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.
The downside for Wallace is he's a restricted free agent. That means he not only would command a big contract — one that Pittsburgh could match — the 49ers would have to give up the 30th pick in the draft if the Steelers can't match.
Marques Colston, New Orleans, 28: He's very much a 49ers-type player in that he's reliable, hard-working and doesn't mind doing the blocking and other dirty work required at his position. The former seventh-round draft pick has become one of Drew Brees' most constant targets.
Colston, however, has a long injury history and doesn't have nearly the speed of Jackson or Wallace.
Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis, 25: He's young, quick and was surprisingly productive in the Colts' Peyton Manning-less offense in 2011. He will be a hot commodity.
Robert Meachem, New Orleans, 27: The former first-round pick has size and speed but is inconsistent. He was not nearly as productive as Colston in an offense that appeared custom-made for someone with his talents.
Laurent Robinson, Dallas, 26: He's young, he's fast. and he led the Cowboys last season with 11 touchdowns. The question: is he a one-hit wonder.