Much like last year, you can divide wide receiver into two categories: Calvin Johnson and everybody else. Johnson battled through injuries last season and still made it clear that he's the NFL's best wide receiver. He's called Megatron for a reason, and he should be even more dominant in 2014 with his finger and knee injuries finally being addressed with surgery this offseason.
Beyond Johnson, there just isn't a ton of talent at wide receiver. Nate Burleson was off to a good start before his pizza-related broken arm last year, but the Lions decided to release him last week. He was set to make $5.5 million in 2014, and he became a cap casualty since he just isn't a play-making No. 2 type of wide receiver at this point in his career. The same goes for Kris Durham, who became the No. 2 wide receiver by default for much of last season. Durham did some good things, but he's better suited for a spot lower on the depth chart.
Durham is actually set to become an exclusive-rights free agent this offseason, as is Jeremy Ross. This simply means that if the Lions want them back, all they have to do is extend a minimum qualifying offer. Ross will almost certainly be back given that he did an excellent job as the Lions' returner after joining the team during the 2013 season. He also flashed some potential as a contributor on offense, and getting him more involved as a wide receiver could be beneficial this year. At the very least, he should continue to be an excellent contributor on special teams.
The Lions' other two free agents at wide receiver are Kevin Ogletree and Micheal Spurlock. I could see Ogletree being re-signed to compete for a spot on the team, but Spurlock really is no longer needed with Ross taking the returner job.
As for the other wide receivers who are actually under contract, there's a lot of inexperience. The Lions are hoping that Ryan Broyles will emerge in his third year in the league as a reliable target and a weapon in the slot, but after suffering yet another serious injury last season (a ruptured Achilles to follow up two torn ACLs), it remains to be seen if he will ever become that type of player. Actually, it remains to be seen if he will even be able to make it through an entire season without suffering an injury at this point.
The other inexperienced players at the position are Patrick Edwards, Corey Fuller, Cody Wilson and Carlin Isles. Edwards made the team last year, but he was let go early in the season after a disappointing four games. Fuller and Wilson both spent training camp with the Lions in 2013, but neither made the 53-man roster. Finally, Isles joined the Lions this offseason after playing rugby, but it looks like he may be sticking with rugby instead of giving the NFL a shot. The hope for the Lions is that one or two of these guys will really step it up this offseason, and there is some potential with this group. However, it's more likely that most or all of these guys will simply turn out to be camp bodies in 2014.
Need going forward?
Wide receiver is widely viewed as the Lions' top need. They need a legitimate No. 2 wide receiver to take some of the pressure off Johnson, and they could use a No. 3 type of guy as well. Quite simply, there's a need for more talent at this position. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Lions sign a veteran wide receiver during free agency, and they are expected to draft one or two wide receivers as well. They have to address this position this offseason.