The Buffalo Bills knew they needed help at wide receiver coming into the 2018 NFL season, and they pursued that help via free agency. After missing out on some players, the team chose to go with a group that was close to the one they ended the 2017 season with, which turned out to be a poor choice.
Fast forward to the 2019 offseason, and the Bills once again knew they needed help in the receiver room. This time, they came away with some quality help for their young quarterback, and they even managed to woo a player who had spurned them the year prior.
In this installment of our “90 players in 90 days” series, we profile that veteran receiver who turned down the Bills’ offer just one year prior to accepting another one from the club.
Name: John Brown
Height/Weight: 5’11” 178 lbs.
Age: 29 (30 on 4/3/20)
College: Pittsburg State (Kansas)
Acquired: Signed with the Bills on 3/13/19
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Brown signed a three-year deal worth $27 million this offseason. If the pairing doesn’t work out, the Bills could choose to cut Brown at the end of the year at minimal penalty. The Bills would be on the hook for only $3.2 million in dead cap money if they moved on after the season. In total, Brown’s contract guarantees him $11.7 million.
2018 Recap: Brown played last year with the Baltimore Ravens, having chosen their one-year offer over Buffalo’s three-year offer thanks to a more solid quarterback situation. Brown wanted to play with Joe Flacco rather than Nathan Peterman, and his decision paid off early. Brown caught 34 passes for 601 yards and four touchdowns in games where Flacco was Baltimore’s quarterback. Once the team inserted Lamar Jackson into the lineup, Brown’s production fell off considerably. He only caught eight passes for 114 yards and one touchdown in the team’s remaining seven games. Overall, he caught 42 balls for 715 yards and five touchdowns.
Positional outlook: Brown makes Buffalo’s receiving corps much more dangerous, as his excellent vertical speed gives quarterback Josh Allen another deep threat across from second-year man Robert Foster. Cole Beasley and Zay Jones should have that much more room to operate in the short-to-intermediate middle portions of the field. Duke Williams and David Sills V offer the Bills some bigger-bodied options, but the team has mostly prioritized smaller, quicker players of Brown’s ilk. The team also has Isaiah McKenzie, DeMari Scott, Andre Roberts, Cam Phillips, Ray-Ray McCloud III, Nick Easley, and Victor Bolden Jr.
2019 Offseason: Brown said that he picked Buffalo this year due to Josh Allen. After seeing a 50% reduction in his target share over the course of the second half of the 2018 season, Brown is set to show he’s capable of being more than just a strong deep threat.
2019 Season outlook: Brown clearly factors heavily into Buffalo’s plans this season, and while the team structured the contract in an intelligent manner if the partnership doesn’t bear fruit, it’s clear the team thinks of him as a long-term piece given their pursuit of him in not one, but two offseasons. Brown has the skill set to be the de facto number-one wideout in Buffalo’s offense, and if he can establish a rapport with Allen quickly, then he should be primed for a monster season in Orchard Park.