The Buffalo Bills’ depth at wide receiver was put to the test in 2016.
Star Sammy Watkins missed eight games. Reliable No. 2 Robert Woods dealt with knee and foot injuries that kept him out of three games and compromised his effectiveness in others. Greg Salas, who was expected to be the team’s No. 3 receiver coming out of training camp, lasted just two games.
When the dust had settled Marquise Goodwin – yes, that Marquise Goodwin – led the team in snaps among wide receivers. The same player who had managed to play in just 12 games – and make three catches – over the last two seasons played in 15 in 2016, taking 638 snaps, 60 percent of the offensive total and tops among receivers. Despite suffering two concussions, one at the end of training camp and one in Week Seven against Miami, Goodwin missed just one game.
Along the way, he produced the best season of his four-year career – 29 catches for 431 yards and three touchdowns. The timing couldn’t have been better, either. He’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March.
“I feel solid,” Goodwin said as the Bills cleaned out their lockers at the start of the month. “I’m just blessed to be able to be alive, to be able-bodied and be able to play this game. I’m just thankful for this year and I don’t know what the future holds, but I know where I go they’ll have a hard worker and somebody who’s willing to do the things that a lot of people aren’t, so I look forward to it.”
The potential exists for significant change at receiver for the Bills in 2017. The only players currently under contract for next season are Watkins, Powell, Marcus Easley and Kolby Listenbee. Both Easley and Listenbee missed all of 2016 because of injuries, so the depth chart really couldn’t be any more wide open.
“This process could be tough, could be tricky, but I just try not to worry about it,” Goodwin said of becoming a free agent. “Can’t really until March anyway, so just take some time off, be with the family, be with my wife and see where it goes from there.”
The Bills could sign Goodwin to an extension before he hits the open market if they were interested, but the receiver says he is unaware of whether there have been any conversations with his representatives.
“My agent does all that,” he said. “I just play football. I got the easy part.”
Of course, after his last two seasons, some might argue that nothing has come easy for Goodwin. He played in just two games in 2015 before landing on injured reserve because of broken ribs.
“I mean, it’s just part of it. Dealing with injuries each year, it’s kind of like a given that it’ll happen,” he said. “You’ve just got to push through it. It’s pretty satisfying to make it through a season, only missing one game year.
“That’s really what I tried to avoid. The breaks, it’s kind of hard to avoid those things, because it’s not like you have any control over those, but as far as hamstrings, calves, I can kind of regulate that.”
Goodwin caught two touchdowns of at least 67 yards, providing the type of game-changing deep speed that defenses have to respect. That reason alone may be enough to earn him another contract.
“I had a great time playing with the guys this year,” he said. “I just look forward to seeing where everybody goes. … It’s tough. We built chemistry this year. A different bond from what we’ve had in past years. It seemed like we grew closer this year for some reason. I’m thankful for the relationship that I established with guys here in my time in Buffalo.”