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Bills offseason preview: Wide receivers

1/26/2015

Continuing a position-by-position look at the Buffalo Bills' roster with an eye toward free agency and the draft:

Position: Wide receiver

2014 snaps:

Stat of note: The Bills attempted five screen passes to wide receivers, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Only three teams -- the Titans, Chiefs, and Buccaneers -- attempted fewer screen passes to wide receivers.

Pending free agents: Easley (unrestricted), Hogan (exclusive rights)

2015 cap hits (position rank):

  • Watkins: $4.53 million (31st in NFL)

  • Woods: $1.327 million (66th in NFL)

  • Goodwin: $764,719

  • Thompson: $660,000

  • Marcus Thigpen: $660,000

  • Caleb Holley: $435,000

  • Tobais Palmer: $435,000

Money line: The Bills are young at this position, so their current cap commitment (about $7.2 million) is well below the 2015 NFL average of $13.9 million. Releasing Williams, who would've counted for over $5 million against the team's 2015 salary cap, was a help. Woods is still a year away from being in a position to receive a contract extension, so expect their overall spending here to stay low. Re-signing Easley (a special-teams ace) and Hogan shouldn't cost much.

Market watch: Pending free agents include Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, Randall Cobb, Jeremy Maclin, Michael Crabtree, Reggie Wayne, Eddie Royal, Torrey Smith, and Wes Welker. In addition, Larry Fitzgerald is due an $8 million roster bonus in March that could lead to him being traded or released.

Draft need: Low -- General manager Doug Whaley said last week that the Bills "could use another receiver" in the draft, but the Bills should think long and hard before using an early- or mid-round pick on a receiver. Since 2012, they've sunk five high draft picks into pass-catchers: T.J. Graham (2012, third round), Woods (2013, second round), Goodwin (2013, third round) and Watkins (2014, first round and 2015, first round). Has their offense been better for it? Not really. The Bills wanted to surround EJ Manuel (and Kyle Orton, Thad Lewis, Jeff Tuel, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Fitzpatrick, etc.) with talented receivers, but maybe the problem has simply been the quarterbacks.

Scout's take: "I think Goodwin can be a No. 4 receiver who gives you six or seven big plays a year. That can go a long way. I'm surprised he doesn't even warrant an opportunity. I would settle for the receivers I have and try to go get a tight end instead." -- ESPN NFL scout Matt Williamson

Quote of note: "That was a bold move [trading up to get Sammy Watkins], but it wasn’t a brash move. It was a bold move. A guy like Sammy Watkins comes down the pike once every 10 years, so I think [general manager Doug Whaley] just went for it, and obviously we’re fortunate to have Sammy." -- Bills coach Rex Ryan to the Toronto Sun's John Kryk, during the 2015 Senior Bowl