The Detroit Lions are in the process of overhauling their roster, and elected not to use their franchise tag on wide receiver Kenny Golladay. That means he’ll hit the open market in search of a new team in 2021.
With a new general manager in Brad Holmes and a new head coach in Dan Campbell, the Lions turned the page on the Matthew Stafford era by trading their longtime franchise quarterback to the Los Angeles Rams.
Although Jared Goff came back as part of the deal, given his uninspiring play in LA over the past two seasons, it’s no surprise that Golladay wanted out.
Prior to missing 11 games in 2020, Golladay rated as Pro Football Focus‘ 21st-graded receiver in 2018 and was 17th the next year. That was with a dysfunctional football operation around him and Stafford being out for eight starts in 2019.
Let’s look at Golladay’s most likely landing spots that best fit his skill set, and would appeal to him. Golladay should have his choice of suitors, given that he is arguably the most coveted free-agent wideout.
Kenny Golladay to Baltimore Ravens
If the Ravens don’t end up extending MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson this offseason, their next top priority has to be getting him a legitimate receiver to open up the passing game.
Some of the play design by Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman is rightly criticized, but he has drawn up Baltimore’s unique rushing attack that maximizes Jackson’s strengths as a runner. In order for the field general to keep progressing, though, the Ravens have to help him out with easier throws to execute and superior pass-catchers on the outside.
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It’s abundantly clear Marquise Brown isn’t a top-flight receiver at this point, although he still has electrifying speed to take the top off a defense and can shake loose on bubble screens. That’s far from the all-around threat Golladay is, though.
Jackson hasn’t had someone he can rely on to throw back-shoulder passes to, or who can really create consistent separation on the outside. Throwing there hasn’t been Jackson’s forte anyway, but Baltimore is doing him no favors as far as personnel is concerned.
Playing for a top-notch organization like the Ravens should be a big draw for Golladay, who’d be the instant go-to guy in the Ravens’ lackluster receiving corps.
Kenny Golladay to Indianapolis Colts
Beyond Michael Pittman Jr. and Parris Campbell, Indianapolis doesn’t have a lot of receiving talent coming back in 2021 as the roster currently stands. The good news? GM Chris Ballard is among the best in the business at his job, and has positioned the Colts for an aggressive spending spree this offseason.
Having already traded for quarterback Carson Wentz, it’s vital for Indianapolis to upgrade the receivers around him in addition to retaining its integrity on the offensive line.
Pittman showed promise as a rookie, while Campbell is largely unproven and was hurt for the majority of 2020, appearing only two games after playing only seven in his first year as a pro. A receiver in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft is a potential solution. However, no one’s going to be as ready to roll as Golladay, who’d be the instant top option Ballard is looking for.
Colts coach Frank Reich knows what Wentz does best, and Golladay is exactly the type of No. 1-caliber receiver Wentz lacked during his disastrous 2020 season in Philadelphia, which led to the trade in the first place.
If Wentz and Golladay can combine forces with a savvy schemer like Reich calling the shots, suddenly the signal-caller could find new life in the NFL — and Golladay could be on a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Kenny Golladay to Miami Dolphins
DeVante Parker seems to have shaken off his injury issues from the past, and Preston Williams is another massive target for Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa on the outside.
Miami is a prime candidate to take a receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft’s first round, but again, to see what Tagovailoa really is, the team could expedite the evaluation process by bringing Golladay aboard.
It helps that Florida has no income tax, which appeals to Golladay financially in the short- and long-term as far as working out a deal to remain in Miami beyond 2021.
Another point to consider: Williams has only played 16 games through two seasons and has just a 52.6% catch rate, so he’s hardly a sure thing at this point.
If Tagovailoa is who the Dolphins think he is and Golladay can walk into the building and form an electric receiving duo with Parker, Miami is going to be even tougher to stop on offense — and can still add to the offensive line, backfield and receiver room through the draft instead of banking on a rookie playmaker as their true No. 2 wideout.
Kenny Golladay to Washington Football Team
The quarterback situation at every stop isn’t exactly ideal for Golladay, and that’s the case with Washington as well.
Considering that’s the case, it’s impressive that the Football Team could still win the NFC East last season and give the eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers a decent run for their money on Super Wild Card Weekend.
Whether it’s Taylor Heinicke or someone else throwing passes in the nation’s capital, Washington badly needs a second receiver to pair with Terry McLaurin.
With plenty of salary cap space and a likely bargain at quarterback regardless of whether the Football Team trades for someone like Marcus Mariota, Golladay could sign a shorter-term deal with Washington, building in outs in his contract, especially with the salary cap set to soar in 2022. That would put pressure on the Football Team to find a viable solution atop their QB depth chart in short order.
Golladay would be a bargain for Washington given its subpar receiving depth outside of McLaurin, as the Ron Rivera-coached club is way too dependent on defense right now. To legitimately entertain the notion of repeating as division champions, the Football Team needs far better QB play.
Kenny Golladay to New York Jets
Yet another cap-rich team with a cloudy forecast at the most important position. Not as much to worry about here, though, because the Jets are likely to take either Zach Wilson or another top prospect with the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, giving Golladay a dynamic, dual-threat passer to grow with in the prime of his career.
Having a QB as gifted as Wilson or someone of his ilk on a rookie deal is invaluable when it comes to rebuilding a roster. The Jets, like Miami, have a couple first-round picks to play with, and they can afford parting with some of their surplus of salary cap cash to land a proven commodity like Golladay.
Although Gang Green already has a proven veteran at receiver in Jamison Crowder, he’s entering the final year of his contract, and if he’s not a cap casualty, he’s still a slot-specific weapon. Otherwise, New York doesn’t have anyone on the outside guaranteed to return in 2021 except for Denzel Mims.
Golladay fills an obvious need for the Jets. He’d get to play in a massive media market, which has tons of appeal beyond the commercial aspect. Building a winner in New York is a big deal, and Saleh, off a tremendous tenure as San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator, should prove to be an enthusiastic recruiter who teams with GM Joe Douglas to bring in a huge infusion of talent.
A lot of signs point to Golladay ultimately heading to Broadway, where he’d be the focal point of new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s passing attack.