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Exploring the next step at wide receiver

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs started free agency with an apparent eye to signing a wide receiver, evidenced by the courtship of Emmanuel Sanders, who eventually signed with the Denver Broncos.

Sep 29, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (82) is congratulated by wide receiver Donnie Avery (17) after Bowe scores a touchdown against the New York Giants at Arrowhead Stadium. Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 29, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (82) is congratulated by wide receiver Donnie Avery (17) after Bowe scores a touchdown against the New York Giants at Arrowhead Stadium. Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

After missing on Sanders, Chiefs general manager John Dorsey told reporters during a March 18 conference call that options remained on the free-agent market.

“This is just really the mid-part of the second week of free agency,” Dorsey said then. “There are still players out there.”

Of course, Dorsey’s statement came a week before the Philadelphia Eagles released DeSean Jackson, who immediately became the top free-agent receiver available to the highest bidder.

The Chiefs were interested before pulling out of the Jackson sweepstakes Saturday night, leading to another lost opportunity and a question: What other free-agent receiver could intrigue the Chiefs?

Sanders or Jackson would’ve been ideal fits when considering each could also contribute on special teams, a unit that lost wide receiver/punt returner Dexter McCluster and safety/returner Quintin Demps to free agency.

Unfortunately, a lot of the remaining receivers on the market don’t appear to offer that versatility.

There are recognizable names, such as Santonio Holmes, Sidney Rice, Kenny Britt or Miles Austin, according to a running list of available free agents at NBC Sports’ Rotoworld.com. But that quartet comes with durability concerns.

If the Chiefs are seeking a bargain considering a current $4.5 million available in cap space, they could find it in former Eagles receiver Jason Avant, whom coach Andy Reid drafted in 2006, or even Josh Morgan, a former San Francisco 49ers teammate of quarterback Alex Smith.

Avant can hit the ground running in Reid’s offense if the Chiefs sign him. And reports linked the Chiefs as an interested party shortly after the Eagles released Avant prior to the start of March 11’s free agency.

Speaking to reporters at last week’s NFL Annual Meeting in Orlando, Fla., Reid addressed the possibility of Avant.

“When he was released, I had a chance to talk to him on a personal standpoint,” Reid said. “Potentially down the road, but we’ll just see how it works out.”

Missing on two previous targets affects free-agency strategy, but the Chiefs need help at a position where starters Dwayne Bowe (673) and Donnie Avery (596) each didn’t eclipse 700 yards receiving.

The other receivers currently on the roster ahead of organized team activities (OTAs) are A.J. Jenkins, Junior Hemingway, Weston Dressler, Frankie Hammond, Jerrell Jackson, Rashad Ross and Fred Williams.

Ultimately, the Chiefs could look to May’s draft to bolster the receiving corps in lieu of signing a free agent. This year’s draft offers strong options, a point Dorsey alluded to during his conference call.

“What I like to do is, in this draft, this draft is very deep in terms of wide receivers with skills,” Dorsey said. “We always talk about (how) we’re going to turn over every rock possible as we move forward here and that’s kind of part of the process right now.

“As this plan moves forward, we’re going to continue to add competitive depth to our roster and that’s what we do every day. We come in here and we try to find the best possible players we can.”