A lot of Jaguars fans are concerned about the Jaguars' receiving corps now that Mike Sims-Walker has been allowed to walk. That is a completely understandable, and I see why people are concerned, however, calling wide receiver a "need" like Alfie did earlier today might be an overreaction. Wide Receiver is a "want" certainly, but I feel like the decision to let Sims-Walker leave does not force Gene's hand as much as some might think. In my opinion, there are plenty of valid reasons for allowing MSW to leave in free agency. Here are a half-dozen reasons I see for letting Sims-Walker go into free agency without fear:
1) Jason Hill: I know many of you Jags fans aren't sold on Jason Hill. After all, he managed only 11 catches in 6 games. Well, let's look at those six games. Hill was signed off the street directly onto the roster, so his 6 games actually was not really six games. He was thrown on the field for a couple of plays week 12 when he was signed and made one catch. That was without ANY knowledge of the playbook or anything. He was simply plugged in as the third receiver on a few plays. He also flashed the ability to make the long reception with a tiptoe-ing, back corner, one-handed catch he made just out of bounds. He caught a 48-yard bomb two weeks later against Oakland, and after that the Jaguars started inserting him more into the game. In the last three games, he had 9 catches for 185 yards, and more importantly, he could get open deep down the field. Mike Sims-Walker, for all his ability, never showed me that he could get up and bring down a deep pass and the team tried often. Having a deep threat at wide receiver is incredibly important, because it forces the safety to play on their heels for the pass, rather than getting up on their toes to make plays in the running game. Hill is undoubtedly a better deep threat than Mike Sims-Walker.
2) Zach Miller: Miller was an excellent draft selection. He has breakaway speed, good size, and according to the Jaguars' coaching staff, his blocking ability has been improving every year. I like seeing Miller on the field, because he is a clear match-up problem. He'll toast linebackers, he's stronger than most corners, and he could be flexed out into the slot to draw another person off the line to make room for Maurice Jones-Drew. Miller can really run, has solid hands, and is consistently improving as a blocker. I'd like to see Miller on the field more. Instead of using three receivers, the Jaguars could just go single back, two TE's and have the threat to run and throw equally well from the same set. Is Zach Miller as good as a wide receiver? The number one goal on offense is to create mismatches. A guy like Miller can do that. He's not exactly as good as a wide receiver, but he is definitely an asset to the Jaguars offense that could be used more and to greater effect.
3) Jarret Dillard: I have the tendency to forget about Jarret Dillard myself, but when we drafted him, he was one of the quickest, shiftiest wideouts in the draft. It remains to be seen exactly how good Dillard is, but every offseason I hear "Dillard looks good" so I'm willing to go with that. Keep in mind that Sims-Walker, who everyone is clamoring to keep missed his first two seasons with the Jaguars with injuries as well.
4) Good teams do it: I know that sounds like a silly heading, but I have a point to make. Think about Brandon Stokley. In 2004, he was the hottest thing since sliced bread. The Colts fed him balls like Hungry Hungry Hippos and his YAC numbers were insane. Then what happened? He went to Denver where he basically busted, and now he's on Seatlle, where he started zero games and was essentially a waste of space. Think of Deion Branch. Tom Brady made him from a decent receiver into a great one, and what do the Patriots do? They let him go. They deal him for picks to Seattle where his best year he caught 53 balls for 725 yards. Santonio Holmes is an inconsistent receiver who flashes the ability to make the big catch, and what do the Steelers do? They trade him. Good teams are good teams because they know when their players have reached the end of their usefulness and are willing to part with them. And good teams consistently lets other teams overpay for their players. That's what the Jaguars are doing now.
5) Mike Sims-Walker: Let's be honest here, if you look at MSW's career, would you pay him? He did not play in his first year in the NFL because of injury. In 2008, he had 16 receptions over nine games. He only made catches in 6 of those 9 games. Of course, eleven of those catches game in two games against the Steelers and Texans early in the season. In 2009, Sims-Walker finally got a full season under his belt and he played well. 63 catches for 869 yards. Of course, for the record, he had seven games in his best season where his stat line was less than 2 catches for 28 yards. In 2010, he was playing through an ankle injury. Ok, that's all fine and good, but he still only had two great games. 10 for 105 mostly in garbage time against the Chargers and 8 for 153 against Dallas who were just an absolutely terrible team at that point in the season. Remove those two games and Sims-Walker made 25 catches for 304 yards over 12 games. Most importantly, in his four year career, MSW has 1,648 yards. I don't want to pay Sims-Walker to be a number one receiver.
6) There's a sucker born every minute: Someone will want to pay Sims-Walker to be a number one receiver. I would bet that some team is going to look at Sims-Walker's 2009 season and offer him a lot of money. They won't realize that he has the tendency to disappear in games, or that he struggles at times holding on to the ball, they'll just see a receiver with good physical talent and want him. We would have to compete with those teams to keep Sims-Walker on the field, and I don't see him as being worth #1 WR money. Right now, the Redskins, Bengals, and Rams are all desperately looking for wideouts, and if the Redskins are in the market, you can bet they'll throw a whole lot of money around. Also, the Jaguars receive compensation in the form of draft picks based on the contracts that their free agents sign. Let someone else sign Sims-Walker to a huge deal, and use the compensatory pick you'll get from it to take some late round WR next year.
There are reasons to keep Sims-Walker around, but as you can see, there are plenty of legitimate reasons for letting him go. I think that all in all this is the right choice for the Jaguars. I wouldn't mind at all if Sims-Walker went on to have a great season somewhere else, I would still consider this a reasonable move by Gene and the Jaguars' front office, and I still don't see much reason to doubt the ability of the Jaguars offense just because MSW is gone. Also, for those of you with short memories, the Jaguars made the playoffs in 2007 with the following receiving corps: Reggie Williams, Matt Jones, Dennis Northcut, and Ernest Wilford...
Yeah, I feel a lot better about the guys we have now.