Last offseason, the Buffalo Bills added wide receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley in free agency to overhaul their wide receiver corps, eventually shipping out former second-round pick Zay Jones. While signing two starting receivers in free agency worked last year, this is the year Buffalo should pull the trigger on younger talent in the draft.
The immediate upgrade at wide receiver can be alluring. A.J. Green and Amari Cooper are likely to be available on the open market and would be obvious upgrades over Duke Williams and the rest of the WRs currently on Buffalo’s roster, but I don’t think that’s the right play long-term or short-term.
Right now, the Bills have two moderately priced receivers on their roster. John Brown is tied for the 29th-highest average value ($9 million per season) while Cole Beasley is 38th at $7.25 million AAV.
In 2019, several teams had two players making more than $7.25 million per season, just like the Bills:
- Cleveland Browns: Odell Beckham, Jr. and Jarvis Landry
- Kansas City Chiefs: Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins
- Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins and Kenny Stills
- Minnesota Vikings: Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs
- Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd
- Indianapolis Colts: T.Y. Hilton and Devin Funchess
- Philadelphia Eagles: Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson
- New York Giants: Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate
- New York Jets: Jamison Crowder and Quincy Enunwa
- Miami Dolphins: Albert Wilson and DeVante Parker
None of them had three players making that much at the position, though. If Buffalo is going to add a solid veteran presence, they are going to severely tip their spending scale beyond any other NFL team at the wide receiver position.
Note: The Chiefs paid tight end Travis Kelce more than $9.3 million AAV and the Eagles have TE Zach Ertz at $8.5 million.
In 2019, Buffalo spent $18.5 million on the WR position in total thanks to a lot of really low contracts past Brown/Beasley. The Browns led the league at $35 million.
In 2020, the numbers jump around the league with the Chiefs already set to spend $41.5 million on receivers before free agency opens. Buffalo is at $20.5 million but that number is sure to go up.
Mediocre free-agent options
Honestly, I’m not psyched about the top tier of free agents available at the wide receiver spot. Green has been oft-injured the last several years. Cooper is a great player but is likely going to command the top dollar, around $22 million per season, and isn’t really the type of physical receiver Buffalo needs. They have a speedster and good route runners. That’s not to say they couldn’t use his talent—they could—but if you’re paying that much the guy should be the “final piece” and/or the “complete package” and I’m not convinced that’s Cooper.
Emmanuel Sanders or Randall Cobb? No thanks on the aging veterans.
Devin Funchess, Breshad Perriman, or another of the second-contract guys? Not really interested.
Taylor Gabriel could be a solid addition but he’s far from a lock and Robby Anderson doesn’t exactly seem like a “Process” guy.
Deep draft class
There is an abundance of wide receiver talent in this year’s draft. Buffalo sits near the end of the first round and can still nab a very talented player and still have enough resources to grab another one in the middle rounds, giving them two bites at the apple.
This new player (or players) could develop alongside the hopefully-blossoming Josh Allen right from the beginning. The pair could get on the same page with Allen explaining his preferences right from the start of the young receiver’s career instead of having to work on chemistry with a player coming from another team with another set of eyes and tendencies.
Drafting a player would let the natural turnover of contracts happen at the WR position, too. When Brown and Beasley start to age out, you’ll have a player or two entering the territory for his second contract if he pans out.
The last thing about adding an NFL Draft WR is you can be more open to the type of player you pick. Because you’re adding talent for more than a one- or two-year window, the player doesn’t have to be “final piece” and/or the “complete package” like we talked about with the free-agent additions above. If A.J. Green is your WR option, it’s go time because he’s about to turn 32. If your draft pick is 22, you expect a bit more out of them over the long haul.
You can only choose one way for the Bills to improve at WR this offseason
This poll is closed
All-in on a free agent
All-in on the draft