The Buffalo Bills may not value Chris Hogan as a starting wide receiver in the NFL. They placed the low tender on him this week and have said publicly they’re searching for a legitimate complement to Sammy Watkins.
Bill Belichick, however, may have other ideas.
The New England Patriots had Hogan in for a visit on Thursday and, per NFL Network, were prepared to make him an offer.
Buffalo would have five days to match any offer made by New England, but would receive no compensation if it loses the restricted free agent. This was the inherent risk the Bills took in placing the low tender, a one-year pact at $1.671 million, on Hogan. An offer higher than this could easily be out of Buffalo’s price range. Once Richie Incognito’s new deal is processed, the Bills are expected to have only about $4.5 million in cap space.
New England got an up-close look at Hogan’s potential in a 20-13 Patriots win last year on Monday Night Football. That night, Hogan caught six passes for 95 yards but could’ve had more if not for some misfires at quarterback.
He finished the 2015 season with 36 catches for 450 yards, two touchdowns and torn ligaments in his wrist that required surgery. General Manager Doug Whaley has said the Bills will look for a true No. 2 to complement No. 1 target Sammy Watkins. And when he once listed several receivers on the Bills’ current roster, he left Hogan’s name out.
To Hogan, hearing that Buffalo is looking for a new receiver is a personal challenge.
“Oh yeah. One hundred percent,” Hogan said. “I’ve been around long enough to know this is something they’re going to do every single year. But every single year, I have that same kind of mentality where it’s like ‘Oh man, well, I’m just going to have to work that much harder to outplay these guys.’ ”
He’d surely welcome playing with a four-time Super Bowl winner. After three different quarterbacks in three years, Hogan would suddenly be catching passes from arguably the greatest quarterback ever.
Brady has had a Midas touch with receivers like Hogan throughout his entire career. And after releasing Brandon LaFell this offseason, he could use Hogan.
Options on the free-agent market are thinning. Several No. 2-like receivers have already earned No. 1-like money. The Detroit Lions signed Marvin Jones to a five-year, $40 million deal, while the Atlanta Falcons inked Mohamed Sanu at five years, $32.5 million. This year’s draft class isn’t expected to be nearly as strong at wide receiver as the last two.
Other veterans on the market still include Anquan Boldin, Mike Wallace, Rueben Randle and Percy Harvin.
The Bills did add Greg Salas, Jarrett Boykin and Greg Little to the roster but will likely add another potential complement to Watkins.
Hogan revitalized his NFL career in Buffalo. Cut loose by three teams, he carved a niche on an ever-changing offense. If he does stay in Buffalo somehow, Hogan was optimistic last month that the passing game would grow.
“As the years come – if I’m able to be with this team next year – the offense is just going to keep progressing,” Hogan said. “I think you’ll see more guys get the ball and we’ll start to spread the ball around. There are a lot of weapons on that field and we’re tough to prepare for. For me, it’s about being accountable and letting Tyrod know and the coaches know they can count on me to put me in the game.
“This is going to be a big camp for me – an important one.”
Elsewhere, one of the three RFA’s not tendered by the Bills has found a new home. Defensive tackle Stefan Charles signed a one-year contract with the Detroit Lions.
Charles had 13 tackles and one sack for the Bills last season, playing 21 percent of the snaps.