Entering the 2016 season, the Buffalo Bills had a fairly solid, if unspectacular depth chart at wide receiver. Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, and Greg Salas are all guys who know the playbook, play hard, and run good routes. Health, of course, has been an issue with 50% of those above, but there was almost no way to expect that all four of them would miss time at some point this season. Even less likely was that all four would miss time at the same time.
Remember, folks: This is the Bills we’re talking about.
Sammy Watkins has been on IR since the fourth week of the season after he aggravated his lingering foot injury against the New York Jets. Greg Salas hurt his groin in practice following that game, and he missed the Week 3 tilt against the Arizona Cardinals. Salas was placed on IR prior to Week 5, making room for the return of Marcell Dareus... who promptly injured his hamstring and missed three weeks before playing against New England and injuring his groin.
The decision to IR Salas made sense at the time, since he was not close to returning and Dareus was finally eligible to play; however, that decision has backfired now with Salas’s reported release. Had Salas remained on the roster with an “out” designation, he would be able to play sooner rather than later, and the Bills need all the help they can get at the receiver position right now. Since they put him on IR, they also could have used their “return designation” on him—except that would make it so they could not use the same designation on Sammy Watkins, and they’d also have to wait until Salas had spent at least 8 weeks on IR.
Any decision the team made regarding Salas was a real “Catch-22”—they could have sacrificed their best receiver for an available one, or they could release Salas with an injury settlement and wait the mandated three weeks to bring him back. This means that Buffalo has to deal with Seattle and Cincinnati without him, and he would be eligible to return for the team’s Week 12 game against Jacksonville. Ironically, Watkins is also available to return ahead of that same Week 12 game. For his part, Watkins’s health is said to be improving greatly.
So maybe it wasn’t a difficult decision at all. By releasing Salas now, they actually accelerate the timetable to bring him back by a whole week (he was IR-designated ahead of week 5, so he wouldn’t be eligible to return until week 13), and strengthen their team immensely ahead of what will be a critical stretch of games. If by some chance Salas signs with another team, it was a risk worth taking. The great likelihood is that they’ve already discussed this with both the player and his agent, and Salas will be back in red, white, and blue against the Jaguars.
Hopefully, he’ll have some company in the old friends department.