The Buffalo Bills are likely to undergo a drastic makeover at wide receiver this offseason.
With only Sammy Watkins, Walt Powell, Kolby Listenbee and Marcus Easley under contract for 2017, roster spots are wide open at the position. More than just numbers, however, the Bills also need to add playmakers.
That's why the analytics website Pro Football Focus has identified Washington receiver DeSean Jackson as the one player the Bills should sign in free agency.
"Beyond Sammy Watkins, the Bills have gotten inconsistent production from their wide receivers, and Washington's Jackson provides another presence on the outside capable of getting behind the defense," which PFF authored for ESPN Insider. "Jackson led the league with 579 yards on deep passes while ranking second with 16 deep receptions. Perhaps Jackson is even more important for the Bills if Tyrod Taylor returns as their starting quarterback, as he throws one of the better deep balls in the league. Regardless of signal-caller, Jackson has enough juice to stretch the field and create big plays after the catch."
Without Watkins for half the year (and him playing hurt the other half), the Bills finished with just 35 catches of 20-plus yards in 2016. Only Houston had fewer, with 34.
Jackson would likely help in that regard, but the question becomes, at what cost? He's coming off a 56-catch, 1,005-yard season in 2016, the third time in the last four years he's cracked the 1,000-yard milestone. On Sunday, Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reported that Jackson could be in high demand when free agency opens. His former team, the Philadelphia Eagles, are rumored to be interested in a reunion, while Washington would like to keep him.
Jackson just finished a three-year, $24 million contract and will likely command at least the same yearly average, if not more, on the open market. The Bills are heading into free agency with very little money to splurge on big-ticket items, and could be inclined to simply keep a known commodity in Robert Woods as opposed to getting into a bidding war for Jackson's services.
Before deciding what the Bills' true interest in a player like Jackson should be, it has to come to a decision on what is happening with Taylor. If he returns, the Bills might be more inclined to make a playoff push, and thus attempt to bring a player like Jackson in.
If Taylor departs, however, and the Bills go with a veteran free agent in 2017 while presumably drafting a quarterback and entering into a rebuild, it would make no sense to sign a player like Jackson, who is on the wrong side of 30 and would be gone before the Bills became contenders.