The Buffalo Bills are still in the hunt for DeAndre Hopkins, but another young wide receiver could be in trouble if the Bills are able to land the Pro Bowler in free agency.
The Bills have been pegged as a frontrunner in the race to sign Hopkins after his release from the Arizona Cardinals, with ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler saying in a May 29 appearance on ESPN Radio that the Bills and Kansas City Chiefs are in an “arms race” to sign him.
Landing Hopkins would take some salary cap gymnastics from the Bills, and could also create a crunch at wide receiver. Reporter Joe DiBiase of WGR 550 speculated that receiver Khalil Shakir could end up with the short stick, speculating that rookie Justin Shorter would win a final roster spot over Shakir.
Khalil Shakir the Odd Man Out if Bills Land DeAndre Hopkins?
Shakir showed flashes of strong play during the regular season but struggled to carve out a regular role, making just 10 catches for 161 yards and one touchdown in the regular season. He did find a bigger role in the playoffs, catching five of his seven targets for a total of 91 yards across the team’s two games.
That might not be enough to keep him on the team if the Bills were to land Hopkins, DiBiase tweeted. He noted that it would likely come down to a battle between Shorter and Shakir, with the Bills opting toward the younger player.
“So if they sign Hopkins who are you cutting?” he tweeted. “[Trent] Sherfield plays special teams, so it’s likely one of the 5th round picks. One they just picked, the other had only 10 catches in year one.”
The Bills have not been known to move on from draft picks so quickly, however, and there are some signs that Shakir has some faith within the organization.
Bills Still Appear High on Khalil Shakir
It does not appear that the Bills share DiBiase’s pessimism about Shakir, at least not publicly. General manager Brandon Beane has spoken highly of the 23-year-old receiver, saying after the NFL Draft that he is one of a handful of players on offense expected to step up in the coming season.
Beane specifically mentioned Shakir when talking about players who will help take pressure off No. 1 receiver Stefon Diggs.
“We were looking for guys to add to our skill positions that can be matchups and whether it’s receiver, tight end, whatever it is, just a guy, another weapon to say, ‘Hey, you can’t double Stef every play,’ ” Beane said. “If you do, we’re expecting this guy to win his one-on-one matchup or Gabe to win his one-on-one matchup. Khalil Shakir, we’ve got a lot of hope for him. I thought he really played well down the stretch when he had his opportunity.”
Quarterback Josh Allen also gave Shakir an endorsement this week. Speaking to reporters at OTAs, Allen also said he sees Shakir playing a bigger role in the offense.
“I have a lot of trust in him,” Allen told the Buffalo News. “I think he’s only going to continue to grow in his role.”