How Much Money Is Dwayne Bowe Worth on the Open Market?

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystMarch 1, 2013

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 12:  Dwayne Bowe #82 of the Kansas City Chiefs looks for running room after a third quarter catch while playing the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on November 12, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh won the game 16-13 in overtime. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The deadline for applying the franchise tag to players is rapidly approaching, and before Monday the Kansas City Chiefs are going to have to decide whether to apply that tag to wide receiver Dwayne Bowe for a second consecutive season.

That tag would pay Bowe $11.4 million in 2013, the Chiefs have enough cap space in 2013 to absorb that hit in theory, but it doesn't solve their long-term problems where Bowe is concerned, as applying the tag for a third straight year in 2014 would entitle Bowe to the franchise tender for quarterbacks.

Not happening, folks.

For his part, former Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli recently told Sirius XM Radio via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk that he'd pull the trigger on tagging Bowe again, due in large part to the fact that Bowe's current contract demands are a tad out of whack.

“Dwayne is a good, productive player at a position of need,” Pioli said.  “He’s the best receiver on the Chiefs.  He’s one of the better receivers in the NFL. . . .  I don’t believe he’s as good as maybe his agent thinks – and when I say that I don’t say that disrespectfully – I just mean there was a difference in opinion.  I think he’s a top receiver that would deserve to be compensated in the top ten range, not the top five.”

So, on the one hand it appears we have a 28-year-old wide receiver searching for a top-five payday, and on the other we have a tag that would pay him in excess of $11 million in 2013.

That begs the question...just what is Dwayne Bowe worth?

In an effort to answer that question let's first look at the top-five wide receivers in the NFL in 2012 in regards to receiving yardage, and how their compensation and production compared to Bowe's.

Player Name

2012 Receiving Yards


2012 Base Salary

Calvin Johnson, DET




Andre Johnson, HOU




Brandon Marshall, CHI




Demaryius Thomas, DEN




Vincent Jackson, TB




Dwayne Bowe, KC




This chart doesn't do Bowe's case any favors, but there are a few caveats that must be considered.

Andre and Calvin Johnson's relatively low 2012 base salaries don't reflect their hefty contracts. Demaryius Thomas is still playing under his rookie deal.

And, in Bowe's defense, to say that the quarterback play in Kansas City last year was abysmal would be offensive–to abysses.

So, in fairness to Bowe, let's flip the script a bit and look at the top-five highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL, and their career highs in receptions, yardage and touchdowns.

Player Name

Average Salary

Receptions High

Yardage High

TD High

Calvin Johnson, DET





Larry Fitzgerald, AZ





Vincent Jackson, TB





Devin Hester, CHI





Andre Johnson, HOU





Dwayne Bowe, KC





Granted, Hester is an outlier who is paid more for what he does in the return game than as a receiver, but here Bowe's case picks up some steam.

His "best case" stats are very comparable to that of Tampa's Vincent Jackson, whose $11.1 million average salary is also very close to what Bowe would make under the franchise tag.

The problem is that Bowe is unlikely to find that kind of windfall in a long-term deal, at least in 2013.

The salary cap has been set at $123.9 million for 2013, and while that was slightly higher than originally expected it still represents only a marginal increase over last season.

There aren't a lot of teams with the cap space to pay Bowe over $10 million annually even if they wanted to. The Chiefs just so happen to be one of them.

Add in a potentially deep crop of free-agent talent at his position that includes Mike Wallace of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Greg Jennings of the Green Bay Packers, Bowe's lousy 2012 numbers and his reputation as something of a headcase, and the market just isn't going to bear what Bowe's agent is reportedly asking for.

In fact, the franchise tag might actually be the best thing that could happen to Bowe.

Yes, he won't get the long-term security he seeks. What he will get is over $11 million in 2013 and a chance to rehab his stock with Alex Smith under center in Kansas City in advance of a 2014 cap that should jump when the new TV contracts kick in.

Smith may not be Peyton Manning, but he also isn't Matt Cassel or Brady Quinn.

We'll know by Monday whether the Chiefs are going to tag Bowe, as it appears as things stand today a long-term deal isn't getting worked out by then.

If not then Bowe will hit free agency on March 12, and at that point he and his agent are going to have to get real.

Dwayne Bowe is a very talented wide receiver. The argument can be made that he's a top-10 talent.

However, the only way he's getting top-five coin in 2013 is under the franchise tag.