T.O. gives Bills desperately needed target

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Initial scrutiny of Terrell Owens will deal with the turmoil he created wherever he has been.

Pundits already are wagging their fingers at the Buffalo Bills for signing an aging, divisive figure.

But when it comes to the moribund Bills, let's face it: This might be a risk worth taking.

Scouts Inc. analyst Matt Williamson is among the group who doesn't think the Bills made a wise move by taking on such a volatile player, but he admitted the move should improve the offense of a team that went 0-6 against the AFC East.

"They certainly needed a pass catcher, preferably a big one like Terrell Owens," Williamson said.

"Even though Terrell Owens is slipping, he can still go get it. That guy's a touchdown machine. He can beat you at all levels, but more than anything is he can go into tight corners. He's physical and his ball skills are great."

Owens last year caught 69 passes for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Dallas Cowboys.

The Bills have one of the NFL's highest-paid receivers in the speedy Lee Evans, yet they ranked 22nd in passing offense last year at 190 yards a game. Only five teams threw fewer than their 14 touchdowns.

The Bills have thrown 26 touchdown passes over the past two years, the NFL's second-fewest in that span. Owens grabbed 25 touchdown receptions himself.

"Their red-zone passing game is very ordinary," Williamson said. "They've gotten very little out of the tight end position for years.

"Lee Evans is a real good player, but he's easy to take away when there's nothing else there. He's more or less a vertical threat and isn't a great end-zone player. He isn't a great, physical, bang-into-you, get-the-jump-balls receiver. When the field shrinks, so does Evans' potency."

The threat of Owens will help everybody, but especially Evans. While Owens, who turned 35 in December, doesn't get off the line cleanly anymore and will need pre-snap motion to free him up, teams will have trouble defending the whole field.

"Evans should be thrilled about this," Williamson said. "He's been such a focal point. Finally, there's something else to game plan against.

"Evans is the vertical guy. Owens is going to catch a lot of quick slants. He's fearless over the middle."

Even so, Williamson isn't overly impressed by Buffalo's decision. He's not sold on Trent Edwards as a deep passer and sees too many holes on a line that wasn't all that swift last year and now is without starting left guard Derrick Dockery.

"It's a desperate team and a desperate player," Williamson said. "I'm sure Buffalo would have liked to go in a different direction, but there's not a lot of receivers out there. I'll bet Terrell Owens would have loved to go in a different direction, but Buffalo probably was the only suitor for him.

"With Terrell Owens' attitude, that could be a huge can of worms. If he's up there just because he feels that's his only option, and they start off the season 1-3, you can read the headlines now. It's not going to be pretty."