Will Fuller has had an up-and-down NFL career to date, and it may now stand at something of a crossroads. He currently finds himself among an interesting crop of free agent receivers seeking new deals well after teams have done the bulk of their roster retooling.
After two straight hugely productive seasons to finish his college career at Notre Dame, in which he totalled over 2,300 yards and 29 touchdowns, Fuller was one of the top receiver prospects in the 2016 draft class. He was the second wideout to hear his name called, going 21st overall to the Texans. That set him up in a favorable situation to begin his pro career.
Landing in Houston allowed Fuller to serve as an effective compliment to DeAndre Hopkins, given his vertical speed and field-stretching ability. He was an integral part of the team’s passing offense during his rookie season, as he saw a career-high 92 targets. Unfortunately, that year was also the one in which he saw the most time on the field, appearing in 14 contests.
Injuries have been a constant in the 28-year-old’s NFL tenure, unlike those final two years in college which made him so highly regarded. During his five seasons in Houston, he missed 27 total games, mostly due to injury. Part of that total also came from a six-game PED suspension, which was handed down late in the 2020 season. Despite the missed time, Fuller still put up career-best totals that year in receptions (53), yards (879) and touchdowns (eight).
That made him one of the top available free agents last offseason, as he hit the open market for the first time in his career. He signed with the Dolphins, a team which also added Jaylen Waddle in the draft as part of their WR overhaul. The deal carried a value of over $10MM, but was only one year in length and included incentives, as the team clearly had concerns about his availability.
Those proved to be well-founded; after missing the first week of the season due to the suspension, Fuller was also absent for Week 2 as a result of a non-injury-related matter. In October, he then suffered a broken finger, adding further to the list of ailments which have proved increasingly cumbersome to his career. The injury wasn’t expected to end his season, but it ultimately did limit him to just two games played. After recording four scoreless receptions, it comes as little surprise that Fuller is still a free agent this late into free agency.
As shown by his 16.6 yards per catch average in 2020, though, he has the ability to make a significant impact as a complimentary receiver when healthy. That qualifies him as one of the best remaining wideouts on the market, as the likes of Julio Jones and Odell Beckham Jr. have significant injury concerns of their own. A number of teams looking for veteran pass-catchers could stand to add him.
One such team is the Ravens, who were recently named as a logical destination for Fuller. The team traded away Marquise Brown during the draft, so they could use him as a replacement for Brown’s speed. Baltimore currently ranks second-last in the league in cap space, however, so any deal would need to be a short-term, low-cost one like that given to Sammy Watkins last year.
Other potential landing spots include the Colts (who have yet to re-sign T.Y. Hilton, or a similar compliment to Michael Pittman Jr.) and Packers (who considered trading for Fuller in 2020 and lost their top two WRs this offseason). Wherever he signs, Fuller could prove to be an effective addition given the right team fit and a bit of injury-related luck.