Have the Buffalo Bills added enough receiving options for quarterback Josh Allen? Let’s take a deep dive into the current status of the Bills’ wide receiver room, and discuss if they need to add another option. Spoiler alert: They do.
Painting the canvas
Here’s what general manager Brandon Beane currently has assembled in Buffalo’s wide receiver room:
The superstar WR1 has been on fire ever since he stepped foot in Orchard Park, NY. I’m not sure if even Brandon Beane thought his trade for Diggs could have ever turned out this good.
Here are Diggs’ stats since pairing up with Josh Allen:
- 2020: 127 receptions - 1,535 yards - 8 TDs
- 2021: 103 receptions - 1,225 yards - 10 TDs
- 2022: 108 receptions - 1,429 yards - 11 TDs
Diggs and Allen have created a juggernaut tandem that is a force to be reckoned with on every snap. Diggs has been reliable too, having never missed a game in the three years he’s played with the Buffalo Bills. There’s not much to talk about here. Diggs is Buffalo’s alpha receiver and will continue to play at an elite level.
The only thing to note is Diggs will be eclipsing the dreaded 30-year-old mark during the 2023 NFL season. Diggs’ play style (excellent route runner and separator) should warrant him some extra time as an elite receiver, but you never know when the drop-off year will come. Buffalo technically has him signed through the 2027 season (age 34), but they would have potential outs from his contract in the years before his deal expires. I would expect him to be on the roster for the next two years at the bare minimum. Potential outs on his contract start to make more sense (if needed) in 2025 and 2026. Regardless of his contract situation, Buffalo needs to start thinking about his age and potentially grooming the next alpha in line for Allen to throw to on game days.
Caution, we’re now entering a hot-button topic for Bills Mafia. Let’s start with Gabe’s production over the past three seasons:
- 2020: 35 receptions - 599 yards - 7 TDs
- 2021: 35 receptions - 549 yards - 6 TDs
- 2022: 48 receptions - 836 yards - 7 TDs
In 2020 and 2021 Davis was primarily the third option in Buffalo’s receiver hierarchy, but in 2022 he saw an uptick in production as the team’s WR2 option. Lest we forget his 2021 record-setting playoff performance versus the Kansas City Chiefs, posting eight receptions for 201 yards and four touchdowns.
After his playoff explosion in 2021, the expectations for Davis to emerge as a dynamic WR2 for the Bills were sky-high. Most Bills fans were disappointed with Davis’ 2022 season, but by the numbers, he had an adequate season for a WR2. Just for some perspective, let's compare Davis’ 2022 season to Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins (who is considered one of the best WR2s in the league) 2022 season. Higgins hauled in 74 receptions for 1,029 yards and seven touchdowns.
We also have to remember that Davis dealt with an ankle injury that kept him out of Buffalo's Week 2 matchup, and it likely lingered throughout the year. I don’t think Bills fans are upset with Davis’ overall production, but I think it’s more likely they have a bad taste in their mouth from Davis having critical drops in pivotal moments. Recall, Davis had nine drops in 2022. Let’s take a look at a couple of the “big” ones:
Week 3 vs. Miami Dolphins
Great play here by Miami’s defensive back, but Davis should have come down with this touchdown. A pivotal drop in a game where this TD would have made the difference between winning and losing.
Week 9 vs. New York Jets
If Davis secures this catch the Bills would have had the ball somewhere between the 15 and 20-yard line to set up a game-tying field goal. With 33 seconds left, the Bills had plenty of time to run down the field and spike the ball to stop the clock — maybe even a chance to throw in the end zone one time. Instead, Davis had the ball go off his helmet and the Bills turned the ball over on downs. It also ruined an all-time throw from Josh Allen.
Buffalo will have a big decision — whether or not they want to extend Gabe Davis beyond this year, as his rookie contract comes to an end after the 2023 season. Currently, Spotrac lists Davis’ market value at 12.4 million AAV and predicts he would get a contract in the ballpark of four years and 50 million. It remains to be seen if the Bills will want to spend this type of money on Davis but, as of now, I have a feeling they’ll want to extend him. The tricky part is if Davis has an uptick in production in 2023, his price tag will also likely see an uptick. Overall, I think Davis is a solid player in the NFL but he has been streaky — he’s made huge plays in high-pressure moments but also has had plenty of costly drops. Unless the team wants to bring in a receiver who would supplant him as the WR2, I expect Gabe Davis to have his best season as a pro in 2023.
The Bills recently signed Harty in free agency to a 2-year, $9.5 million deal. The 5’6” speedster essentially replaces Isaiah McKenzie, who the Bills released shortly after Harty’s signing. For a full breakdown of what Harty has to offer, check out Skarekrow’s breakdown here. Brandon Beane mentioned in a press conference that Harty will slide into what the Bills call their “four role.” This likely doesn’t mean Harty will be their WR4, rather Beane was likely referring to a name they have for a WR position in their offensive play calling. Beane did note that Harty will be able to play outside or inside — we all know that Buffalo likes to have players who are versatile. Harty also has been productive in the return game and can offer another option for the Bills in that department. I think Harty is a nice signing and will offer the Bills a speed guy who can rack up the YAC (yards after catch). Harty has the potential to be Buffalo’s main slot receiver, but he’ll likely only be a rotational chess piece that the offense can use to exploit certain matchups they want to take advantage of in-game.
New #Bills WR addition Deonte Harty (formerly Harris) can turn on the burners. Will be interesting to see how to Bills use him in the offense. Offers value in the return game also. 75 career kick returns (25.4 avg). 77 career punt returns w/ 1 TD (9.8 avg). pic.twitter.com/Fdjin2HyAo— B.J. Monacelli (@bjmonacelli) March 15, 2023
Buffalo drafted Shakir with their fifth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Shakir had an up-and-down season, but he stepped up when he was called upon. He finished the 2022 season with 10 catches for 161 yards and one touchdown. Shakir will be in the mix for the starting slot receiver but with Buffalo signing two other free-agent receivers, he’ll have his work cut out for him. I would love to see what Shakir can offer, but I urge everyone to temper their expectations — Shakir is a fifth-round receiver going into year two and likely needs to develop more before he has a chance to play a prominent role in the offense. I will be interested to see how Shakir performs in training camp and the preseason, but I don’t expect him to be a “game changer” for Buffalo’s offense this year. Hopefully, he can develop into a nice slot option for the Bills in the future.
Buffalo’s latest free-agent wide receiver signing has a lot to offer to the team. Sherfield can play any receiver position, has run-after-the-catch ability, is a solid run blocker, and is a special teams contributor. For a full breakdown of Sherfield’s abilities check out Skarekrow’s article here. Sherfield likely fills the “Jake Kumerow” role for the Bills. He will play special teams, but I think he offers more upside as a receiver than Kumerow did. It will be interesting to see how Buffalo uses him in their offense. He is an above-average depth option, and will likely be given opportunities to make some plays.
I think more than anything Buffalo doesn’t want a repeat of what happened late in the season last year when they ran into a bunch of injuries at the receiver position and had to sign free agents off the couch. Sherfield is a great signing in my opinion because he will make the roster for his special teams abilities, but also offers Buffalo some much-needed depth that doesn’t have a huge drop off in ability compared to the starters.
Do the Bills have enough at wide receiver?
While I spoiled this in my intro, the answer is simple in my opinion — no. Buffalo needs more juice in its receiver room. Additionally, five receivers on the team aren’t enough — they need at least six in my opinion. Furthermore, if they don’t add another receiving option at tight end, I would say the offense should have seven receivers on the roster. The Bills have guys signed to the practice squad, but they don’t project to be meaningful contributors. So, in my eyes, there are three options to add at least one more relevant receiver to the roster. Just to be clear, when I say “add a relevant receiver to the roster” I mean a receiver addition of significance, that will challenge to be second in line in terms of target share. Let’s discuss the three options:
Bills add WR via trade
As I write this article, the Twitter rumors are swirling like a Category 5 hurricane about the Bills potentially trading for Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Who knows, it may actually happen. There are always trades that theoretically could happen that are on nobody’s radar, but let's focus on the two trade possibilities that seem to be plausible.
The initial rumored asking price for Hopkins was said to be “a second-round pick and something of value.” After seeing this, some people put together the logical thought of: “The Bills can trade their second-round pick and Ed Oliver.” Likely because Oliver is in the last year of his rookie deal and has yet to be extended by Buffalo, not to mention if he were traded Buffalo would save $10 million in cap space. I have two thoughts on this:
- The Bills aren't good enough at defensive tackle to afford losing Ed Oliver. Plain and simple. They still need to add depth and talent at that position, but that's a topic for another day.
- Trading a second-round pick (a premium asset) and “something of value,” whatever that may be, is too big of an asking price for a wide receiver who will be 31 years old and has a big contract. The Bills should be looking to add young talent at the position, not someone who is already past the dreaded age threshold for NFL receivers. With Diggs turning 30 and Davis on the last year of his rookie contract, I think it’s important for Buffalo to think about their future at the position. Considering all of this, at the “second-round pick and something of value” asking price, I have 0% interest in making a trade for Hopkins. I would rather use those assets to trade up in the draft to get wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba from Ohio St.
Things start to change for me on the Hopkins trade front if the asking price goes down. If the trade were to be more in line with the recent Brandin Cooks trade (fifth- and sixth-round picks), I would be more inclined to trade for Hopkins. The thought of seeing Josh Allen throw the ball to Diggs and Hopkins is very enticing, but the max the Bills will get out of this tandem is probably two years. I can justify taking that risk at a lower trade cost. Even with the lower asking price, Hopkins' hefty contract is still an issue for Buffalo and their slim cap space. Take a look at what that situation could potentially look like:
Trading WR DeAndre Hopkins— Spotrac (@spotrac) March 23, 2023
New Team Acquires
• 2 yrs, $34.3M
• 2023: $19.45M
• 2024: $14.915M
A full cap conversion + 3 void years can lower his $19.45M cap hit to $4.8M. #Cardinals Dead Cap
• 2023: $22.6M
• $8.15M savedhttps://t.co/pYNNCV0b2Y
All in all, if Buffalo has to give up multiple valuable assets to get Hopkins, I’m out. But, if they can work a deal for some late-round draft picks and Brandon Beane can work some cap-space magic, the trade is much more palatable for me.
The rumored asking price for Jeudy is similar to that of DeAndre Hopkins. The big difference here is Jeudy is about to turn 24, not 31. Regardless, I still don’t think this is a great idea for Buffalo. Mainly because Jeudy is in the fourth year of his rookie contract and will garner a much heftier price tag next season. Teams can still exercise his fifth-year option, which would put his salary for 2024 at almost 13 million. After that he would likely hit the free-agency market asking for even more money — Spotrac has his market value at just over $20 million AAV currently. Jeudy could potentially thrive in the Bills’ offense, but I would rather pick a rookie in the first two days of the NFL draft and get the cheap rookie contract starting in year one.
Bills add WR via free agency
Odell Beckham Jr.
OBJ has been linked to the Bills going back to late last season when Buffalo hosted him on a visit. He still hasn’t signed anywhere, and one would think if the Bills were really interested in him, they would’ve signed him by now. There seems to be a wide range of reports on what OBJ’s asking price is, but it’s probably too high if he hasn’t signed a deal yet. If Buffalo were to sign him it would likely have to be a two-year contract that's backloaded, so they can still be under the cap this season. OBJ is 30 years old, and who knows how he’ll perform coming off of his second ACL repair. This is still an option for Buffalo, but it’s starting to look like any OBJ action might have to wait until after the draft.
This isn’t my favorite option, but it could prove to be a solid fallback for Buffalo if they were to fail trying to do anything else at the position. Chark is 26 years old and has had some up-and-down production throughout his NFL career. Chark has the physical traits that could add a new dimension to the Bills’ offense. Chark stands 6’4” tall and can turn on the jets (4.34 40-yard dash at the 2018 NFL Combine). Buffalo doesn’t have anyone on its roster right now who can offer these traits. Spotrac has Chark’s market value at a projected contract of three years and $28.7 million ($9.5 million AAV). I’m not sure if the Bills would want to commit to him for that long, but if they could get a discount for him coming to play with Josh Allen, it might be something to consider.
Bills add WR via NFL Draft
Honestly, this is my favorite option for numerous reasons:
- You get four years of production on a cheap contract (five if the player is drafted in Round 1), which helps Buffalo’s current and future cap situation.
- You get younger at the position and can groom a receiver to be the next “WR1” for Josh Allen while he’s still in his prime.
- If the Bills draft a wide receiver on Day 1 or Day 2, Allen gets another weapon who will contribute in 2023.
- It solidifies the depth and overall quality of the receiver room. Diggs, Davis, *Round 1 pick,* Harty, Sherfield, Shakir — that sounds like a good receiver room for me.
Of course, there is someone downside to this option — you aren’t drafting an established player and they could be a bust, which would waste a premium asset. Just like the rest of the options listed above, there is risk involved. I won’t go into detail about who I think the Bills should consider at wide receiver in the 2023 NFL draft, because I already did that in a previous article. Be sure to check that out here.
Whatever Buffalo does, I think it’s imperative that they add a receiver of significance before the 2023 season. My favorite option is via Day 1 of the NFL Draft, but it certainly is tantalizing to think about adding DeAndre Hopkins to the team. It just needs to be at the right price. There’s room for everyone on the WR-to-Buffalo train. Let’s hope Brandon Beane hops aboard before this offseason is over.