7 potential fits for free-agent deep threat Will Fuller

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Who is Will Fuller? An injury-prone underachiever who hasn’t lived up to his first-round billing? Is he a one-trick pony, an elite deep threat with not much else in his arsenal? Or is Fuller, who many felt was criminally underutilized throughout his five-year stay in Houston, a budding star brimming with untapped potential? There’s an argument to be had for all three, making Fuller one of the most fascinating free agents to hit the market in quite some time.

Fuller is coming off career-highs in touchdowns (eight), receiving yards per game (79.9) and yards per catch (16.6), but can the polarizing 26-year-old be trusted after having his breakout 2020 disrupted by a six-game PED suspension? Given his durability concerns and questions over the legitimacy of last year’s numbers, Fuller’s asking price figures to be lower than many of his free-agent peers, particularly in a stacked receiver class featuring Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay, Allen Robinson and JuJu Smith-Schuster, among other household names. Though he’s never sniffed a 1,000-yard season or double-digit touchdowns, it’s easy to see Fuller benefiting from a change of scenery, assuming better injury luck follows him wherever he lands next. Speaking of what’s next, here are seven teams that could kick the tires on Fuller when free agency begins at 4 PM ET on St. Patrick’s Day.

Green Bay Packers

When the Packers traded up four spots in the first round of last year’s draft, most assumed Green Bay was targeting a wide receiver at 26th overall. And while that likely would have made the most sense—Chase Claypool, Tee Higgins, Michael Pittman Jr., Laviska Shenault, KJ Hamler and Denzel Mims were all available at that juncture—the Packers inexplicably drafted Jordan Love, who led all FBS quarterbacks with 17 interceptions during his final season at Utah State. Probably not the best use of resources (Green Bay followed that pick up with an even more egregious selection at No. 62—Boston College running back A.J. Dillon), though the Packers, fueled by another MVP season from future Hall-of-Famer Aaron Rodgers (who no doubt drew motivation from the presence of his likely successor, Love), still came within a game of the Super Bowl. Even while missing two games due to injury, Davante Adams accounted for nearly 32 percent of Green Bay’s total receiving output, one of the highest rates in the NFL. Simply put, Green Bay needs better complementary weapons than Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Robert Tonyan and Allen Lazard or risks squandering another year of Rodgers’ prime. Fuller, who the Packers reportedly pursued—but to no avail—at last year’s trade deadline, would be a sizable upgrade on the drop-prone Valdes-Scantling, who has converted an anemic 50.5 percent of his 192 career targets. Green Bay won’t typically break the bank for free agents, but let’s face it—the Packers didn’t leave themselves much margin for error after butchering last year’s draft.

Indianapolis Colts

If you’ve followed our free-agent landing spots series (previous installments included Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay, Aaron Jones, Marvin Jones, Allen Robinson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Richard Sherman and J.J. Watt), you’ve probably noticed a recurring theme. We’ve linked Indianapolis to nearly every receiver that’s been profiled so far, and for good reason. It’s arguably the Colts’ biggest need, especially with T.Y. Hilton, the third-leading receiver in franchise history behind Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, likely headed elsewhere in free agency. Jonathan Taylor kept the engine purring for Indy’s ground game in 2020 (sixth-most rushing touchdowns), though the same couldn’t be said of the Colts’ stagnant passing attack, which sputtered under Philip Rivers last season. A healthy Parris Campbell could do wonders for the Colts and the hope is Carson Wentz, now freed from the pressures of Philadelphia (where Nick Foles and Jalen Hurts always seemed to be peering over his shoulder), thrives in a new environment. But if the Colts want to keep up with the high-powered likes of KC and Buffalo in the AFC, they’ll need a full stable of pass-catchers. The good news is the Colts have plenty of cap space at their disposal (only the Jaguars, Jets and Patriots are better equipped in that regard) and Fuller has ties to the area, owing to his three-year stint at Notre Dame.

New England Patriots

No amount of Bill Belichick devil magic could mask the Patriots’ barebones roster in 2020 (COVID opt-outs did them no favors), which represented New England’s first losing season in two decades. The smoke and mirrors approach may have worked with Tequila Tom in the huddle, but not Cam Newton, who spent his first and likely only season in Foxboro slumming it with hobbled vet Julian Edelman (rumored to be on the chopping block), draft reach N’Keal Harry, pint-sized journeyman Damiere Byrd and former UDFA Jakobi Meyers as his top targets. It would help to know their plan at quarterback, but regardless of who the Pats tap as their 2021 starter, it’s clear New England’s skill-position corps is in desperate need of an overhaul. The Patriots could address that shortcoming in April’s draft (many suspect Jaylen Waddle will be in play for them at 15th overall), though if a splashy free agent is what they’re after, New England should have more than enough cap space ($62.2 million) to entice Fuller or any of the other available receivers hoping to strike it rich this offseason.

New Orleans Saints

File this one under “longshots”—the Saints, at present, are a whopping $69 million over the cap. There are ways to massage that number, of course (Drew Brees’ retirement would be a start), and if the Saints can make the necessary financial adjustments, they'd be wise to explore the receiver market. Free agent Jared Cook and Emmanuel Sanders are likely goners (the latter would save New Orleans $6 million if designated as a post-June-1st cut) and it’s hard to say where the Saints stand with loose cannon Michael Thomas, who many felt was a distraction with his diva antics last year. Marquez Callaway and Tre’Quan Smith are serviceable enough role players (return specialist Deonte Harris can also line up at receiver in a pinch), but if that’s who New Orleans is relying on next season, the Saints are in a world of trouble. Fuller would be an ideal fit for New Orleans if the Saints retain Jameis Winston, a shameless gunslinger whose affinity for aerial pyrotechnics would mesh exceedingly well with Fuller’s own downfield sensibilities.

Philadelphia Eagles

Much like the Saints, the Eagles enter the offseason with serious financial hurdles to leap, but a dicey cap situation shouldn’t stop the Birds from pursuing upgrades, particularly on the offensive side, where Philadelphia ranked near the bottom of the league last season (24th in total yards, 26th in points per game). If there’s a silver lining to be had from last year’s debacle, it’s that the Eagles now find themselves in position to snag one of the top receivers in this year’s draft. Heisman winner DeVonta Smith and unanimous All-American Ja’Marr Chase are exciting possibilities should either of them fall to the Eagles at sixth overall, though it’s hard to have any level of faith in Howie Roseman after seeing the embattled GM choose JJ Arcega-Whiteside over DK Metcalf and Jalen Reagor ahead of Vikings prodigy Justin Jefferson in successive drafts. With DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery’s bags both packed and Zach Ertz facing a similarly murky future in Philadelphia, the receiver-needy Eagles should be scouring the market for any pass-catcher with a pulse. And who better than Fuller, a downfield assassin born and raised in the City of Brotherly Love?

San Francisco 49ers

Not much went right for San Francisco a year ago with injuries to George Kittle and Deebo Samuel exposing the Niners’ lack of pass-catching depth. Brandon Aiyuk’s potential was evident in his debut season (60-748-5 receiving on 96 targets), but the 49ers could still use another perimeter threat to round out their receiving outfit. If we know anything about Kyle Shanahan it’s that the Niners coach covets speed. Past muses include burners Taylor Gabriel and Marquise Goodwin, both of whom enjoyed career-best seasons under Shanahan in Atlanta and San Francisco, respectively. Fuller has softer mitts and better receiving instincts than he’s given credit for (just eight combined drops over his last three seasons), but downfield playmaking will forever be his NFL calling card. Though it’s not the most likely outcome, the possibility of Deshaun Watson (who has made clear his intention of never playing another snap in Houston) landing in San Francisco certainly exists. If resourceful GM John Lynch is able to pull another rabbit out of his hat by acquiring Watson, it would be awfully tempting for Fuller to join his former Texans teammate in Silicon Valley.

Washington Football Team

Fresh off a surprise playoff appearance in 2020, Washington finds itself well-positioned for future success, entering free agency with over $38 million in available cap space (fifth-most). Even if Washington swings for the fences at quarterback this offseason (rumor has it WFT is closely monitoring the Russell Wilson situation in Seattle), the reigning NFC East Champs should have more than enough cap room left over to splurge on a starting-caliber wide receiver. In Washington, Fuller would serve as the perfect complement to Terry McLaurin, an equally explosive outside presence with staggering 4.35 wheels. Even if Fuller maxes out as a frustrating, feast-or-famine type in the mold of Hollywood Brown and other similarly big-play-dependent deep specialists, he’d still be an improvement on the revolving door of receivers Washington experimented with last year including Cam Sims, Steven Sims Jr., Isaiah Wright and Dontrelle Inman. And if proximity to home is a selling point, Landover is pretty much a straight shot down I-95 from Fuller’s native Philadelphia.

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