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4 potential free agent replacements for Buffalo Bills wide receiver Jordan Matthews

After the season he had in 2017, it’s hard to see Matthews returning to Buffalo

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NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota Vikings Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

At the time, the Buffalo Bills seemingly looked to have made out well after acquiring wide receiver Jordan Matthews from the Philadelphia Eagles last summer, shortly after announcing that they had dealt Sammy Watkins. Obviously, the Bills went on to have a successful 2017 campaign - their best in nearly two decades - but from an individual perspective, the season was one that Matthews would surely like to forget.

A former second-round pick, Matthews enjoyed a tremendous amount of success prior to landing in Buffalo. In his first three seasons in the NFL, Matthews, who’s a distant relative of the great Jerry Rice, totaled 19 touchdowns, while also never failing to attain fewer than 800 receiving yards in a season. In 2017 though, Matthews posted abysmal numbers all around (25 receptions, 282 yards, and one touchdown in 10 games.)

He struggled with injuries last season, missing six games total, but even when he was healthy he failed to make any real impact. In fairness though, none of the Bills wide receiver really did, either. Brian Daboll, who helped orchestrate Alabama to its latest national title win, takes over as offensive coordinator of the Bills after Rick Dennison was fired days after Buffalo’s Wild Card loss. Even with the hope of an improved offense under Daboll, it’s hard to see why either the Bills or Matthews would be eager to reunite, especially with a pretty good crop of prospective free agent wide receivers available.

Here are four names that the Bills should consider to replace Matthews, including a couple who Bills fans are quite familiar with:

Sammy Watkins, 24, Los Angeles Rams UFA

The former fourth-overall pick didn’t have many receiving yards with the Los Angeles Rams last season, but he did haul in eight touchdowns. Watkins, who spent the first three years of his career with the Bills, was pretty playful with a fan recently when asked about the possibility of him returning to Buffalo. FYI, he still uses a photo from his time with the Bills as his avatar, so take that for what you will.

2017 receiving stats: 39 receptions, 593 yards, and 8 touchdowns
Spotrac Market Value: Three years, $17,991,258/$5,997,086 average annually
Pro Football Focus WR Ranking: No. 41

Marqise Lee, 26, Jacksonville Jaguars UFA

Lee had a slow start to his career, but he’s seemed to catch his footing now the last two seasons. A threat in space, Lee has experience returning kickoffs and punts as well. There’s seemingly no obvious reason to believe that he won’t continue to up his game going forward.

2017 receiving stats: 56 receptions, 702 yards, and 3 touchdowns
Spotrac Market Value: four years, $30,007,580/$7,501,895 average annually
2017 Pro Football Focus WR Ranking: No. 37

Deonte Thompson, 29, Buffalo Bills UFA

There are better options than Thompson available, but it’s hard to downplay what he did with the Bills in his short time with the team. In addition to leading all Bills wide receivers in yards, Thompson also made some clutch plays for the team, which helped it ends its 17-year playoff drought. He’s a scrappy player who seems to embody most, if not all of the things that head coach Sean McDermott likes to see in his guys.

2017 receiving stats: 27 receptions, 430 yards, and 1 touchdown
Spotrac Market Value: N/A, though he’s never made more than $900,000 in a season
2017 Pro Football Focus WR Ranking: No. 82

Paul Richardson, 25, Seattle Seahawks UFA

After not doing much during his first three seasons in the NFL, Richardson had a breakout year with the Seahawks in 2017, where he averaged 16.0 yards a catch. 2017 may very well have been an anomaly for Richardson, but his projected market value is low enough that he’s more of a low-risk, high-reward proposition than vice versa.

2017 receiving stats: 44 receptions, 703 yards, and 6 touchdowns
Spotrac Market Value: four years, $25,410,164/$6,352,541 average annually
Pro Football Focus WR Ranking: No. 59

It’s probably in the best interest of both the Bills and Matthews for both parties to go their separate ways. Each of the players listed in this article are solid options to replace Matthews, and there are others as well that are not mentioned here. The Bills need to get better at wide receiver after the disastrous performance the group put up last season, and moving on from Matthews was be a good first step in doing so.