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Bills' wide receiver makeover saves money, improves talent

The Buffalo Bills were blasted when they did not tender David Nelson or Donald Jones. A few months later, Buffalo's replacements are cheaper and more talented.

Jeff Gross
Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

The Buffalo Bills were roundly criticized when they decided not to tender offers on restricted free agents Donald Jones and David Nelson earlier this off-season. Nelson, in particular, was seen as a big loss following a breakout season in 2011, when he grabbed 61 passes for 658 yards and five scores.

Fast forward two months, and GM Buddy Nix has completely remade the wide receiver depth chart. He added second-round pick Robert Woods from USC and Texas third-rounder Marquise Goodwin in the 2013 NFL Draft, and followed that up by signing supremely talented but troubled wideout Da'Rick Rogers.

By not offering Nelson and Jones a restricted tender, Buffalo saved a considerable amount of money. Had the Bills tendered the undrafted receivers for the right to match any offer, they would have cost $1.323 million each. They could have also tendered at the second round level in order to ensure compensation - which would have cost $2.023 million each - or signed the duo to a regular contract extension.

Both receivers signed contracts well below that restricted threshold. Nelson signed a one-year, $680,000 contract with the Cleveland Browns after languishing on the market for several weeks. Jones did a little better, landing with the New England Patriots on a three-year deal that will pay him just over $1 million per season.

Comparatively, Woods will sign a contract in the range of four years, $4.7 million based on last year's draft slotting, and make less than Jones in each year of his free agent contract. Woods' fourth year is where his contract will escalate.

Goodwin will sign for four years and roughly $2.8 million, with a cap hit well below Nelson's one-year deal. The contracts for undrafted free agents must be a minimum of three years and $1.44 million total, but knowing that Rogers had several teams after him likely means Buffalo guaranteed a portion of that contract.

The football side of things remains to be seen, but Buffalo will have a new crop of receivers at a lower price in 2013 that fit Doug Marrone's offense better than the veterans coming off injuries. It seems like so long ago that the comments section was exploding.