With the 2013 NFL Free Agency period beginning on March 12, the Buffalo Bills may be in the market for Kansas City Chiefs’ wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. The team attempted to sign Robert Meachem to a long-term deal last offseason, before he opted to join the San Diego Chargers.
General Manager Buddy Nix expressed his desires to move wide receiver Stevie Johnson into the slot, explaining that he wanted a big-time outside wide receiver.
I think Stevie's a guy that you can play him in the slot or you can play him outside. But we need a big-time outside receiver. T.J. [Graham] gives us a lot of that, but you still need to get another, bigger guy that can line up out there and catch the ball when he's covered.
When Nix made this statement, many assumed that acquiring Bowe in free agency would be a priority of the team this offseason, in addition to re-signing free safety Jairus Byrd and left guard Andy Levitre.
Bowe certainly fits the size that Nix described, as the former 2007 first round draft pick out of Louisiana State stands 6’2” and weighs 221 pounds. In his six years with the Chiefs, he’s caught 415 passes for 5,728 yards and 39 touchdowns.
Despite dealing with the poor quarterback play by Damon Huard, Brodie Croyle, Tyler Thigpen and Matt Cassell, Bowe has managed to average 69.1 catches, 954.6 yards and 6.5 touchdowns per season, which is a testament to his abilities as a wide receiver.
While Bowe has accumulated solid statistics over his career, ProFootballFocus’ Signature Statistics that date back to 2008, state that he has dropped 48 of a possible 392 “catchable” passes in the past five seasons, a 12.2 percent drop rate.
Should the Bills sign a free-agent wide receiver or address the position in the draft?
What Kind of Contract Will Bowe Command?
Dwayne Bowe is one of the most talented wide receivers available in the 2013 free-agency class and will likely become one of the highest-paid pass catchers in the entire National Football League. Listed below are contracts that were recently given to top-tier wideouts, as a gauge for what Bowe could be asking for this offseason.
Santonio Holmes—5 years/$45 million
Andre Johnson—7 years/$67.8 million
Brandon Marshall—5 years/$44.7 million
Sidney Rice—5 years/$41 million
Pierre Garcon—5 years/$42.5 million
Vincent Jackson—5 years/$55.5 million
After breaking down these contracts, the average deal a top performing wide receiver can expect to earn is roughly $49.4 million over 5.3 years.
However, it’s been reported that Green Bay Packers free-agent wide receiver Greg Jennings will be asking for $14 million per year; a deal that would make him the third-highest paid receiver in the league, trailing only Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. Bowe could argue that he’s worth just as much as Jennings, considering factors of age, ability and production.
Why The Bills Should Stay Away
While Dwayne Bowe is an above-average wide receiver, the team would be wise to address the position in the 2013 NFL draft rather than paying for a big-name free agent. The Bills have quite a few holes on their roster and would be better off handing out contracts to two or three starting-caliber players.
The 2013 draft class is extremely deep at the wide receiver position, and many of the prospects fit the mold of the “big-time outside target” that Nix described in his interview. Furthermore, with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that drastically decreased the price for high draft picks, it’s more financially responsible to build through the draft.
The Bills currently hold the No. 8 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, and a prospect that could interest them is Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, the No. 1 rated player at the position, according to NFL Network’s Mike Mayock and Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller.
Since the new CBA was signed, the previous No. 8 overall picks, Jake Locker and Ryan Tannehill, have signed to $12.5 million and 12.6 million deals over four years, respectively.
Additionally, the second and third rounds of the draft are stocked with talent at the receiver position, with players such as Baylor’s Terrance Williams, Tennessee Tech’s Da’Rick Rogers and Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins.
This price tag is far more team-friendly than the $50 million they would have to spend to acquire a player of Bowe’s stature in free agency. The Bills are in the process of transitioning to schemes on both sides of the ball and can’t afford to be limited salary cap-wise by handing out big contracts to free agents.