The Buffalo Bills could make a major upgrade to their wide receiving corps by snagging a Pro Bowler who just won a Super Bowl, an insider predicts.
Though the Bills had one of the league’s top passing attacks last season, they often struggled to get consistent contributions beyond All-Pro Stefon Diggs. Third-year receiver Gabe Davis had a solid season but fell short of the expectations many had after his breakout performance in last year’s playoffs, and the Bills ended up bringing back a pair of former receivers late in the season, Cole Beasley and John Brown, to give quarterback Josh Allen some reliable targets.
Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz told ESPN that he believes the Bills could make a splash this coming offseason, targeting soon-to-be free-agent JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Bills Make Bold Move at Wide Receiver
Schatz predicted that the Bills would go after Smith-Schuster in the coming free-agency season to add a reliable target to the slot.
“The Bills will find an important additional target for Allen in the passing game by upgrading their slot receiver spot with free agent JuJu Smith-Schuster,” Schatz predicted. “Currently on a one-year contract with Kansas City, Smith-Schuster ranks in the top 20 for Football Outsiders’ receiving DYAR metric, and he caught 78 passes for 933 yards this season.”
Smith-Schuster is coming off a solid season with the Chiefs, making 78 catches for 933 yards and three touchdowns in the regular season. He added another 10 catches for 89 yards through three playoff games.
It was a non-catch from Smith-Schuster that may have been the pivotal play in the Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory. With Kansas City driving late in the fourth quarter, Philadelphia Eagles cornerback James Bradberry was called for holding Smith-Schuster, which gave the Chiefs a first down and allowed them to bleed the clock before kicking a game-winning field goal.
Bills Struggled to Get Production From the Slot
Smith-Schuster could give a major boost to a weak point in Buffalo’s receiving corps. After Beasley asked for a trade following the 2021-22 season and was ultimately released, the Bills struggled to find a suitable replacement in the slot. Veteran Isaiah McKenzie won the starting job, but failed to bring the level of production that Beasley had over his three seasons in Buffalo. McKenzie made 42 catches for 423 yards with four receiving touchdowns and one rushing score.
The Bills also brought in veteran slot receiver Jamison Crowder last offseason, but he was he suffered a season-ending injury after just four games and ended the year with six catches for 60 yards.
Rookie receiver Khalil Shakir showed flashes of potential but saw few targets, making just 10 catches for 161 yards and one touchdown. There could be bigger things ahead for Shakir, with Pro Football Focus analyst Sam Monson pegging him as the team’s biggest breakout candidate for 2023.
“Buffalo needed an injection of playmaking into its receiving corps this season, and the answer may have been staring them in the face all season in the form of rookie Khalil Shakir,” Monson wrote.
Including the playoffs, Shakir saw just 23 targets all season despite running 171 routes. The Bills will be looking for ways to diversify that passing attack without breaking the bank, and upping Shakir’s workload is an obvious pathway.”