And on the fourth day of free agency, let there be a wide receiver. The Buffalo Bills finally added to its thin receiving corps on Sunday as Sean McDermott reunited with familiar face Corey “Philly” Brown.
The fourth-year wide receiver played his last three seasons with the Carolina Panthers and you may recall him as Cam Newton’s most productive target in Super Bowl 50. In that contest, Brown grabbed four receptions for 80 yards before eventually leaving with a concussion after this monster catch. His signing is certainly not the big splash many Bills fans’ were probably hoping for, but it has all the ingredients of being an important one.
Here are four ways new WR Corey Philly Brown can help the Buffalo Bills:
Talent/Ability: The 5’11, 180 pound former Ohio State Buckeye has shown “spectacular flashes” during his three years with the Panthers with his top production coming in 2015. After WR Kelvin Benjamin went down with a knee injury during the preseason that year, Brown was thrust into the #2 receiver role for Carolina and responded with 31 receptions for 447 yards and four touchdowns in 14 games. His 14.4 yards per reception average was good for top 30 in the league in 2015 as “Philly” really caught on late in the season, adding 10 receptions for 215 yards and one touchdown in 2.5 playoff games.
Last season, Brown was surpassed on the Panthers depth chart by Benajmin, Devin Funchess and Ted Ginn Jr. which unsurprisingly led to a dip in production, as he put up 27 receptions for 276 receiving yards and one score. Even so, with Walter Powell the next best receiver on Buffalo’s roster after Sammy Watkins, bringing on a steady player like Brown makes sense.
Versatility: Along with his ability at receiver, Brown can also play special teams. In 2014, he returned 16 punts for 153 yards and one 79-yard touchdown. Even though he didn’t return the league minimum 20 punts to be listed in the league’s year-end rankings, his average of 9.6 yards per return was 9th best in the NFL right behind Pittsburgh Steelers star Antonio Brown. With WR/PR Brandon Tate unlikely returning to the Bills, McDermott may look to Brown to help shoulder the load on special teams.
Affordable Depth: Corey Brown signed with the Bills on a one-year deal which figures to pay him somewhere in the ballpark of around $2 Million. Considering Marquise Goodwin just got more than double that per season and the importance of solid pass catchers in today’s league, Brown’s deal seems reasonable. And assuming Buffalo takes a young WR with one of its first couple picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, “Philly” should have the inside track on the #3 receiver job with the Bills. He’s already somewhat familiar with Sean McDermott as a coach so long as Brown stays healthy and carves out a top 4 receiving role in the offense, this will turn out to be a solid, affordable depth signing with upside for Buffalo.
Reliability: Over his first three years in the NFL, Brown has only missed 5 games. That’s not remarkable in and of itself by any means but considering how banged up Buffalo receivers were last year, his addition should be an improvement in stability. Really though, Sammy Watkins missed eight games, Walter Powell missed seven games, Greg Salas and Percy Harvin missed all but two games, Robert Woods missed three and Kolby Listenbee and Dezmin Lewis battled injuries all year-long.
One of the major surprises was actually that newly signed San Francisco 49ers WR Marquise Goodwin only missed one game in 2016 after sitting out 24 contests over the previous three seasons. Even though it seems like a relatively small feat, Buffalo will absolutely welcome a productive player that can compete on Sundays almost every single week.
Good route runner: One of the knocks on his game leaving Ohio State was that Brown was an undefined route runner and had average speed in and out of his breaks. That’s seemingly improved since he entered the NFL as Brown now displays good footwork and spatial awareness when running his routes. As Cover1 Writer/Podcaster Kevin Massare pointed out, this highlight video shows his improvement and proficiency in his route-running.