Why the Buffalo Bills Traded Their Star Receiver Lee Evans

Jeff PencekCorrespondent IIAugust 12, 2011

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 14:  Lee Evans #83  of the Buffalo Bills makes a finger tip catch against Chris Houston #23 of the Detroit Lions at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 14, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York. The Bills won 14-12. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills were very quiet during the free agent frenzy after the lockout ended. The team felt very comfortable with the talent they had on hand, because they are the Bills, and talent evaluation isn't necessarily their strong point.

The team is creating a buzz during the preseason, as there are rumors from major media sources like ESPN and CBS stating that receiver Lee Evans is on the trading block. (ESPN is now reporting that Evans has been traded for a 4th round draft pick to the Ravens.)

Evans being shopped may seem strange given how little firepower the offense has had in recent years, and Evans is a fast big-play type guy.

I don't find it so strange, and think there are plenty of reasons why it is logical for the Bills to trade Evans before the season begins.


1. Merchandising

The key to merchandising is always having new product available.The Bills are great at this strategy. When enough people buy the jerseys of one of their players, they get rid of them and bring in another guy.

PITTSFORD, NY - AUGUST 08:  Stevie Johnson #13 of the Buffalo Bills signs autographs during the Buffalo Bills Training Camp at St. John Fisher College on August 8, 2011 in Pittsford, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Garage sales are full of Lynch, Edwards, Spikes, Owens, Posluszny and many more jerseys. Wearing a Bills Lee Evans jersey to a game is unappealing if he's on the Ravens, so $40-$80 gets spent upgrading to the Stevie Johnson No. 13.

Turnovers on the field are bad, turnover of inventory on the website rocks, and Buffalo has the plan down.


2. Depth

I started out fun and will get back to that, but realistically the deepest position on the team is receiver. It certainly isn't offensive line or linebacker.

Stevie Johnson is now the No. 1 receiver. Roscoe Parris is seen as their No. 3 receiver. If David Nelson doesn't play tight end, he's expected to get a lot of playing time.

Donald Jones and Naaman Roosevelt both showed flashes of being able to play in the league. That doesn't even include Brad Smith, Buster Davis, Marcus Easley or Felton Huggins.

Losing Evans might lose some experience, but the team might not lose anything in terms of skill.

3. Ability to get open

I can't prove this, because us NFL viewers don't get the full perspective of the NFL field during the game. Trent Edwards became famous for his check-down obsession. Some of his reads came from a fear of getting another concussion.

A few years ago, I came up with the theory that Edwards struggled because Evans wasn't great at getting open. He was the No. 1 receiver, and top receivers find space.

I don't know if it was route running or physicality off the line, but Evans didn't seem to find the open space like a lot of other No. 1 or 2 receivers did, and that can range from Brandon Lloyd to Wes Welker.

If the No. 1 guy struggles to get open, the quarterback loses confidence quickly.


4. Money

Let's face it, the Bills aren't really the most economically aggressive franchise in the sport. Lee Evans has a big contract and is paid as a No. 1 receiver and at this point in the offense, he's not one.

Evans still catches more deep passes than other options, but he had comparable numbers in catches and TD's to David Nelson and Roscoe Parrish last year, and both of them are more versatile.

Nelson can line up as a TE. Parrish returns punts. If the Bills can save money and trade Evans and then go out and not spend the money, they will.

Ralph did open the wallet and donate some money to the Hall of Fame, a nice gesture indeed. How about donating an offensive tackle while you're in the giving mood?


5. It can't get much worse

Ever since Evans has been a Bill, the passing game has stunk. In terms of net passing yards per game, it hasn't been above 25th since Evans joined.

Some of this has to do with the string of mediocre QB's. Some more of it has to do with the below-mediocre offensive line put out on the field weekly.

His presence in the offense isn't making the team explosive, so without him it's not like they can go much below 25th.

If a seventh-round pick can become the dominant receiver in the Bills offense with Evans, it shows that Evans may be lacking something that Donald Jones or David Nelson can bring.

6. The Curse of the First Round

Lee Evans brings something to the Bills that is haunting, that they despise and that is a demon lurking around the locker room. The Bills picked him in the first round.

The ghosts of Lynch, Losman, McCargo, Williams, McGahee, Flowers, Maybin and hundreds others haunt the franchise day after day.

Think about the size of the curse. If the Bills scouting staff deemed Evans worthy of a first round pick, he must be flawed. Those two 1000-yard seasons were a mirage.

Trading Evans would rid the Bills of the curse of the 2004 draft, just like they got rid of the 2007 draft earlier this offseason. Drafts are only important for teams interested in winning the Super Bowl.


7. The Draft of 2012

Having big-play type players is only important to a team if they are trying to win now. Not much has shown that the Bills are aiming for a Super Bowl run this year. However, keeping up with the Dolphins is a whole different matter.

Ryan Fitzpatrick deserves to start this year, but I don't think the Bills believe he's the franchise QB. In order to get the franchise QB, they have to lose, and lose a lot. Will Andrew Luck sign in Buffalo if he lands there? Probably not.

Will Matt Barkley bring the string of disappointing California QB's for Buffalo? I doubt it. Winning now isn't important. Why in the world would a 92-year-old owner have a sense of urgency to win soon?


8. For Lee's Sake

I think a lot of Bills fans found some optimism in last year; they played a lot of close games against teams that made the playoffs. They were also 4-12.

It's tough to look at the Bills as being a major contender in the near future, especially with so many visible holes (they're trying to play a 300-pound guy at linebacker, hoping he's the second coming of Levon Kirkland).

Evans gave seven years of his career without making the playoffs, he probably deserves a chance to do so since he's rarely been vocal about how bad the team has been. He was definitely no TO.

It's time for Lee Evans and the Bills to part, and more likely than not the trade will happen in the next few days. Evans will go to a Bird team and the Bills will get a draft pick for next year (which will surely be turned into someone awesome).

The Bills will then free up some money to go and sign the offensive tackle they will need for depth, most likely Kirk Chambers.


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