On the list of offseason needs for the Buffalo Bills, wide receiver depth is very close to the number one item.
The Bills have four receivers under contract for 2017, and all of them were on IR at some point last season. Two, special teams ace Marcus Easley and rookie speedster Kolby Listenbee, didn’t play at all due to injuries. The other two, Sammy Watkins and Walt Powell, combined for 42 receptions, 572 yards, and two touchdowns in 17 games.
The team leader in receiving yards, Robert Woods, is a free agent who should command more salary than the Bills would be willing to match. The remaining group of wideouts, headlined by Marquise Goodwin and also including mid-season pickup Justin Hunter (whose four touchdowns on 10 receptions tied tight end Charles Clay for the team lead) could come back, but even if they were all to re-sign (a very unlikely event), it’s still imperative that the team add a legitimate complement to Watkins.
Could that receiver be DeSean Jackson? In a recent ESPN Insider piece, the staff from Pro Football Focus picked DJax as the free agent the Bills should pick up this offseason. In doing so, they focused on his ability to stretch the field with his speed, noting that he “led the league with 579 yards on deep passes while ranking second with 16 deep receptions.” They also point out how that would benefit Tyrod Taylor (assuming he remains with the Bills) by giving him another target for his deep passes.
On the other hand, Jackson is probably still capable of commanding a relatively high salary. Spotrac calculates his market value to be about $7.6 million, which is only slightly below the $8 million they calculated for Woods. While Woods is nowhere close to the home run threat that Jackson is, he’s six years younger and a much better blocker. That should help in an offense that figures to continue to put a healthy focus on the run in the West Coast variant Rick Dennison is bringing the Buffalo.
There’s also the question of whether Jackson would want to join the Bills. NFL.com had a piece about a week prior to the ESPN/PFF list that highlighted Jackson’s desire to stay in Washington. The Redskins are closer to competing for a title than the Bills (although neither is particularly strong), and at 30 years old Jackson is running out of chances to play in his first Super Bowl. Even if he doesn’t return to Washington, former teammate (and
potential cap casualty Bills MVP) LeSean McCoy seems to think that Jackson would be more interested in returning to his old stomping grounds in Philadelphia before any moves to Western New York.
While the Bills definitely need to address the wide receiver position in the offseason, their solution probably won’t involve Jackson. If they were to sign any former Washington wideout, it should probably be Pierre Garcon, who is likely to hit the market without a retention offer. It’s also a very good possibility the Bills take a receiver with the tenth overall pick in the NFL Draft, choosing from the likes of Clemson’s Mike Williams or Western Michigan’s Corey Davis.
Given the serious lack of depth and stability at the position, let’s hope they make a serious fix. Otherwise, we’ll have another season of Tyrod (or somebody else) struggling to make do with one of the worst receiver groups in the NFL.