SANTA CLARA — What at one point looked like a deep pool of free-agent wide receivers began to dry up faster than a 2012 California reservoir Monday.
First the Bills hung onto their talented and young wideout, Stevie Johnson, by signing the San Francisco native to a five-year deal reportedly worth $36.25 million.
Then the Patriots placed the franchise tag on their best receiver, Wes Welker, and the Chiefs did the same with perhaps the market's top wideout, Dwayne Bowe. Late last week, the Eagles franchised receiver DeSean Jackson.
What does that leave? Some intriguing names still are expected to hit free agency a week from today, but the bidding will be fierce.
Only two 49ers wideouts who caught passes last year — Michael Crabtree and Kyle Williams — are signed for 2012. But several other teams are in just as bad, if not worse, shape.
The Bears, Colts, Jaguars, Jets, Patriots and Rams could stand to add multiple receivers this offseason, and the market for the top names is likely to be robust.
In addition to their own free agents, Joshua Morgan and Ted Ginn, here are some players who could pique the 49ers' interest:
Vincent Jackson, San Diego, age 29: The 49ers, who courted Plaxico Burress and Braylon Edwards last year in free agency, like big-bodied receivers, and they also could use a downfield threat to complement Crabtree.
Jackson covers both criteria. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound wideout has been a handful for opposing defensive backs in recent years, and he averaged 18.4 yards a catch and scored nine touchdowns in 2011.
However, the bidding for Jackson is expected to start at $10 million a year. That's a lot of money for someone who is closing in on 30 and who hasn't been the model teammate in San Diego.
Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh, 25: Wallace has two things to covet — youth and speed. He's one of the fastest players in the NFL and someone who will make defensive coordinators think twice about stacking the line of scrimmage to stop the run.