Recent signee wide receiver Bobby Wade entered the league in 2003 as a fifth round pick of the Chicago Bears, where current Kansas City head coach Todd Haley was then a receivers coach. Now in his eighth season at the age of 28, Wade will again play under Haley.
Wade is one of a parade of veteran free agent receivers to march through Kansas City this year. Also drafted by the Chicago Bears, but in 1996, the 36 year old Bobby Engram is the only recent acquisition to remain on the roster.
Fallen by the wayside include the New York Giant’s all-time yardage leader Amani Toomer, and former first round draft pick Ashley Lelie. Both were cut after preseason appearances in the red and gold.
What differentiates Wade from other free agents doing brief guest spots on the Chiefs team is his ability to return kicks. Wade has fielded at least one punt in five of his eight seasons and returned 50 kickoffs in 2006 for a 23.9 average in Tennessee.
Haley has said that Wade will only play this week if he can be an asset in multiple facets of the game. Meaning that Wade will have to prove he’s ready to run some routes if fans are to see him fielding punts at Arrowhead this Sunday.
True, Wade’s statistics in the return game are not flashy. However, he never returned more than 33 punts in a season. When he did so in 2005 he did return a punt 73 yards for a touchdown.
However, if the Chiefs get a good eight to ten yard return average this will suffice and be a significant upgrade for Kansas City who has struggled to find a worthy punt returner.
The flashiest return men do not sport long careers. Former Chief’s X-factor Dante Hall is no longer in the league. Devin Hester only returns kicks in a pinch and had no touchdowns in 2008 while only boasting a 6.2 yard return average on punts.
Who remembers these guys for more than a season or two of greatness? Tim Dwight, Desmond Howard? The truly great returners are needed to help their team elsewhere just as Haley has said of Wade coming to the Chiefs.
Wade is in fact coming off of back to back seasons with over 50 receptions, and career highs in yardage.
Every team would like a return man who can break a game open, but most importantly is the ability to protect the ball and field it cleanly. Corner back Maurice Leggett muffed a punt against the Ravens in week 1 and while he didn’t repeat the mistake he certainly didn’t show anything exciting.
A team that has the punt returner thing figured out is Green Bay. Jordy Nelson is a sure-handed receiver who isn’t likely to drop the ball and has the wherewithal to pick up some return yards when the potential is there.
When the Chiefs brought in former return star Eddie Drummond fans saw an athlete preoccupied with his former greatness who didn’t do the best thing for the team, limit mistakes.
It might be anticlimactic, but I will cheer when Bobby Wade raises that hand above his head and securely fields that fair catch as the defenders crowd the halo around him.