State Of The Buffalo Bills Roster: Wide Receiver

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 02: Stevie Johnson #13 of the Buffalo Bills runs with the ball during the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Buffalo Rumblings is in the process of breaking down the Buffalo Bills' roster position by position. Installments you may have missed: OT, DE, CB.

When we examined the state of the Buffalo Bills' wide receiver position on January 10, we were looking at a list of 11 players that included four impending unrestricted free agents that lacked a legitimate bookend to one of those free agents, top target Stevie Johnson. I remarked at the time that the position held the most off-season intrigue for the team, and noted that the potential for change was enormous.

Today, the list is largely the same, as the team re-signed three of the four free agents - losing only Roscoe Parrish, who was replaced on the list by third-round pick T.J. Graham, who has since taken Parrish's No. 11 jersey. In short, not a lot has changed here, and the team is still waiting for Johnson's complement to emerge.

STEVIE JOHNSON
Age: 25 (26 in July 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2017. Signed a five-year, $36.25 million deal with $18 million guaranteed in March.

One of the Bills' biggest off-season moves was re-signing Johnson, the fifth-year pro that has emerged as Ryan Fitzpatrick's go-to target with 158 receptions, 2,077 yards and 17 touchdowns in the last two seasons. He has proven himself capable of beating the league's best corners (including Darrelle Revis) on a consistent basis, and if he can eliminate distraction and become even more consistent, he'll garner Pro Bowl consideration. The team's most marketable player still has a chance at becoming a true star, and is only now entering his prime.

DAVID NELSON
Age: 25 (26 in November 2012)
Contract: RFA in 2013. Will make $490K in base salary in 2012.

This former undrafted free agent out of Florida has been remarkably consistent from the word go. He's coming off of a very good second season in which he caught 61 passes for 658 yards and five touchdowns, and caught four or more passes in nine games a season ago. His upside appears to be a bit limited, as he's not a big hitter nor a home run threat, but he has the look of a receiver that should have a long and productive career as a slot guy whose 6'5" frame makes him a matchup problem for most defenses.

DONALD JONES
Age: 24 (25 in December 2012)
Contract: RFA in 2013. Will make $490K in base salary in 2012.

Jones opened the 2011 season as the No. 2 wide receiver, with the team talking up his untapped athletic potential all summer. He struggled in that role, however, as he was rarely on the same page with Fitzpatrick and caught only 23 passes before eventually landing on IR. He will be given a chance to start again, and he's still as athletic as he ever was, but competition will be stiff assuming full health for the next two names on the list.

T.J. GRAHAM
Age: 22 (23 in July 2012)
Contract: Currently unsigned. Will get a typical four-year rookie deal in the near future.

The lone new face in this group is Graham, the third-round pick out of North Carolina State with blazing speed, but who left draft analysts scratching their heads on April 27. Graham may be a reach, but he helped the Bills easily fulfill their goal of adding vertical explosiveness to their receiving corps, as the team really didn't have any deep speed during the 2011 season. Graham is raw, unpolished and far from a finished product, but his deep speed alone will make him a potential starter for a Bills team that's very unsettled opposite Johnson.

MARCUS EASLEY
Age: 24 (25 in November 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2014. Owed $1.065 million in base salary over the final two years of his rookie deal.

Never before has a former fourth-round pick with 53 catches in college and seven more in pre-season action been so popular with an NFL fan base. The amount of support for Easley is crazy, and based largely on his prototypical size/speed ratio. He has, however, missed both of his pro seasons on IR - one with a knee injury, and the other with a heart ailment that momentarily threw his football future into doubt. If he's healthy, he'll compete for a roster spot, and he still has starter's upside - but much of the hype surrounding him seems unwarranted at this point.

DEREK HAGAN
Age: 27 (28 in September 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2013. Signed a one-year, $765K contract in March.

A street free agent signing after the Bills suffered a slew of injuries at receiver, Hagan earned a one-year contract for the 2012 season based on a solid season finale in which he caught seven passes for 89 yards in New England. He and Fitzpatrick were able to quickly develop a little rapport down the stretch despite Hagan getting a crash course in Gailey's offense, and there was enough potential shown to bring Hagan back to compete this summer. He has a chance to stick on the roster despite being one of the team's "older" receivers.

BRAD SMITH
Age: 28 (29 in December 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2015. Signed a four-year, $15 million deal in July 2011.

Smith strung together a two-week string in which he hauled in 11 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown against the Jets and Titans, but that two-game stretch accounted for more than half of his production on the season. The team only really used him extensively at receiver when they had to, and he returned to his bit player role once guys like Hagan got the offense down. He'll very likely return to his gadget player role full time in 2012.

RUVELL MARTIN
Age: 29 (30 in August 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2013. Signed a one-year, $700K deal in March.

The third of the team's free agent re-signings this off-season, Martin is more of a special teams ace than a receiving option at this point, even though he did manage seven catches in the team's final three games. If he's going to make the roster this year, he'll have to do it the way he did it last year: as a specialist. That's his niche, and he's quite good in it.

NAAMAN ROOSEVELT
Age: 24 (25 in December 2012)
Contract: Undisclosed. Signed off the street in 2011; is under contract for at least 2012.

Roosevelt, a fan favorite and local hero, did not make the team at the outset of the 2011 season, but returned when Parrish landed on IR. He had five catches in a win over Philly, then a 60-yard touchdown reception against the eventual Super Bowl champs, but didn't contribute much beyond that and was often inactive in the latter portions of the season. He'll compete for a spot, but he'll have an uphill climb barring injury.

KAMAR AIKEN
Age: 22 (23 in May 2012)
Contract: Undisclosed. Signed off of the practice squad to the active roster in November 2011.

An intriguing athlete and former undrafted free agent out of Central Florida, Aiken spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad, then struggled to dress for game days when injuries forced him up to the active roster. Again: he's an intriguing athlete, but he's certainly got an uphill climb in this developing free-for-all competition.

DAVID CLOWNEY
Age: 26 (27 in July 2012)
Contract: Signed a reserve/future deal in January 2012.

Had we been paying closer attention to the Bills' signing of Clowney, we may have seen the pick of Graham coming. The team clearly wanted to add vertical speed to its receiving corps this off-season, and that's Clowney's calling card: speed. He ran a 4.36 at the 2007 scouting combine, became a fifth-round pick of Green Bay, and has bounced between four different pro teams - recording 22 catches and scoring one touchdown - since then. He'll compete for a roster spot, but is something of a longshot with younger talent in front of him.

POSITIONAL OUTLOOK: Johnson and Nelson have defined roles and will be major factors in Buffalo's passing attack. If just one of the team's young and athletically gifted receiving prospects (Jones, Graham, Easley, Aiken, Roosevelt or Clowney in particular) can step up and be consistently productive, Buffalo's offense could be as consistent and productive as it was during the team's 5-2 start in 2011 - if not more so. Smith's role will likely return to that of Wildcat quarterback at the outset of 2012, while Hagan has a legitimate chance at cracking the roster as a possession-type fourth receiver. Martin's best chance at sticking with the team will be as a deep reserve and special teams ace, as he was thoroughly unremarkable in limited offensive duty last season.

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