Bills Criticized for Failing to Land Pro Bowl WR After Surprise Release

The Buffalo Bills have been making some marginal upgrades to their wide receiver room through the first week of free agency, but one NFL analyst believes the Bills missed out on what could have been a game-changing move.

The Minnesota Vikings cut ties with Pro Bowl receiver Adam Thielen last week, sending the 32-year-old to the open market. Thielen didn’t last long, signing with the Carolina Panthers on what ESPN’s David Newton reported was a 3-year deal.

While the signing gives Thielen the chance to be the primary target for a rebuilding team that just traded receiver D.J. Moore to the Chicago Bears, Pro Football Talk’s Peter King believes he could have been an even stronger fit in Buffalo and chided the Bills for not giving a stronger pursuit.

“I think if I were the Bills, I’d have been more aggressive in trying to sign Adam Thielen,” King reported. “He reached a deal with Carolina Sunday night. That’s fine, and good for him to get real money from the Panthers. I don’t get a building team signing a player in his age-33 year. Thielen belonged with a contender.”

Bills Named Potential Target for Adam Thielen

Before he landed with the Panthers, Thielen was seen as a potential target for the Bills. Though the Bills had one of the league’s top passing attacks last season with quarterback Josh Allen, they failed to find consistency behind top receiver Stefon Diggs. Though he is at an age when many receivers experience a steady decline, Thielen was productive last season, making 70 catches for 716 yards and six touchdowns.

Ryan Talbot of NewYorkUpstate.com believed Thielen could be a good fit with the Bills, where he would have the chance to be the No. 2 receiver behind Diggs just as he had been with the Vikings.

Panthers signing former Vikings WR Adam Thielen to three-year deal, per @RapSheethttps://t.co/P9GxYTGZuy pic.twitter.com/tGy8eXjPAX

— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) March 19, 2023

“Playing for Buffalo could also be high on Thielen’s list,” Talbot wrote. “It would reunite him with one of his best friends, Stefon Diggs. It has also been reported that Thielen wants to join a contender with a top quarterback. Buffalo certainly checks those boxes.”

Bills Making Other Changes to Receiver Corps

The Bills have given their receiving room something of an overhaul since the end of the season, signing speedy receiver and return specialist Deonte Harty, a free agent who has a knack for getting yards after the catch. The Bills also signed free agent receiver Trent Sherfield, who last season with the Miami Dolphins made 30 receptions for 417 yards and two touchdowns.

We’ve released WR Isaiah McKenzie. #BillsMafia pic.twitter.com/ZPStrJoQNn

— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) March 17, 2023

The Bills made room by releasing veteran receiver Isaiah McKenzie, who won the starting slot receiver job last offseason but failed to match the production of previous slot receiver Cole Beasley. McKenzie ended up with career highs of 42 receptions and 423 yards, but struggled at times and lost his spot as the team’s primary kick returner after running back Nyheim Hines joined at the trade deadline.

The Bills ended up coaxing Beasley out of retirement late in the season to give Allen a reliable target, though he too has headed to free agency.

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