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Potential Bills Free Agent: WR Bernard Berrian

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Is Berrian worth the contract he'll likely get? (Bill Smith, ChicagoBears.com)

In the never-ending search for wide receiver help for the Buffalo Bills, certain qualities seem to dominate the search for receiver talent. Size, toughness, being a possession and red zone threat, and yards-after-catch potential are the most common traits. The thought is that with Lee Evans and Roscoe Parrish on board - two very fast players - a possession receiver with the ability to score in the red zone would be the perfect complement. Is it so crazy to think, however, that another deep threat would be less effective in opening up Buffalo's offense?

Ever since a break-out 2006 season in which his Bears made a Super Bowl run, wide receiver Bernard Berrian has been one of the hottest names on the market. Potentially the most explosive receiver available this off-season (assuming Randy Moss stays in New England), Berrian is a highly-sought-after commodity. Even though the Bears may franchise him, Berrian is worth a look.

Windy City Gridiron's Take
Once again, WCG from Windy City Gridiron was kind enough to lend us insight into a prominent Bears free agent. Here are his thoughts on Berrian and his impending free agency:

Do you believe that Berrian is worthy of the large, long-term contract he's likely to get?

No. That is not to say he couldn't. Obviously, it is hard to judge any receiver in Chicago fairly given the QB play we have had, but Berrian has not done enough. But with Moss likely to re-sign with the Patriots, that makes Berrian the #1 option at receiver. The Bears have made a contract offer this week to him and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, but it would not surprise me if the Bears did not offer him what he thinks he is worth and he tests the market, assuming the Bears don't franchise him. I wouldn't be surprised if some team broke the bank and overpaid for him.

Berrian is coming off of his best season as a pro. Is he consistent enough to be a #1 WR in this league?

Firstly, this was not his best season as a pro. That was the Super Bowl year. This year he has shown massive inconsistency. His hands were questionable all year, especially in the beginning. He cost us at least one game due to a dropped pass. He is too easily knocked off his routes by bigger cornerbacks and has not shown the ability to beat double coverage.

We know that Berrian is an explosive deep threat, but how does he do on underneath routes and picking up yards after the catch?

He has the speed to pick up yards after the catch, but that is not how the Bears used him, so it is hard to judge how he would fare if a team ran him across the field 20 yards down a la Wes Welker and see if he can out run everybody, but the potential is there. I think I can count on one hand the number of times I saw Berrian in the middle of the field. With Muhsin Muhammad, Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen roaming the middle they really did not need him to do anything but go long or run comebacks.

Discussion Time
A lot of Bills fans are quick to dismiss Berrian because "we already have a deep threat", but I remain intrigued. Berrian has a little more height than Lee Evans (he's 6'1"), which makes him a better red zone target (see his game-winning reception against Denver last year). Just because he's never been asked to run underneath routes or across the middle of the field doesn't mean he can; Berrian seems to have the speed and enough tackle-breaking ability to be the YAC receiver this team needs. There are some major worries attached to Berrian, namely his inconsistent hands, subpar downfield blocking and lack of physicality. Those are major question marks for a guy who could soon be amongst the top-paid players at his position. Still, if you're of the belief that the Bills need explosiveness rather than steadiness in their newcomer wideout, outside of a trade, Berrian is your man.

Bears WR Bernard Berrian
Year G Rec Yds Avg TD FL
2004 16 15 225 15.0 2 0
2005 11 13 246 18.9 0 0
2006 15 51 775 15.2 6 1
2007 16 71 951 13.4 5 1
TOT 58 150 2197 14.6 13 2