As first reported by WGR’s Sal Capaccio, the Buffalo Bills could be without top wide receiver Jordan Matthews for at least a month after the thumb injury he suffered in Sunday’s 23-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
Matthews will undergo surgery to repair the thumb, the second injury he’s suffered since the Bills acquired him via trade from the Philadelphia Eagles in August for Ronald Darby (who has yet to return to the field after an opening-week ankle injury) and a third-round pick. He missed almost all of his offseason work with the team after chipping his sternum during his first practice with the team.
Matthews has 10 catches for 162 yards through the first four games. He’s been the Bills top wide receiver, but is playing third fiddle in one of the league’s least-productive passing attacks behind LeSean McCoy and Charles Clay. That said, he’s having a much better season than Zay Jones (four catches on 17 targets) and Andre Holmes (six catches for 35 yards through four games).
The Bills have a default reinforcement coming in Walt Powell, who is eligible to be activated this week after serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. They could also turn to the practice squad, where preseason folk hero Brandon Reilly has been since the end of the preseason.
The free agent market is headlined by two receivers on the wrong side of 30 who come with injury issues of their own. 34-year-old Vincent Jackson didn’t get a sniff of interest after missing all but five games last year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a knee injury. 30-year-old Victor Cruz spent this offseason with the Chicago Bears, but recurring calf issues and general aging have seemingly sapped his game-breaking ability and he was released as part of final cuts.
At times like this, the Bills faithful usually ask themselves what Stevie Johnson is up to. The 31-year-old hasn’t played since 2015, having missed all of last season recovering from meniscus surgery with the San Diego Chargers. Whether he’s actually interested in playing again remains to be seen, but the Bills could reach out if they want someone with a similar playing style to Matthews. Corey “Philly” Brown is also still available after the Bills released him prior to the start of the season.
Rod Streater was also released, but his release came with an injury settlement. NFL rules forbid teams from re-signing a player released that way until six weeks after the term they agreed on ends, which makes him ineligible to come back right now regardless of the term they agreed on for the settlement.
All of that said, this isn’t a time to panic. The Bills have built a 3-1 record on the strength of a rock-solid defense and a ball-control running game. Trading good picks for a bona-fide number-one isn’t something the Bills really need to do at this point. They’ll need to shuffle some things around and make sure that they can replace Matthews, but they should be fine.