As Buffalo Bills enthusiasts, we're all aware of the following things: the Bills have a desperate need at wide receiver; the big names on the free agent market are Johnson, Wilford and Hackett; and it's not a guarantee the Bills will be able to sign any of those players. Should that turn out to be the case in early March, where could the Bills turn to for veteran receiver help? The answer to that may just come from the roster of a division rival.
Released by the Miami Dolphins last week, 31-year-old Marty Booker is a veteran of nine NFL seasons with the type of size (6'0", 210 pounds) and receiving skills that the Bills currently lack at the position. His two most productive seasons, in which he combined for 197 catches, 2,260 yards and 14 scores (2001-02), occurred when Buffalo's own Dick Jauron was head coach of the Bears. Though he may be nearing the downside of his career, is it crazy to believe that Booker could just as easily provide answers to Buffalo's questions at receiver as some of the bigger-name free agents he's competing for roster space with?
The Phinsider's Take
Simply put, Matty I - head blogger at one of SB Nation's finest NFL blogs, The Phinsider - rocks. Sure, his irrational love of the Dolphins is perplexing (and it makes him our enemy), but he's also a trustworthy and incredibly knowledgeable source of all things Dolphins. I asked him a few questions about Booker, and the answers he provided are outstanding - so prepare yourselves to learn everything you need to know about Marty Booker, past and present.
Booker, at least statistically, didn't have a horrible '08 season. Was his release a product of Miami's new front office regime, or was the writing on the wall before Parcells was hired?
The writing was on the wall well before Cam Cameron and Randy Mueller lost their jobs. It's not that Marty is a bad player. However, he had just one year left on his contract and was due $5.3 million dollars in 2008 ($4.3 was salary, $1 was a roster bonus). There's no way Booker, at his age and production output, is worth that much money. When you consider that cutting him costs the Dolphins nothing because he was attained through a trade (meaning the Bears were on the books for his prorated bonus money), his release was inevitable. And with the new regime in town looking to rebuild, his release was assumed for a long, long time.
Compared to his Chicago days, Booker's numbers were significantly lower. Do you believe it had more to do with poor play from Booker or a revolving door at quarterback?
I don't think his lack of production in Miami was due to his own poor play. Like you said, the Dolphins quarterback situation since Booker joined the Dolphins has been a mess. Consider this: in his four years in Miami, Booker had nine different quarterbacks throwing to him. Nine!! And, of course, none of them were any good. When the best QB play over those four years come from Gus Frerotte, you know you got problems. If you couple the QB situation with the fact that Booker played in three different offensive systems in those four years, it's understandable why his production was not nearly what it was before joining the Dolphins.
Did you notice any decline in Booker's play as he got older, or did he remain consistent throughout his four years as a Dolphin?
The only thing I'll say about Booker is that he seemed noticeably frustrated at times this year from the play of his QB, whoever it was. That, and he seemed to drop more passes than usual in 2007. Maybe it's because he was frustrated and wasn't as focused on the field because of how bad the team was. If you ask me, I still think he'd make a good signing for a team looking for a decent second or third WR and would come at a reasonable price.
What else is there to say? Matty I has pretty much laid it all out on the line - Booker spent four consistent years in Miami with a franchise that, well, was inconsistent pretty much everywhere else. Couple that with his solid years in Chicago - under Dick Jauron, no less - and Booker may be an underrated option for the Bills to consider at wideout. Certainly, his age (31) makes signing him iffy, but as far as Booker the player goes, he seems to be the type of big possession receiver with red zone capabilities that this team sorely lacks. If the likes of Ernest Wilford, Bryant Johnson and D.J. Hackett get large contracts elsewhere, Booker might be a perfect Plan B option for the Bills.
Thoughts on Booker, his free agency, Matty I's comments, or the Dick Jauron ties? This may be the most intriguing free agent preview we've done to date - so let's hear it, folks!