With the report surfacing out of Phoenix Tuesday night that the Arizona Cardinals are showing interest in acquiring the services of Lee Evans, the phone lines in Buffalo blew up for everyone to get their opinion in.
The Bills wide receiver has a sound reputation around the league. But in Buffalo, he's failed to show he can be a dependable top receiver in the league. After 2006, it looked like Evans was the number one wideout with his best year yet. In the year's since that, Evans has gone back to having a good-but-not-great type of season from 2007 through 2010.
Granted, the Bills never had a quarterback to fully utilize a talent like Lee Evans, so the blame isn't completely on him. In 2011 however, the Bills had their first viable quarterback since the likes of Drew Bledsoe. Ryan Fitzpatrick tossed the ball around and got his receivers a fair amount of receptions. Both Stevie Johnson and Roscoe Parrish had career highs, while Evans failed to get in on the action.
A 37 reception season with only four touchdowns opened a lot of people's eyes. It's his worst year of his career to date, and Johnson catching 82 passes has only helped facilitate the idea that Evans could be expendable.
But there are a few problems with that logic.
First and foremost, the going rate for a wide receiver in a trade is one of the lowest yields of any position in the NFL. This off-season Chad Ochochinco got dealt for a pair of low round picks. Randy Moss changed hands last year for a mid-round pick. Anquan Boldin, who was thought to be a huge acquisition for the Ravens, net Arizona a third and a fourth round pick. How about Brandon Marshall? Off a Pro Bowl season and in the height of his prime, what was his worth? A second round pick.
So if you're thinking to yourself that Lee Evans could net the team a first, second, or even a third round pick, you've got a case of false hope. In fact, it may even be a stretch to think the Bills could get a fourth round pick for Evans. Coming off a 37-catch season, the 'What have you done for me lately?' mentality in the league garners merely a late round pick.
Believe me, I know that Lee Evans may be better suited for another franchise. But the yield of the trade for the Bills likely wouldn't be worth half as much as what Evans means to the team for this season at least.
Lee Evans is a starter. Lee Evans is a leader in the locker room. Lee Evans is looked up to by his teammates. Those are facts that can't be ignored.
Evans would likely garner somewhere near a fifth round pick. On paper, a draft pick sounds like a swell idea. But the success rate of fifth round picks in the NFL means you're probably not getting fair value back for a starting player on your roster.
There are always exceptions to the rule like Kyle Williams, but he's a special case. Ask yourself this:
Would you trade Lee Evans for Ed Wang? No?
Then how about Nic Harris? Alvin Bowen? Eric King? Ben Sobieski? Marques Sullivan? The list of failed fifth round picks goes on and on.
Trading Evans would only make another hole on this roster. Right now, Evans and Stevie Johnson are starting opposite one another with Parrish and Nelson likely the slot receivers. That's a solid combination of talent.
Take Evans out of that equation, and you're taking away talent from the roster. Pushing David Nelson in to the limelight this early in his career isn't smart. They need to let him develop as a fourth option before becoming a go-to-guy. Evans may have only one route that he can burn teams on, but having that vertical threat is something I'm sure Chan Gailey would like to utilize rather than take it away from his offense.
Long story short, should the Bills trade Lee Evans?
Unless Buffalo gets a starting player that can help this team right away (which likely would not happen), I say no deal.
You just don't trade players for the sake of trading them.