Locking up Evans was a necessity

The Bills' 4-0 start made this easy. Lee Evans is off to a torrid start and Buffalo needs him for the long-term. On Thursday, the Bills ensured that Evans is here to stay. BFR's Tyler Dunne says it's wise to lock Evans up now...

Maybe the Bills were a tad queasy at first with the uncertainty under center. Or specifically the connection between Trent Edwards and Lee Evans.

Were Evans' numbers inflated due to the occasional heave from J.P. Losman? Is he a No. 1 receiver, capable of consistent production?

Four straight wins to start the season was enough justification to shell out a colossal contract.

Buffalo gave its top wide receiver a reported four-year, $37.5 million contract extension Thursday, locking up a team cornerstone and avoiding a potential distraction. In the Bills' four wins this season, Evans has silenced doubts that he was nothing more than a deep threat. He entrenched himself as the chief playmaker on Buffalo's offense and worthy of the fourth-highest paid deal at his position. And he is now safely protected from free agency – happy, under contract and ready to take the Bills to another level.

You can bet this was a two-way street, too. Evans needed to see improvement in the team's stale offensive play-calling and improvement in the quarterback directing it.

After four wins, both sides were convinced. Deal done.

"I think it was a big factor," Evans said. "When you look at how our offense has grown and matured and has seen its share of the bumps as well, but when you see a lot of hard work and dedication paying off I think that plays into this in a big way. I'm happy for myself. I'm happy for this organization and I want to thank Mr. Wilson for sticking with me."

Evans' fastest start in his five-year career made this long-term commitment easy.

--- He's tied for first in the NFL in receptions 25 yards or longer.

--- Evans is second in averages yards per catch (23.7).

--- With 14 receptions for 332 yards and a touchdown, Evans is easily having the best season of his career. At this pace, he'll finish with 1,328 yards and every penny is worth it.

Evans' contract only lags behind Steve Smith, Larry Fitzgerald and Marvin Harrison at wide receiver. Locking up its No. 1 receiver didn't come cheap for the Bills. But it was a necessity, considering the new direction of the franchise. The revolving-door days of Tom Donahoe – signing, releasing and trading players with reckless liberalization – are over. The Bills made decisive, internal decisions this offseason that lacked the luster of deals distributed to Marcus Stroud and Kawika Mitchell.

In Dick Jauron's regime, the Bills have secured its core with contract extensions: Brad Butler, Ryan Denney, Chris Kelsay, Rian Lindell, Terrence McGee, Brian Moorman, Roscoe Parrish, Jason Peters, Josh Reed, Aaron Schobel and Kyle Williams all were rewarded with deals before hitting the market.

But locking up Evans trumps them all.

Trent Edwards needs that blanket, that deep threat to lob the ball to for the next several years. Pulling a Daniel Briere/Chris Drury on Evans (stubbornly waiting for a star player to hit free agency before acting) would have triggered disaster. With a receiving corps of Josh Reed, Roscoe Parrish and James Hardy, Edwards' development would have dulled down. Hardy remains an enigma. Parrish? The AFC Hester. Reed? Nothing but a nifty threat in the slot.

Keeping Lee Evans was an obligation.

Turk Schonert's push-the-envelope-when-it-matters-most offense would have been derailed without a deep threat. Without Evans. Critics claiming the Bills don't push the ball down the field would have no basis for their argument (there would have been no home-run threat). With Evans, Schonert's scheme makes sense. In four games, Evans' back-breaking long balls have broken defenses backs and kept Buffalo's offense on the offensive. The scheme finally meets the player.

The Bills see the results. Now – finally – the Bills have the right coordinator (Schonert), the right quarterback (Edwards) and the right landscape (weak AFC) for Evans to flourish. There's no limits. And the exclamation point for the Buffalo Bills offense isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

thdunne@gmail.com


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