I did some thinking last night and I came to the conclusion that we absolutely need to sign or franchise Stevie. Here is my reason why. First, there are numerous teams that need a top WR. Off the top of my head I can name Kansas City, Tampa, Jacksonville, Washington, Tennessee, San Fran, Seattle, Chicago and Cleveland. A couple of those teams (KC, Jax, Wash, Chicago and Cleveland) border on desperate need for a WR. On top of that, most of those teams have MORE cap space than we'll have, or at least equivalent space to spend on a WR.
The second factor is that I believe there are only 9 top WR available. Those are: Wallace, Bowe, V Jackson, Welker, Stevie, Lloyd, Colston, Wayne, and Garcon. If you look at each one of them, it will be very clear that most of them won't even be available as options to the Bills. Wallace is not practical as we wouldn't give up our #10 pick to get him. Bowe will almost definitely be franchised by KC. I highly doubt Welker will not re-sign with NE, and even if he doesn't, I highly doubt he'd want to come to Buffalo and he isn't exactly the big WR we are looking for to replace Stevie. Lloyd could be available, but has already stated he wants to play in NE for McDaniels. Wayne is too old and I can't imagine Nix bringing him in for big $$ at his age. And I don't see any way Garcon doesn't stay with Indy.
That leaves us with V Jackson, Stevie and Colston as realistic options for Buffalo. This is assuming we don't re-sign or tag Stevie, so that leaves VJax and Colston. So, first of all, we'll be battling Jax, Wash, Chicago, Cleveland, New Orleans, and several other teams for VJax and Colston. And on top of that, I can almost guarantee that if we were to land one of those two guys, we'd have to overpay one of them to get them to choose us.
So my thought process is, if we are going to have to overpay for a WR, why not overpay (A LITTLE) for the one that is already in Buffalo? Because what REALLY scares me is that if we don't keep Stevie, it is FAR from certain that we will be able to replace him with an equal or better talent. What in the world will we do if we don't keep Stevie and we are unable to replace him with one of those other 8 WR that I listed? I certainly don't want Manningham (or a comparable FA) as our #1 WR next year. And unless it is Blackmon, I would be extremely upset if we lose Stevie and have to use our #10 pick on the second best WR in the draft.
Given this, how in the world would Nix not at least use the franchise tag on Stevie? The risk of going into the open market this year without a #1 WR on the roster and battling against all of the WR-needy teams with big wallets is just too risky for me.