The plan for the Buffalo Bills regarding the wide receiver position is starting to come into focus. That plan appears to be they’ll be largely starting over in 2013.
A few weeks ago the team announced it wouldn’t tender a contract offer to pending restricted free agent Donald Jones. Now this weekend, reports came out the same would be the case with David Nelson, who was also a restricted free agent.
Nelson later confirmed the move, taking to his Twitter to acknowledge the Bills fans that have supported him, saying “Love you guys. Your the Best. Trusting in His plan for me! Excited for the next opportunity. Laying it all down for you Lord!”
“We spoke with David Nelson’s agent this morning and informed him that we will not tender David,” said Bills GM Buddy Nix on Bills.com Sunday.
The Jones announcement wasn’t a huge surprise, but I’m at least mildly surprised about Nelson. In his first two seasons with the team Nelson established himself as a reliable possession receiving, hauling in 92 passes for 1,011 yards and eight touchdowns. His fortunes changed for the worst in 2012 when he suffered a season-ending ACL knee injury against the New York Jets in the season opener.
For the time being the Bills are left with just Stevie Johnson, T.J. Graham, Brad Smith and Marcus Easley. Of the four only Johnson can be safely assumed to be a big part of the new staff’s plans. It’s quite clear Doug Marrone, Nate Hackett and others weren’t impressed with Jones or Nelson, as either or both could’ve likely been retained simply by offering a tender costing $1.3 million.
So how will the Bills go forward in addressing the position? Well, there is free agency, but I wouldn’t anticipate Buffalo as big players in the open market at wide receiver. The Bills are hoping to tie a lot of resources into re-signing Jairus Byrd, Andy Levitre and Leodis McKelvin. Couple that with the probability of signing at least one or two defenders and it doesn’t leave a lot of cap room to sign a big ticket free agent. That crop includes Mike Wallace and Greg Jennings, but again I think they’ll price themselves out of Buffalo’s range.
The far more likely scenario seems to target a wide receiver predominantly in the draft. Cordarrelle Patterson is said to be flying up draft boards and could be in play with the eighth overall pick. He’s starting to draw comparisons to Julio Jones and Dez Bryant. Robert Woods is another receiver who’s impressive both on tape and at the Combine in Indianapolis.
In general, this is regarded as a deep draft class overall at wide receiver. The Bills have other obvious needs at quarterback and linebacker, but don’t discount a receiver in the first or second round, especially if it’s one Buddy Nix identifies as a game-changing playmaker.
How the Bills get there remains to be seen, but there’s no doubting the coaching staff has already drawn the blueprints for a major overhaul at receiver.