If Dwayne Bowe doesn't ink his signature on a contract before July 16, he will become a free agent when the final whistle blows on Kansas City's season. The Chiefs need to reach an agreement with their star before curtains close on the "D-Bowe Show," and the wideout takes his act on the road in 2013.
Three reasons: proven consistency, a generous amount of cap space, and his allurement as a potential free agent next year.
Amidst the shadow cast by gruesome tears and broken bones, Dwayne Bowe represented the team's sole offensive bright spot in 2011. But the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Before the influx of youthful offensive weaponry and rapid emergence of ankle-breaker Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe was the Chiefs' offense. His reliable production was, and still is, pivotal to the success of an injury-prone receiving corps—history supports the claim.
The respective draft stocks of Tony Moeaki and Devon Wylie plummeted because of collegiately stemmed health concerns. Moeaki was sidelined for the entirety of 2011's regular season, and Wylie already missed time at camp with a sore hamstring. Dexter McCluster is sparingly used due to moonlighting as a crash-test dummy for the laws of physics.
Most rookies are tasked with pre-practice food runs or taped to goal posts for their NFL initiation—Jonathan Baldwin was sucker-punched by the superhero sketches that are Thomas Jones' biceps (the most significant impact that Jones would make throughout the season).
Although Steve Breaston's health has proven to be a non-factor throughout his career, he's not a game-changing threat and will likely be demoted as Baldwin progresses.
But Bowe annually stuffs stat sheets, elusively juking any would-be obstacles. No secondary receiver to share the load? No problem. Nonexistent rushing attack? Not a bead of sweat. Lackluster quarterback play? Child, please.
Excluding his 2009 suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy (Bowe tagged a weight-loss supplement as the culprit), No. 82 has evolved into a paragon of reliability; he has trotted onto the field in all 64 games of the other four seasons.
While the suspension shortchanged his 2009 campaign, Kansas City's playmaker has surpassed the 1,000-yard mark—and finished only five yards shy as a rookie—in three of his four full seasons. He also accounted for at least 49 first downs and 70 catches in all four of the aforementioned years.
Basically, if Hoarders: Athlete Edition ever graced A&E, somber music would escort pale-colored highlights as Dwayne Bowe recounted his reception history.
Only three teams—the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans and Cleveland Browns—currently boast more salary-cap wiggle room than the Chiefs. Thus far, GM Scott Pioli has managed to position Kansas City $16.5 million under the limit.
In other words, money shouldn't be the toppling priority and dictating variable in this particular equation.
Pioli has repeatedly taken the initiative in signing the franchise's marquee players to long-term deals. Next season, only four other offensive and defensive starters—Branden Albert, Glenn Dorsey, Ryan Lilja and Jovan Belcher—will have played out their contracts. The trend shouldn't stop with Bowe.
While his price tag will likely reside in the same neighborhood as Vincent Jackson's offseason deal (five years, $55.5 million with $26 million guaranteed), his track record should silence any skepticism.
The worst-kept secret in NFL history: wide receivers crave attention.
A lot of players seemingly feel indifferent about their share of camera time. Some will intentionally blend in with the shadows, fade to black and react to the media spotlight like traumatized vampires.
Dwayne Bowe enthusiastically points to his name stamped across the back of his jersey; he revels in his own glory. He's generated unwanted headlines, stirred controversy and verbally jousted with coaches. No. 82 isn't the exception to his position's stereotype(s), nor is he the second-coming of Jerry Rice.
His recent demeanor showcases a degree of maturity and a player attempting to rectify past wrongdoings by his future actions. But make no mistake, he undoubtedly still welcomes all forms of flattery.
Even if negotiations come to a screeching halt and both parties walk separate ways between now and July 16 (the deadline for franchise players to ink a long-term contract), Bowe will sign a one-year tender and still call Arrowhead Stadium "home" this upcoming year.
But opportunists—such as Miami Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis—play chess, not checkers. Davis half-heartedly enticed and recruited Bowe via Twitter (the tweets have since been deleted.) Was the act newsworthy? Considering Miami's financial standing, Bowe's current situation and the fact that the exchange took place in a world that's home to condescending Wonkas and drunken Barneys, signs point to "no."
However, it is an indicative sample of next offseason's storyline if Bowe's services are auctioned off. The price tag isn't going to be marked down—if anything, a healthier 2012 roster will boost his production and value simultaneously.
The Kansas City Chiefs may have $16.5 million to spend as they please, but still can't afford to waste time.
Money talks. But if Dwayne Bowe keeps marching to the beat of a different drum, Scott Pioli better find a way to make it sing.