After the Buffalo Bills improved their wide receiver group in 2019, the team didn’t rest. General manager Brandon Beane decided to add more talent and more depth to what was a top-heavy group. Initially, coaches, players, and fans alike thought that the receiving corps would be led by a trio of top-notch veterans; however, the NFL has a funny way of making you separate reality from expectations.
The Bills lost their intended WR2 to injury early in the season, and that player never quite regained the form he showed during a breakout 2019 campaign. Losing a solid veteran presence could have derailed the offense, but it actually ended up having little effect on the Bills, who developed into an offensive juggernaut last season.
Coming in at No. 6 on our list of the worst 2020 Buffalo Bills salary cap values is a beloved wide receiver who was released after the season.
WR John Brown
2020 Salary Cap Figure: $9.775 million (4.43 percent of Buffalo’s salary cap value)
2020 Stats: Nine games, 52 targets, 33 catches, 458 yards, three touchdowns
Brown’s 2020 season started off fine, as he caught six passes for 70 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 against the New York Jets. Against the Miami Dolphins the following week, Brown caught four passes for 82 yards and another touchdown. Had he remained healthy, chances are good that Brown would have had another excellent season similar to the one he had in 2019. Brown hurt his calf against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 3, and while he tried to fight through the injury, he was either inactive or ineffective for the next month. Brown caught just five passes for 63 yards between Week 3 and Week 8. He looked healthy again against the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals, catching 14 passes for 171 yards in those two games combined. However, he suffered a knee injury against Arizona, which led the Bills to place him on injured reserve following the loss. He made it back for the season finale against Miami, catching four passes for 72 yards and a touchdown but, by that point, rookie Gabriel Davis had established himself as a legitimate threat in Brown’s position. The writing was on the wall that the speedy veteran would not be back for 2021, and he was eventually released.
I hate putting a player on this list due to something out of his control, like an injury, but it makes too much sense here. Brown’s salary cap hit was the sixth-highest on the Bills’ 2020 roster, and he didn’t justify that cap number on the field. Coming into the season, that cap number was high, but it certainly was justifiable, as he set career highs in catches and receiving yards the year prior as quarterback Josh Allen’s top target. Using Brown’s 2020 stats including the games where he played in a clearly compromised physical state, his number extrapolate out to a fairly solid 16-game slate: 59 catches, 814 yards, five touchdowns. Had he been healthy, it’s safe to assume that he would have exceeded even those projections.
However, Brown didn’t remain healthy and, as a result, his production did not match his compensation. That’s why he’s on this list.