By Tim Graham
Buddy Nix has been up front about the Buffalo Bills' offensive needs.
Nix has stated publicly his desire to draft a quarterback, acquire receivers and get help at tight end. In other words, the Bills need to overhaul their passing game for new coach Doug Marrone.
Options at quarterback are limited in free agency, and the college prospects will be dissected ad nauseum.
But the Bills can improve their targets with an assortment of moves through free agency and the draft.
I reached out to old pal Matt Williamson, an analyst for ESPN.com and Scouts Inc., for his thoughts on what the Bills should do in free agency.
"If I was running Buffalo, I might go all in on one of these free-agent tight ends instead and use, say, a second- or third-round pick on a wide receiver," Williamson said.
Bills tight end Scott Chandler, although lacking as a blocker, had another terrific season as a receiver. He set career-highs last year with 43 catches and 571 yards and tied a franchise record for tight ends with six touchdowns for the second straight year.
But Chandler suffered a torn left ACL in the Dec. 23 loss to the Miami Dolphins. The other tight ends on the roster are Lee Smith, Derek Buttles and Joe Sawyer. Mike Caussin and Dorin Dickerson are exclusive-rights free agents.
The notable tight ends who could be free agents are Jared Cook (Tennessee Titans), Martellus Bennett (New York Giants), Brandon Myers (Oakland Raiders), Fred Davis (Washington Redskins), Dustin Keller (New York Jets) and Anthony Fasano (Miami Dolphins).
Of the free-agent wide receivers, Williamson would go after Kansas City Chiefs star Dwayne Bowe.
"I think he is the best player of the group," Williamson said. "He's still pretty young. He's excellent in the red zone and has never played with a strong quarterback."
The other top free-agent receivers include Mike Wallace (Pittsburgh Steelers), Greg Jennings (Green Bay Packers), Wes Welker (New England Patriots), Danny Amendola (St. Louis Rams), Malcolm Floyd (San Diego Chargers) and Brian Hartline (Dolphins).
A vertical threat was a clear need for the Bills last season, and Nix has mentioned that leading Bills receiver Stevie Johnson would be more productive in the slot.
With that in mind, I asked Williamson specifically about Wallace, a game-breaker who caught 196 passes for 3,286 yards and 26 touchdowns over the past three seasons.
Williamson noted the Bills would be better off to stick with T.J. Graham despite rookie struggles.
"No question that Graham isn't close to Wallace yet, but he is also far cheaper," Williamson said. "My worry for any team signing Wallace is this: Let's say he plays now like a 4.2, 40-yard-dash guy. What happens after a couple ankle or a hamstring injuries, and two years from now he plays like a 4.4 guy?
"Wallace is a one-trick pony -- albeit a great trick -- and he makes everyone around him better. But who is Buffalo's quarterback? A great deep-ball quarterback?"
Williamson sees better fits for Wallace with the Minnesota Vikings or Dolphins than he does with the Bills.
"But I do hear where you are coming from," Williamson said. "Wallace is much different than Johnson, while Bowe is only semi-different than Johnson."
taggedBuddy Nix | Dorin Dickerson | Dwayne Bowe | Lee Smith | Mike Caussin | Mike Wallace | Scott Chandler | Stevie Johnson | T.J. Graham