Now that the 2009 NFL Draft is in the books and off-season player acquisition will crawl at a snail's pace, Buffalo Rumblings has begun re-examining the Buffalo Bills' revamped roster. We continue off our 'State of the Roster' series this morning with a look at the wide receiver position. Previous installments: QB, RB, TE, OT, G/C, DE, DT, LB, S.
Terrell Owens. Uh... Terrell Owens. Did I mention Terrell Owens?
Coming off of two consecutive seasons in which the team sported anemic offenses, the Buffalo Bills knew they needed to add a playmaker to the team's receiving corps - not just to free up the constantly-doubled Lee Evans, but to finally give developing QB Trent Edwards a chance to play with real talent around him. That's why the team made an aggressive, early move to try to ink free agent receiver Laveranues Coles, who had just been released by the Jets. That fell through when Coles took more money to play for the Cincinnati Bengals.
The player the Bills got instead of Coles has caught 95 more touchdown passes than Chad Ochocinco's new running mate. That's quite the consolation prize.
With Owens on board, Buffalo now boasts one of the deepest receiving corps in the entirety of the National Football League. Will it help the Bills turn around their offensive fortunes and finally make a serious playoff push? Time will tell - but, in a phrase that is quickly becoming a mantra of sorts for 2009 Bills football, there are "no more excuses" for this group. There is finally an abundance of talent at this position.
STARTER: Lee Evans
Evans still fancies himself the Bills' top receiver. No receiver benefits more from the presence of Owens than Evans, who won't have to deal with persistent double coverage for sixteen games this year. One of the league's elite deep threats, Evans will be free to do what he's best at provided Owens continues his dominant ways - make big plays. He'll have a shot to make a lot of them.
STARTER: Terrell Owens
There isn't a lot to say that isn't already widely known. He's one of the top two or three touchdown-producing receivers in NFL history, with 139 career scoring receptions to his name. Even if he is dealing with diminishing skills, Owens brings two things to the receiving corps that we haven't seen in a long time: physicality and nearly unparalleled prowess in the red zone. He's a ten-touchdown-per-year player. If that continues in Buffalo, our offense is infinitely better. Case closed.
STARTER: Josh Reed
After years of playing out of position as the Bills' second receiver, Reed will return to the area where he does the most damage - the slot. He's already proven himself to be a reliable chain-moving target, and he's been a go-to guy for Edwards. Now he'll be free to do even more damage underneath. He'll never be an All Pro, but when you're surrounded with two outstanding outside targets, Reed is the type of player that will aggravate defenses to no end in the short areas of the field.
No one denies that Parrish can be electrifying with the ball in his hands. What can be questioned, however, is whether or not Parrish - a gadget player and elite punt returner and little more - is too luxury for a team like the Bills. Considering the amount of money he's due to be paid and the amount of playing time that's no longer open to him, don't be shocked if the team looks to trade him - there may still be a market for his services.
Indirectly, no one is going to benefit more from Owens' work ethic than James Hardy. Already blessed with rare size for a receiver, Hardy will get to spend at least a year watching Owens. T.O. doesn't need to teach him a thing; in fact, it's probably a little dangerous to ask him to do so. But no one has ever questioned Owens' work ethic or his practice habits. He does everything by the book and more on the field and in the practice setting. It will benefit the developing Hardy immensely to be around a player with Owens' work habits.
See: Hardy, James. Subtract the lingering knee injury and add the fact that he's already a fan favorite. The kid's got upside, but if a guy like Parrish isn't moved, he may not get many opportunities to see the field in 2009.
A few more names and a bit more analysis for you after the jump.
He's here because of his value as a special teams player. Even if something happens on the trade front with Parrish, Jenkins isn't seeing the field as a receiver barring catastrophic injuries.
Huggins is a two-year practice squad player with no eligibility remaining and a miles-long shot at making the roster. Still, keep your eye on him - he's routinely making plays in the practice setting.
The second-year pro spent 2008 on the practice squad, and with solid athleticism and some upside to be tapped into, he seems destined for that role again next season.
Sam is essentially Hawthorne, but without the practice squad caveat to keep him around. He won't be in Buffalo very long.
Contract situations: Owens and Reed are free agents after the 2009 season concludes. Evans is locked up long-term, as are last year's rookies (Hardy, Johnson). Parrish is also locked up long-term, but obviously his situation is a bit different.
See what happens when just one playmaker is added to a position? The area goes from a frustration to a team strength overnight. Buffalo has five to six weapons at this position now that can hurt you in very different and very specific ways. There aren't any more excuses for this position, for QB Trent Edwards or for offensive coordinator Turk Schonert - the ability to harness the skill of this group and turn it into production and points will be the key to winning more games this season, particularly against division rivals.