This is the 41st in a series of scouting reports on key players who are expected to become free agents March 13, unless they are re-signed or franchised before then.
News: As one of the top wide receivers on the market, Bowe will demand top dollar after posting back-to-back standout campaigns. There is a belief the Chiefs will place the franchise tag on Bowe, who is entering his sixth NFL season, for approximately $9.4 million in 2012 and then try to work out a long-term contract with him. It is the same strategy the team used in 2011 with OLB Tamba Hali, who eventually was signed to five-year deal after being franchised before the lockout. However with other top Chiefs also free agents — specifically starting CB Brandon Carr — the Kansas City front office would like to reach a contract with Bowe quickly and then move on to other needs. When asked about the team's plan for Bowe and Carr, GM Scott Pioli told a Kansas City radio station, "These are guys that are key components of the past and hopefully the future. They're players we have a great deal of respect for."
Notes: Despite injuries all around him on the Chiefs' offense (RB Jamaal Charles, QB Matt Cassel, TE Tony Moeaki and WR Jonathan Baldwin all missed part or all of the 2011 season), Bowe still had a fantastic year as the team's top offensive target. He hauled in 81 catches for 1,159 yards and five touchdowns after posting 72-1,162-15 in 2010. As one of the team's only reliable receivers, the former first-round pick often was called upon to move the chains, and despite seeing extra attention from defenses he still recorded a career-high 57 first downs in 2011, which tied for eighth in the league. His touchdown numbers took a serious hit, however, dropping from an NFL-best 15 in 2010 to five.
Strengths: From a physical standpoint, few defensive backs in the league can match up against Bowe, who turns 28 in September. Standing 6-foot-2, he can make plays in the air on balls that most other receivers can't, and is not afraid to go over the middle in traffic to help out his team. At 221 pounds, corners have trouble jamming Bowe at the line and preventing him from getting to his desired spot on the field. That strength also helps him after the catch, as he can be tough to bring down when he gets going. Bowe is also a terrific run blocker on the outside.
Weaknesses: Bowe is a very good receiver, but he is not in the Calvin Johnson/Larry Fitzgerald elite category for a couple of reasons. The primary one is his speed, or lack there of. Though nobody would call him slow, it is rare to see Bowe breaking away from corners. He's far from elusive, and is better going through defenders than running past them. The other issue is drops. According to STATS LLC, Bowe tied for second in the NFL with 12 dropped passes in 2011, a major problem on a couple of occasions for the Chiefs at the end of games. There also have been questions about his effort, but many of those were answered with a good year despite subpar QB play last season.
Risk factor: Moderate. Many around the league believed Bowe's Pro Bowl campaign in 2010 was an aberration, and that he would fall back to earth in '11. That didn't happen, except in TD catches. With some doubts about Bowe's work ethic still lingering, there could be concern that he will be satisfied after signing a long-term contract and not work hard at his craft. However, his production in recent seasons, there is plenty of reason to believe Bowe will continue to be one of the league's top receivers, whether it is in a Chiefs uniform or elsewhere.