When the Buffalo Bills went after and stole Brad Smith from the New York Jets, they knew they were getting a dynamic football player. Smith is as versatile as they come in the league and Buffalo was sure he could provide a spark to their offense.
Brad Smith was signed to a four-year $15 million contract. That's a lot of money invested for a specific role player. Since Smith was a great NCAA quarterback with Missouri, the Bills thought he would make a great wildcat QB. After all, coach Chan Gailey succeed with dual-threat quarterback Kordell Stewart in Pittsburgh.
However, Smith had a small role in Buffalo and didn't get going until late in the season.
Due to the inexperience and injuries that tormented the Bills' receiving corps, Smith had to play more as a receiver towards the end of the season. Thus, his role as the third-string signal-caller and wildcat quarterback was limited.
When Smith was used as quarterback, it was usually in a 3rd-and-short situation and he would rush for the first down. For the season, Smith attempted only 20 rushes and gained 87 yards with a touchdown. Smith was practically useless throwing the ball, throwing an interception on his only pass attempt. And that was in Week 1.
Smith started five games at wide receiver and caught 23 passes for 240 yards and a score. The Bills did not sign Smith to have such a limited role. He was an explosive rusher, receiver and returner with the Jets.
So Buffalo needs to make a decision in 2012.
If they want to use him as the wildcat quarterback, let him throw the ball. Give Smith options to air it out or use his athletic abilities to be even more dangerous. If they want him to compete for a backup quarterback, something he hasn't done since college, then they are wasting $15 million.
If they want to use him as a short-yardage running back, he deserves more than his average of 1.25 carries per game. He averaged 4.4 yards per carry, but most of his carries were needed to pick up a yard to keep drives going.
If they want to use him at wide receiver, where he was the most successful in 2011, then let him practice and develop as one. Smith has the skill-set to thrive opposite of Stevie Johnson and if devoted to the position, he can provide Ryan Fitzpatrick with another steady target.
It doesn't matter how Buffalo chooses to use Smith, but they need to use Smith a lot more this season than in the past. He wasn't a cheap pickup but had only 43 combined rushes and catches. He is a playmaker, which he proved with New York, but needs a bigger role on the team than what he was given.
And if Smith gets more touches, the Bills should benefit from it.