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Bills’ No. 3 receiver spot is there for the taking

Maybe the most silly money was thrown at wide receivers in free agency. Multiple No. 2 receivers were paid No. 1-like money.

So the Buffalo Bills stood pat, waited, and inked Leonard Hankerson to a one-year deal this week. NFL Network first reported the news.

The team could still re-sign Percy Harvin. As discussed earlier this offseason, maybe the two sides are best together – Harvin’s health remains the question and the Bills expect clarity within the next two weeks. Again, General Manager Doug Whaley and head coach Rex Ryan left that door open to the free agent wide receiver. Still, the beat goes on. Hankerson now joins a crowded field of receivers hoping to resurrect their careers behind starters Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods. Claimed off waivers in late December last season, Hankerson said then “I’m in a situation where I don’t know anything.” He’ll have a chance to learn the full offense now.

Here’s a quick look at who the Bills have on the roster behind the starters, in no particular order. Whaley certainly could draft someone, but this year’s crop isn’t as talented as the last two. It might be difficult to find someone who can step in and play immediately, especially with the needs on defense.

Even as a run-first team that employs a fullback, Chris Hogan played 613 snaps (57 percent) in 2015. There’s a good chance Buffalo needs one of the following to step into the No. 3 role:

• Walter Powell (6-0, 189): Played for Rex Ryan in New York and returned three kicks for 77 yards (25.7 avg.). Was Murray State’s leading receiver three straight years with 94 receptions for 1,213 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior. Has speed and could vie for a return job. Hasn’t latched on as pro receiver yet.

• Jarrett Boykin (6-2, 215): Excelled with a variety of quarterbacks in Green Bay’s offense when Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone in 2013, catching 49 balls for 681 yards and three touchdowns. Huge hands once required 3XL and 4XL gloves in college. Faded out of the offense when Green Bay drafted three receivers in 2014, then he couldn’t make the Carolina Panthers’ roster in 2015. After signing with the Bills in January, Boykin said he was bringing a “last-shot mentality” to camp this year. Was Tyrod Taylor’s No. 1 receiver at Virginia Tech. Big, physical, could help in run game.

• Hankerson (6-2, 211): Former Miami Hurricane had six receptions for 103 yards in a win over Houston last season, and even climbed to No. 2 on Atlanta’s depth chart, but was eventually placed on IR in early December after aggravating a hamstring injury, released from IR, claimed by New England, let go, then claimed by Buffalo. Struggled with drops when he was on the field, but has plenty of game experience. Has 1,408 career receiving yards with nine touchdowns.

• Greg Salas (6-2, 210): Picked up late in the year, Salas flashed some ability in Buffalo’s 22-17 win over the Jets with three catches for 41 yards. He said, “I think I made a positive impression and did well.” And a last-shot mentality? He’ll have one, too. The 2011 fourth-round pick is on his sixth team since a ridiculous 1,889-yard, 14-touchdown final season at Hawaii. Deserves a shot at a roster spot in 2016 for making a difficult third-and-7 catch alone for 20 yards in that Jets win that kept a field-goal drive alive.

• Marquise Goodwin (5-9, 179): Pursuing a spot on the 2016 Olympic team right now in the long jump. Blazing speed and certainly had his moments in training camp last season but the former third-round pick hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Injured his ribs in Buffalo’s third exhibition game – earning the nickname “McRib” from his head coach – returned, then ended up on IR with another rib injury. He was drafted to be a multi-faceted weapon in the slot but hasn’t been able to stay on the field. Another make-or-break camp awaits.

• Greg Little (6-2, 220): Little is another receiver with good size. Not too far removed from a three-year run as a starter in Cleveland. From 2011-13, Little had 1,821 yards and eight touchdowns on 155 receptions. Can he keep his career alive in Buffalo? He dropped too many passes and racked up multiple speeding tickets in Cleveland, leading to a messy exit. He didn’t get along with Mike Pettine, saying the coach never spoke to his players.

• Marcus Easley (6-2, 217): Recovering from a devastating knee injury. He dislocated his kneecap and broke his knee in three places in Buffalo’s Week 16 win over Dallas. A core special teams player, Easley could open up the 2016 season on the PUP list. Has three catches in five seasons, including a 58-yard touchdown in Buffalo’s loss to Jacksonville in London.

• Dezmin Lewis (6-4, 212): Second-year receiver had a full season to learn the offense and develop. Is he ready now? The Bills are about to find out. Tallest of the bunch.

email: tdunne@buffnews.com

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