Evans posting a 1,000-yard season, or however the old saying goes.

The 30-year-old is coming off his 10th NFL season, which just so happened to also be one of his best. Evans meshed with new Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield—leading the NFL in touchdown receptions and posting a record 10th-consecutive 1,000-yard season to start his potentially Hall of Fame career. Looking forward to the 2024 season, Mayfield wants back in Tampa. So does Evans. But the Bucs have plenty of free agency decisions to make. And if the five-time Pro Bowler ends up leaving the Bucs after a decade with the franchise, one of the league’s premier receiving threats would be available.

2 — Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts

Spotrac Market Value: $22.7 million

Spotrac Projected Contract: Four years, $90.8 million

2023 Stats: 109 receptions, 1,152 yards, four touchdowns (16 games)

There’s performing well in a contract year, then there’s what Pittman did in 2023 for the Colts.

The former second-round pick set career highs in catches, targets (156) and yards in the fourth and final year of his rookie deal, becoming the high-volume receiver needed in Indianapolis since the days of Reggie Wayne and, later, T.Y. Hilton. Pittman proved to be a reliable possession option for both of the Colts quarterbacks who took the field, and earned a career-best Pro Football Focus receiving grade in the process. The 26-year-old has discussed his desire to test out free agency, though the Colts undoubtedly would prefer to keep their top target—via extension or the franchise tag.

1 — Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals

Spotrac Market Value: $18.6 million

Spotrac Projected Contract: Four years, $74.4 million

2023 Stats: 42 receptions, 656 yards, five touchdowns (12 games)

Whichever decision the Bengals make regarding their 2020 second-round pick could dictate the offseason’s entire free agent market at the position. Higgins missed five games last season with injuries, but when on the field, the 6-foot-4 receiver continued to display the field-stretching ability—not to mention acrobatic jump-ball prowess—that places him among the league’s best.

Higgins is the type of player the Bengals won’t want to part with—at least now.

Cincinnati placing the franchise tag, estimated at about $21.7 million for wide receivers this year, on Higgins may be the most likely scenario here. Joe Burrow’s lucrative mega-extension doesn’t hit the books until 2025, and the team’s other star wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase is still on his rookie contract. So the Bengals, which have roughly $60 million in cap space next season, can afford to keep their dynamic trio together for one more go-round.

Honorable mention: Darnell Mooney (Chicago Bears), Gabe Davis (Buffalo Bills), Curtis Samuel (Washington Commanders), Tyler Boyd (Bengals), Odell Beckham Jr. (Baltimore Ravens) and K.J. Osborn (Minnesota Vikings).