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Free-agent wide receivers who could play for the Buffalo Bills

Would you rather have one of these players instead of john Brown?

The Buffalo Bills will see Isaiah McKenzie hit free agency next month, and they could choose to release John Brown to open up $8 million in salary cap space. That presents the team with a choice: They could move to promote Gabriel Davis to a starting receiver, and sign a role player to fill either the speed or gadget roles that Brown and McKenzie contributed. Or they could look for a starting-caliber player who can do both. An obvious place to look is on the open market of veteran free-agent receivers.

Let’s start by taking some names off the table. Even if the Bills would like to, there’s no realistic way they muster the $17 million AAV (Average Annual Value)—or more—it would take to sign Chris Godwin, Kenny Golliday, Allen Robinson, or JuJu Smith-Schuster. For similar reasons, they’re probably out of contention for Corey Davis, who sits a tier below those players but is still a 26-year-old former top-five pick.

But this list will include some players who hope to make $10-$12 million annually. That’s a higher price than Brown’s contract, but the Bills could make it work by backloading the structure beyond 2021. It’ll also include some players who probably would be the fourth- or fifth-best receiver on the 2020 Bills. In other words, there are plenty of options to consider.


Curtis Samuel

If there’s a receiver for whom the Bills could “break the bank” and it’d make sense, Samuel is the match. There’s the obvious Carolina Panthers connection—general manager Brandon Beane was still in their front office when they picked him in the 2017 NFL Draft. Samuel is only 24 years old, and with remarkable trajectory in his young career. His yards from scrimmage, year-by-year: 179, 578, 757, 1051.

The theory for bringing in Samuel is that he can give the Bills a player who combines the best traits of John Brown and Isaiah McKenzie. He has 4.3 speed, developed into a legitimate starting receiver, but also carried the ball 41 times for 200 yards and two touchdowns this past year.

Having finished his rookie contract, Samuel will sign his first big deal. He’s probably hoping for something similar to the five-year, $72 million contract Stefon Diggs signed a couple years ago, though Diggs had a more impressive resume at that time.

Will Fuller

If he could play a full 16 games in a season, Fuller could develop into a player like DeSean Jackson was in his prime. Out of 80 possible games in his career, Fuller’s only played in 53. Extrapolated out to 16 games, his annual receiving slash would be 63/939/7 for his first five seasons. He has deadly quickness and speed; in his career, he has 28 plays from scrimmage that gained at least 30 yards. But a broken collarbone and a torn ACL in his past, in addition to hamstring pulls, make him a tough play on which to rely. Fuller will also miss the 2021 season opener to finish serving a six-game suspension for using performance-enhancing substances.

Having played out his fifth-year option as a productive first-round pick, Fuller’s hoping to cash in with a deal that’ll pay in the neighborhood of $40-$60 million over four or five years, if a team agrees on his value.

Nelson Agholor

After an uneven five-year stint with the Philadelphia Eagles, Agholor didn’t garner much attention in his first round of free agency. He bet on himself with a one-year, $1 million contract, and it paid off; he was the second-leading receiver on the Las Vegas Raiders, with a 48/896/8 receiving slash, and apparently willing to call for accountability in the locker room when things went south.

Agholor always had the speed and versatility in his game, but dropped passes held him back. If he’s put that tendency behind him, he’s a solid number-two receiver. He’s due for a pay raise, but probably not a major long-term contract.

Marvin Jones

Jones will be 31 years old and entering his tenth NFL season, but hasn’t slowed down yet. He still has that remarkable finesse and body control to win contested catches when it counts. In the last two years, Jones has a 138/1757/18 receiving slash, catching 67 percent of his targets.

Jones just wrapped up the five-year, $40 million contract he signed with the Detroit Lions. He arguably outplayed that value, and could still be a number-two receiver for a contending team. He’ll probably be looking for a two- or three-year deal worth $9-11 million per year for his next contract.

T.Y. Hilton

Hilton is still working through a remarkable career, and he could hit 10,000 career receiving yards this season. That said, he’s definitely lost a step from the career peak that saw him selected to four consecutive Pro Bowls. If Hilton and the Indianapolis Colts part ways, the Bills might be able to entice him for a one-year deal to play with Josh Allen and spark a career resurgence. But he’s probably looking for $9-10 million per year, which is a high price for the Bills to pay.

Breshad Perriman

If the Bills still value John Brown’s speed threat, but want a discount version, they could check with Perriman. The former first-round pick specializes in low-percentage deeper passes, but he never developed into a starting receiver until he landed with the New York Jets in 2020. Even then, his best year, statistically, was a 36/645/6 receiving slash in 2019.

Perriman played under a one-year, $6.5 million contract this year, and he’ll probably garner similar value in 2021.

Keelan Cole

Cole hasn’t had a great quarterback situation since the former undrafted free agent entered the league—Blake Bortles, Cody Kessler, Gardner Minshew III, Mike Glennon, and Jake Luton would impress exactly nobody. He’s averaged a 40/560/3 receiving slash in his career, and was the team’s leading receiver as a rookie in 2017. He also returned some punts in 2020, including a 91-yard punt return touchdown.

Cole played under a $3.3 million RFA tender in 2020, but the Jacksonville Jaguars finished with the league’s worst record. So it wouldn’t be surprising to see him leave, and he probably won’t be expensive to sign on the open market.

Dede Westbrook

From 2018 to 2019, Westbrook caught 132 passes for 1377 yards and eight touchdowns, but a handful of injuries, including a torn ACL midseason, limited him to a single catch in 2020. If healthy, Westbrook could also return punts and kicks in addition to his receiving abilities. He just finished up the four-year rookie deal he signed as a fourth-round pick in 2017. Coming off his injury, he’ll probably sign for close to the veteran minimum in 2021.

Other options

A.J. Green was one of the best receivers of the 2010s, but injuries have taken their toll. He’ll be 33 this year. John Ross is a former first-round pick with 4.22 speed, but never emerged as a reliable player for the Cincinnati Bengals, who basically gave up on him in 2020. DeSean Jackson has only been healthy for eight games in the last two years combined, but averaged 17 yards per catch in that time—so he might have gas left in the tank. Demarcus Robinson has been a steady backup player for the Kansas City Chiefs, good for about 450 yards and four touchdowns per year from 2019-2020. Also from the Chiefs is Sammy Watkins, who Bills fans know very well. He’s an enigma, and injuries have taken their toll, but he’s still a talented receiver. Josh Reynolds is the third-best receiver on the Los Angeles Rams, but maybe he’d be able to develop into a viable starter with more emphasis in a different team? Rashard Higgins similarly lost the limelight to Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. But he’s a solid rotational receiver to have in the depth chart.

Poll

Who would you sign to catch passes for the Bills?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    Curtis Samuel
    (432 votes)
  • 10%
    Will Fuller
    (145 votes)
  • 5%
    Nelson Agholor
    (73 votes)
  • 3%
    Marvin Jones
    (49 votes)
  • 8%
    T.Y. Hilton
    (114 votes)
  • 4%
    Breshad Perriman
    (57 votes)
  • 5%
    Keelan Cole
    (77 votes)
  • 4%
    Dede Westbrook
    (60 votes)
  • 24%
    Someone else
    (330 votes)
1337 votes total Vote Now