The Buffalo Bills got even more bad injury news on Monday when it was revealed that slot receiver Jamison Crowder suffered a broken ankle in Sunday’s win over the Ravens and is out indefinitely.
With Jake Kumerow hurt and Isaiah McKenzie suffering a concussion on Sunday, the Bills were down to just three receivers at the end of Sunday’s game. One of those was also Gabe Davis, who has been battling an ankle injury for weeks. Needless to say, the team is in dire need of wide receiver help.
Below, I’ll look into the top five free agent receivers who are realistic options for the Bills to bring in for reinforcements. I know the fanbase wants to see preseason darling Isaiah Hodgins promoted off the practice squad, and while that could happen, the Bills could also look to add a steady veteran presence given their Super Bowl aspirations.
We know Beckham will be the most popular name discussed, and he has already been linked to the Bills numerous times thanks to his social media presence and his past relationship with Von Miller. The 29-year-old veteran also showed he still has some gas left in the tank when he put up 305 receiving yards and five touchdowns in seven games started with the Rams last season.
He would certainly be a welcome addition to the Bills’ wide receiver room given his experience in big games and ability to play both the slot and the perimeter. However, Beckham also tore his ACL in the Super Bowl and is unlikely to be on the field before November, so he doesn’t really address the immediate need part of the problem for Buffalo.
Will Fuller has been a popular name on social media for weeks now when any NFL team needs a receiver. The 28-year-old had 879 yards and eight touchdowns for Houston in 2020; however, he played just two games for the Dolphins in 2021 as he dealt with a personal issue.
Fuller has tremendous deep speed and would be a great pairing with Josh Allen, but it’s fair to wonder if, given the fact that he remains unsigned, his personal matters remain something he prefers to deal with rather than sign with an NFL team.
Hilton is another receiver who made his name based on his deep speed, but, at 32-years-old, it’s possible that the former Colt has lost a few steps. He hasn’t topped 800 yards since 2018 and played in 15 games in 2020 despite the feeling that injuries have kept him from playing full seasons for a while.
However, even though his 2020 season wasn’t great, he still registered 762 receiving yards on 13.6 yards per reception, which suggests that he still had the ability to beat defenders deep. Catching passes from Josh Allen will certainly be better than catching them from Philip Rivers or Carson Wentz, so maybe Hilton has enough left in the tank to open up the middle of the field for Diggs, Shakir, and Dawson Knox.
Sanu is likely to be an unpopular option because he’s a boring veteran, but he’s also a tremendously reliable receiver that has proven to be valuable as a chain-mover. He certainly brings a different skill set as a physical receiver, but he also doesn’t really fit the mold that the Bills traditionally look for in their receivers since he can’t create much separation and doesn’t offer much ability after the catch.
If you want ability after the catch, Ford may be your guy. The 26-year-old has never been able to crack a full-time gig in a receiving corps, but the Bills would likely only need him as a fourth or fifth option anyway. The former Dolphins has plus speed and has shown the ability to hit a big play, as evidenced by his 13.4 yards per reception last year in Miami.
However, his 65% career catch rate is not ideal, and he would clearly be a boom-or-bust option that might not seem any safer or more reliable than promoting somebody like Tavon Austin off of the practice squad. Also, the Bills may simply have too many Isaiah’s in the receiver room.
BONUS: John Ross
Your bonus option is the former 9th overall pick in the 2017 draft. Ross ran a 4.22 40-yard dash and the Bengals dreamed about his big play upside. He actually showed it in flashes in 2019, catching 28 passes for 506 yards on 181 yards per reception in just eight games.
However, Ross was hurt in 2019 and then again in 2020 before latching on with the New York Giants last year. He caught just 11 passes for 224 yards and one touchdown before suffering a knee injury that ended his year yet again.
At just 26 years old, it’s possible that there is still some upside left in John Ross, but his long injury history and lack of consistent production may not be what the Bills are looking for at this stage of the season.