Even though Dwayne Bowe's production slipped last season by more than three hundred yards and two touchdowns from the previous year, he's still the best wide receiver in this year's free-agent market.
He's the most complete receiver of the big three on the market, which includes Greg Jennings and Mike Wallace, and is very physical while running routes and when the ball is in the air.
He also has the lower body strength to break tackles after catching the football, making him a dangerous yards-after-catch threat. And despite not having great vertical speed like Wallace, he is still able to get downfield and win matchups, as noted by NFL Films' Greg Cosell in an interview with thefinsiders.com:
Dwayne Bowe, to me, of the three, he may be the most complete, and that’s my sense. He’s a big kid, he’s really a good intermediate route-runner, he has a physical element to his game. You wouldn’t call him a pure deep threat, but he can get deep.
Because Bowe is a well-rounded talent, he is a welcome addition to any offense. Unlike Wallace, for instance, Bowe can play in any system because he has the ability to run the entire route tree effectively. In addition to that, he'll likely be a better player in the long term because he's less reliant on speed and more on physicality.
However, wherever Bowe goes, he needs to have a quality quarterback around him to utilize his talents. In years past with the Chiefs, he hasn't had one and his tremendous physical skills have gone to waste as a result. In the few times a quarterback has thrown quality passes, such as in 2010, he's been very productive.
During the 2010 season, Bowe displayed a great blend of physicality and natural talent, registering 15 touchdowns and more than 16 yards per reception. Since then he has a mere eight touchdowns to his name and hasn't been as much of a threat, even though he logged a career-high 81 receptions in 2011.
Whenever the Chiefs are able to give him the football, he's been able to shrug off defensive backs with ease and catch the ball at its peak, as witnessed against the Carolina Panthers in Week 13.
He was lined up to the right in the short side of the field ("boundary") on 3rd-and-6. The Chiefs had 11 personnel, made up of one running back and one tight end, on the field against the Panthers' 4-2-5 nickel defense.
Faced with tight press-man coverage from cornerback Josh Thomas, it was important for Bowe to win at the line of scrimmage. He did just that by giving a quick outside step with his right foot before bursting back inside.
The sudden move forced Thomas to open his hips early and run with Bowe. In order to slow the Chiefs receiver down, Thomas extended his left arm to knock him off his route. Unfortunately, Bowe has good balance and is hard to knock over. This was made more difficult when Bowe stuck out his right arm to bat away the defender's.
After Bowe avoided the jolt from Thomas, he leaned into him to constrict space. At first glance this appears to be a questionable move by Bowe but it's not. This is actually a very savvy veteran move by the 28-year-old, who has developed a good amount as a route-runner since coming into the league from LSU.
What this leaning-in technique does is slow down the cornerback, who is knocked off balance, and simultaneously enables the receiver to generate lower body power to burst away from the defender. This is beneficial to Bowe because he's able to separate from the cornerback with ease on his inside breaking route and look for the ball.
With separation created, Bowe is able to work the middle of the field and haul in a highly placed pass by the quarterback. This is another strong quality of his, as he's able to play bigger than his 6'2" size indicates because of his leaping ability and long arms.
Moving forward, there are many teams that can use Bowe's skills. He's a big-bodied wide receiver that can run routes all over the field and adjust to the football to catch it. He is a threat after the catch because of his strong lower body and deceptive cuts and is a quality target in the red zone.
An ideal fit for him would be the New England Patriots, a team that uses the middle of the field very well and has been missing a physical receiver in their offense for many years now. The New York Jets and Seattle Seahawks would also be good fits for Bowe, as they both like physical receivers that can adjust to passes and haul them in.
However, Seattle is unlikely to spend the big money on him while the Jets don't have money. As for the Patriots, they don't have a history of grand investments in receivers but they are likely going to be overhauling the group soon.
If the Chiefs choose to keep him, he'll be a good fit for Andy Reid's West Coast Offense, which is predicated on throwing in the middle of the field. There's other questions with the offense, specifically the quarterback position which Alex Smith is now in charge of, but the offense fits Bowe's skills very well and gives him a chance to be very productive once again.