CAPACCIO: 10 free agent wide receivers and how they might or might not fit the Bills

There are several interesting players available in the free agent market

Sal Capaccio
February 11, 2019 - 1:46 pm

Photo: Kirby Lee - USA TODAY Sports

NFL free agency is set to kick off in one month.

The Buffalo Bills clearly have a huge need at wide receiver, and could be looking to add multiple players to the position. Most people are down on this year's crop of free agent wideouts. It's not the most talented group to ever hit the market, but there are several interesting and intriguing options who could fill a variety of roles, especially if used properly in the right offense.

Here are 10 wide receivers whose contracts are set to expire who may be targets for the Bills, and my feelings on each:

 

Tyrell Williams 

Current team: Los Angeles Chargers
Age at start of season: 27

Williams may only need a better opportunity. In Los Angeles, he’s been buried behind Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, and that’s not going to change. In Buffalo, he might compete right away for one of the top-two wideout spots, depending on what other moves the team makes. At 6' 4", Williams has a nice frame and catch radius. He’s averaged 51 catches and 813 yards over the past three seasons. That’s over 150 yards more than the Bills’ top receiver last season, Zay Jones. He’s also found the endzone 16 times in that span, far and away more than anyone on the Bills roster has come close to over the past three years. When Allen got hurt two years ago and missed all but one game, Williams became Philip Rivers’ No. 1 option (119 targets) and caught 69 passes for 1,059 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s also been durable and hasn’t missed a game since becoming a regular on the Chargers roster three seasons ago.

 

John Brown

Current team: Baltimore Ravens
Age at start of season: 29

Brown was a receiver I thought the Bills should target last year in free agency, needing someone who could stretch the field. They reportedly did pursue him, but he eventually chose to go to Baltimore on a one-year contract, betting on himself to get an even bigger and better deal this offseason. It looks like that’s going to pay off, because Brown was very good for the Ravens last year, catching 42 passes for 715 yards and five touchdowns. He averaged 17.0 yards per-catch, showing that ability to go over the top of defenses. However, his numbers took a serious hit once Lamar Jackson became the Ravens' starting quarterback over Joe Flacco. In nine games with Flacco at quarterback, Brown caught 34 balls for 601 yards and four touchdowns. In seven games with Jackson, he caught only eight passes for just 114 yards and one touchdown. Even though the Bills got faster and better in that department with the moves they made as the season went on, they still need to add another legitimate option to get down the field. We all know Josh Allen would utilize him via the deep ball.

 

Adam Humphries

Current team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Age at start of season: 26

The last time Bills fans saw Humphries up-close, Tre’Davious White was punching the ball loose, leading to a fumble recovery and ultimately the game-winning field goal in a 30-27 win over the Buccaneers in 2017. One year later, he’s coming off an outstanding season and is considered, by many, to be the best slot receiver available on the open market. Last season, Humphries caught 76 passes for 816 yards and five touchdowns. Maybe more impressive is how he’s improved his production every single year in the league so far. In four seasons, his catch totals are 27, 55, 61, and 76. His receiving yards have finished at 260, 622, 631, and 816. He might need to land in the right spot to fit his skill set, and it remains to be seen if the Bills plan on using Zay Jones more in the slot or outside next year, depending on what other moves they make. However, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll says he’s all about finding the best mis-matches, and Humphries is proving to be a very tough matchup for opposing nickel cornerbacks. He could be an excellent slot/possession receiver for the Bills to compliment the more down-the-field approach they are trying to build with Allen under center.

 

Devin Funchess

Current team: Carolina Panthers
Age at start of season: 25

Any time there’s a Carolina Panthers player who is available, it’s obvious to think the Bills might be interested, considering both general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott were both there together and know these players well. Some fans hate seeing, and even mock, how often former Panthers players or coaches come to Buffalo now, but the reality is it’s not abnormal for any team’s coach or front office to reach back to their past to hire or sign people they are familiar with. They’d certainly be familiar with Funchess, a former second round pick who’s found the endzone 21 times in four years. His numbers were down last year, going from 63 catches, 840 yards to 44 and 549 after Christian McCaffrey became a football-catching machine out of the backfield and rookie D.J. Moore’s ascension as a go-to guy. Funchess isn’t going to be a team’s top wideout, and shouldn’t be expected to. He probably won’t even be a No. 2 in most scenarios, but can fill that void in short-term situations. He’s a solid receiver with a big-body who can certainly help a young quarterback like Allen, especially in the red zone, and help solidify the position and make it better overall.

 

Golden Tate

Current team: Philadelphia Eagles
Age at start of season: 31

It’s hard for me to believe Tate will already be 31-years-old next season, but that’s the case. He’s had three 1,000-yard seasons, but his trade to the Eagles may have shown that his next team really has to figure out how to use him after paying all that money. The Eagles really weren’t able to. Tate caught only 30 passes for 278 yards and a touchdown in 11 games in Philadelphia after hauling in 44 ball for 517 yards and three scores in only seven games in Detroit before the trade. Some believe he’ll be the highest-paid wide receiver in this year’s free agent class. He’ll be extremely risky if that’s the case, and the Bills shouldn’t be interested in paying that sort of price for him. 

 

Cole Beasley

Current team: Dallas Cowboys
Age at start of season: 30

Similar player to Humphries, but smaller and older. I’d prefer Humphries, but Beasley can be a nice addition as a slot receiver. I think a team might overpay for him, considering his age and other options in free agency and what he tweeted back in October 

 

By the way, Beasley really likes the Twitter machine and using it to promote his stats or say why he wasn’t used properly, or other interesting comments about his team, front office, and coaching staff. This may raise a red flag with the Bills' leadership group if they are considering signing him. 

All that said, if it’s only a one- or two-year deal and he doesn’t command that kind of money, Beasley is a solid player at a spot on the field where the Bills need one.

 

Randall Cobb

Current team: Green Bay Packers
Age at start of season: 29

Like Humphries and Beasley, Cobb is also mainly a slot receiver. His best years are behind him and he hasn’t played a full season since 2015. There have been too many injuries. If he could stay healthy, he’d be a terrific leader in a receiver room that has plenty of young players and needs a veteran presence. However, that’s really risky to pay for and count on. 

 

Donte Moncrief

Current team: Jacksonville Jaguars
Age at start of season: 26

Moncrief didn’t fill the role or expectations many had for him in Jacksonville when he signed a one-year, $9.6 million deal last offseason, but that might not have been all on him since the Jaguars offense was limited. He still caught 48 passes for 668 yards and played all 16 games for the first time since 2016. He’d have to come a lot cheaper this year than the deal he signed last year for me to think the Bills should be interested. 

 

Tavon Austin

Current team: Dallas Cowboys
Age at start of season: 29

Austin wouldn’t be signed to be a wide receiver, really. He’d be more of a “get-him-the-ball-in-space” guy and punt returner. Considering how the Bills found and used Isaiah McKenzie last year, and the struggles they had in the return game most of the season, I wouldn’t discount Austin from being on their radar. He shouldn’t cost as much as most others on this list.

 

Cordarrelle Patterson

Current team: New England Patriots
Age at start of season: 28

If you’ve followed or listened to me for a while, you know I’ve always been a Patterson fan. This year in New England, he showed once again why he’s an incredibly valuable player to have. The Patriots used him as a wide receiver and running back, and he’s one of the most dangerous kickoff returners in the history of the league, already with six returns for touchdowns in only six years. That’s tied for the third most in the history of the NFL with players like Gayle Sayers and Dante Hall. He’s two touchdown returns away from tying the all-time record for most ever (Josh Cribbs and Leon Washington both had eight). He’s the top active player and second all-time behind only Hall of Famer Sayers with a 30.0 average on kick returns for his career. The Bills had the 24th best kickoff return average in the NFL last year and could use a bump in that area, but Patterson can be much more than that, too. He finished last season with 247 yards receiving and 228 yards rushing. He averaged 5.4 yards per-carry on handoffs, including 14 carries for 104 yards in two games against the Bills. He has 1,872 yards and 10 touchdowns receiving over his six-year career with the Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, and Patriots.
 



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