Next in our free agency roundup is All-Pro kick returner Andre Roberts. A Citadel alum, Roberts came to the Bills on a two-year deal after being surprisingly cut from the New York Jets in 2019, despite having a Pro Bowl season. Since then, he has represented the Bills on both the 2019 and 2020 Pro Bowl rosters, even notching a receiving touchdown in the 2019 game. Not too shabby, right? However, there were a few bumps along the way.
Roberts was initially released from the Bills during their final roster cuts at the beginning of the 2020 season. A surprising move, but the Bills were able to resign him after they fixed and organized their final roster. He then finished second in kick return yards, went back to the Pro Bowl, and was a Second-team All-Pro.
Now that Roberts’ contract is set to expire, general manager Brandon Beane has a tough decision to make on whether or not to bring the speedy returner back to Buffalo. Let’s look at a few variables first.
You’ve already heard about the limited amount of cap space the Bills have this offseason. Although the cap could be altered, that doesn’t mean the Bills should be throwing around money left and right. Given his performance, Roberts is likely to seek a raise from his expiring $4.6 million contract. Will Buffalo meet these demands? I think that’s unlikely. The best deal Beane may be willing to offer would not likely exceed one year in the $2-3.5 million range. But with so many teams needing a return man, there’s a good chance that another team will be willing and able to come up with a better offer.
Stated simply, Roberts has been a liability on offense. I get it. He’s a return specialist, not a wide receiver. However, when called upon to fill in as an emergency WR, as he was in Week 5 against the Tennessee Titans, he was pretty ineffective. Other than one ridiculous toe-drag catch, he had a few costly drops, including one that led to a turnover. For such limited offensive value, all the while eating up roster space for guys like Isaiah Hodgins, the Bills can certainly do better.
To make matters worse, Roberts is also 33 years of age and entering his 12th season in the NFL. His career might not be over quite yet, and his production hasn’t slowed down at all, but it could be ending sooner than we think. And the Bills must be careful about throwing this kind of money around–especially if they want to have dollars available to bring Matt Milano back.
Despite his limitations, I would love Roberts to stay, and with a reasonable deal, it could benefit the Bills to bring him back. But in an offseason as important as this, where Beane & Co. need to be on their absolute A-game, it may not be in Buffalo’s best interests to bring the All-Pro returner back. I wouldn’t be shocked if I was wrong, and there’s a part of me that hopes I am.
Stay or Go? Go.
What will probably happen: re-sign on a team-friendly one-year deal
Disagree with what I said? Tweet at me! @RubinsteinPete on Twitter.
- Contract and cap room numbers courtesy of Spotrac and Over The Cap.
- Image via Ron Schwane – AP Photo