Sorry bro, you're not a number 1 receiver
It's the slow part of the offseason (i.e. no signings, trades, draft on the horizon), so why not address the hottest rumor that's out there. That would be the potential free agent signing of Mario Manningham, who has said he is 75% sure he will find a new team this year and has targeted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as that new team, allegedly. Of course, the Bucs would have to want him too, but that's another story.
Manningham will be 26 years old at the start of the season and is entering what would be his 5th NFL season. He is a former Michigan Wolverine who has spend his entire NFL career playing with the New York Giants after being a 3rd round selection. He stands at a listed 6 feet even height and weighs 185 pounds. His potential decision to come to Tampa is probably a direct result of our hire of Mike Sullivan and has Manningham hoping he can play in a familiar season where he sees the field. He's leaving New York, in my opinion, based on his status as their third wide receiver and the fact that team's don't pay top money for third receivers. Hence, his desire to come play #1 or #2 in Tampa.
I've yet to watch extensive film on Manningham, but here are a few takeaways from the ole eyeball test. He has speed, enough to stretch the field and open up underneath routes. This is a huge need for the Bucs and one that we will fill with Manningham or another receiver. He has been sloppy in his route running and lacks discipline in that area. His hands are suspect and he reminds me of Chris Chambers. Can catch the ridiculous throws, but the easy ones seem to slip through his hands. His numbers will also be a bit misleading given that he played with Hakeem Nicks opposite of him and had Victor Cruz draw attention this year.
His numbers, to me, are not overly impressive. He's never topped 1,000 yards in his career, never topped 60 catches, and has only played 1 full season in his career. He's played in 49 of 64 games (76%) and has 18 touchdowns over his career (about 1 every 3 games). A but surprisingly, he only has 7 plays over 40 yards in his career. To put that in perspective, Benn has 5 in 2 years of incomplete play. For his full career numbers, see below.
In looking at his splits, he looks better on turf, his first and second half production are nearly similar and operates better on his own end of the field. Do with that what you will.
Turning to advanced metrics, Manningham fades quite a bit. His 2011 season was better than Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn from an advanced perspective, which is not surprising given the craptastic years they put up, but he fades behind Parker as the 59th best WR in terms of DYAR and DVOA.
His 2010 season was much better which could be a product of being healthy, playing all 16 games, and also not dealing with a better receiver (Cruz) breathing down his neck. He put up career highs in every category, both traditional and advanced metrics in 2010, but you have to wonder, was it a one year thing?
Beofre anyone signs off on the acquisition, assuming both parties have interest, we have to ask ourselves a few questions. First, how much does he want? A part of him leaving the Giants is because he won't command top dollar in that offense with 2 better receivers ahead of him. If he wants starter money, I can sign off on that, but if he wants #1 WR money, I have an issue. The Bucs can find better alternative for cheaper or at least get the production for what the pay. This is a clear case of don't overpay for mediocre talent.
Second, where does he fit in our offense. Anyone who thinks he is a number 1 receiver needs to look at the above numbers and ask if he has ever produced as a number 1 (hint, the answer is no) and will he benefit from Mike Williams the way he benefited from Hakeen Nicks?
I think it's a mistake to herald Manningham as a #1 wide receiver and expect him to beat double teams that #1 receivers face. That isn't his skill set. He can be a good player in this offense with Freeman at the helm, but asking him to turn into our top threat is a tall task. It's my job to remind you of guys the Bucs have tried to turn into #1's, quite unsuccessfully I might add. Alvin Harper, Jacquez Green, Riedel Anthony. Lets not forget Peerless Price, Ashley Lelie, Laverneus Coles, Bert Emanuel, Antwaan Randle-El, Jerry Porter, Javon Walker, etc. Most of those guys were #2 receivers on their previous team, guys who stretched the field (Price, Lelie, Coles, Randle El) and when made into a #1, they failed spectacularly. Playing against the #2 corner and facing single coverage is much different than facing the #1 corner and a safety over top.
One last tangent. If the Bucs could find a way to slide back to #7-10 in the draft and pick up another first rounder somehow, I would advocate giving up the later first rounder and signing Mike Wallace to a big contract and using our #7-10 pick on BPA. Takes the top off the offense and allows us to address defense still.
At the end of the day, I'm all for the Manningham signing if it's for the right amount of money, and guys like Dwayne Bowe, Vincent Jackson, and Marques Colston aren't available. We also could probably secure a guy like Pierre Garcon for half the cost and the same production. It all comes down to positioning and expectations.