Jacksonville Jaguars receiver D.J. Chark qualifies as one of the more intriguing free agents that's currently set to hit the open market in March. The curious case of Chark is difficult to navigate through. The 25-year-old former LSU standout exploded across 2019 and 2020, having accounted for 126 receptions, 1,714 receiving yards, and 13 touchdowns across those two seasons. Chark unfortunately suffered a fractured ankle in 2021 and was limited to just four appearances before landing on season-ending injured reserve. The injury robbed Chark of stringing together a third successive quality campaign in an ever-important contract year. Jacksonville should show interest in bringing Chark back as they continue to develop franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence, but several receiver-needy teams are expected to flash interest in adding Chark to the fray. Chark possesses the type of game-breaking speed that can flip a contest on its head at a moment's notice. The need for speed is consistently present in today's pass-happy game and that makes Chark a quality addition to any offense. Should the Jaguars fail to retain Chark's services, we've identified three free agent fits for the speedy pass-catcher.
LAS VEGAS RAIDERSNew head coach Josh McDaniels is preparing to usher in a new and exciting regime of Raiders football. McDaniels was a highly successful offensive coordinator throughout two stints as Bill Belichick's most trusted offensive-minded confidant, and he now plans to build on that pedigree in his second opportunity as a head coach after leading the Denver Broncos years ago. The Raiders have several exciting pieces in place offensively and Chark could help complete the puzzle. McDaniels is inheriting a quality starting quarterback in Derek Carr that's fully capable of pushing the ball down the field vertically. Elite pass-catching weapons such as Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow are already under contract and should further thrive under McDaniels' guidance, as elite tight ends and shifty slot-receivers were ever-present and strongly featured throughout McDaniels' tenure in New England. What this Raiders offense is currently lacking is a speed demon that could truly unlock Vegas' passing attack while better freeing up the likes of Waller and Renfrow underneath. Henry Ruggs III was expected to fill that role, but his off-field troubles left the Raiders unexpectedly scrambling for options. Ruggs' tragic criminal offense occurred midseason and the offseason now gives the Raiders a better chance to react to his unexpected departure. Adding Chark should be a priority for McDaniels and the Raiders.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTSThe Colts have a quarterback issue following Carson Wentz's failure to develop into a quality starting signal-caller under Frank Reich in 2021. The Colts may still move on from Wentz this offseason, but finding an upgradable replacement may prove to be overly difficult. The Colts have invested quite a bit in Wentz and unless general manager Chris Ballard can perform a miracle at the quarterback position, surrounding Wentz with more fail-proof options in the passing game may be Ballard's best and most realistic course of action in a last-ditch attempt to rescue Wentz in 2022. Wentz's play trended downhill toward the most important stretch of Indianapolis' season, but the Colts failed to field an adequate WR2 throughout the course of the campaign. The aging T.Y. Hilton's best days are well behind him, and the Colts must get younger and more dynamic at the position opposite Michael Pittman Jr. An aerial attack that averaged a pathetic 197.7 passing yards per contest badly needs an injection of production and talent. The Colts are plenty familiar with Chark's talents as the two parties share a division in the AFC South. Chark destroyed the Colts for eight receptions, 104 yards, and two touchdowns in November of 2019 in the midst of a career-best season. The Colts have the salary cap space and need to sign a quality receiver. Wentz loves pushing the ball vertically and Chark is the type of receiver that would mesh well with his skill set.
MIAMI DOLPHINSOwners of the most salary cap space in the NFL ($63.8 million), the Dolphins possess the need and financial means to make a splash at the receiver position this offseason. New head coach Mike McDaniel is an offensive-minded leader that's been hired to develop Tua Tagovailoa by putting the former Alabama signal-caller in a position to succeed. The Dolphins drafted an excellent receiver in Jaylen Waddle who did his best work near the line of scrimmage as a rookie as Miami's RPO-based offense prioritized quick and simplified reads designed for Tagovailoa to get the ball out of his hands in an efficient manner. McDaniel should now look to build upon that success by adding a more viable deep threat that could lead to fewer defenders crowding around the line of scrimmage. NFL defenses may have been taken aback by Waddle's instant success in 2021, but the secret's out in the open and defenses will be better prepared to deal with Waddle underneath going forward. The Dolphins swung for the fences last offseason by signing a similar speed demon in Will Fuller to a one-year deal in March of 2021, but Fuller's injury issues reared their ugly head and he made just two uninspiring appearances as Dolphin. Fuller and the Dolphins will likely part ways, but that doesn't mean general manager Chris Grier shouldn't attempt to course-correct Miami's need for a speedy playmaker. Signing Chark would more than scratch that itch.
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