With the Friday release of Charles Clay, the Bills will have more flexibility to decide how to handle the position going forward.
The free-agent class is headlined by Oakland’s Jared Cook, who set career highs with 68 catches for 896 yards and six touchdowns. He’s older at 31, but is still productive.
Cook is coming off a two-year, $10.6 million deal that included $5 million guaranteed.
If Cook is out of the Bills’ price range, there are expected to be plenty of cheaper options. Baltimore’s Maxx Williams is a former second-round draft pick who never reached his potential with the Ravens, but is still young (24) and might need a fresh start. He had 16 catches on 17 targets for 143 yards and a touchdown.
Kansas City’s Demetrius Harris will likely be looking for an opportunity for more playing time given that he’s stuck behind Chiefs star Travis Kelce. Harris had 12 receptions on 24 targets for 164 yards and three touchdowns.
Pittsburgh’s Jesse James is also No. 2 on his team’s depth chart, behind Vance McDonald. James finished 2018 with 30 catches for 423 yards and two touchdowns.
Then there’s the Cincinnati trio of Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah — all of whom are scheduled for unrestricted free agency in March.
Uzomah set career highs with 43 catches for 439 yards and three touchdowns, playing in all 16 games for the first time in his NFL career. He took over as the starter after injuries to both Eifert and Kroft.
Eifert might be the most talented of the bunch, but has played in just 12 of a possible 48 games because of injuries dating back to the start of the 2016 season. Kroft likewise missed most of 2018 because of a foot injury, so he would come with injury concerns, too.
If the Bills turn their attention to the draft, they could be in luck. It’s perceived to be a strong year for tight ends, starting with the Iowa duo of T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, both of whom are considered borderline first-round talents. That’s rather remarkable from the same program.
Hockenson had 49 catches for 760 yards and six touchdowns last season but is also noted for his blocking ability. Fant had 39 catches for 519 yards and seven touchdowns last season and is said to have wide receiver-type ability and can line up in multiple positions.
Alabama’s Irv Smith Jr., Georgia’s Isaac Nauta, Stanford’s Kaden Smith, Texas A&M’s Jace Sternberger and UCLA’s Caleb Wilson are also considered prospects who could go in the first two days of the draft (rounds 1 through 3).