Out of all the wide receivers set to hit free agency, no one's case is quite as curious as that of Dwayne Bowe.
Bowe represents one of the very rare instances where a lack of consistency at the quarterback position throughout this professional career hasn't really muted any inherent production. You could chock it up to being a result of Bowe being one of the only offensive threats that the Chiefs' offense was forced to run through with much to be desired at signal-caller, but there is no denying that Bowe is a remarkable talent who could be name-dropped with the league's top tier of wideouts if he finds himself in the right environment.
The Kansas City Chiefs find themselves in a somewhat similar position to the Patriots this offseason; slapping yet another franchise tag on Bowe (as they did in 2012) carries an incredibly hefty cap hit in the $11 million dollar range. With the Patriots reluctant to tie up that much cash in one, arguably extraneous position with Welker, so too are the Chiefs with Bowe. While the Patriots find themselves in a position of reasonable financial flexibility, the Chiefs still have a laundry list of positions to tweak and problems to fix, making $11 million--even invested in a valuable piece like Bowe--much more useful when freed from the cap altogether.
Why He's a Good Fit: While his skillset almost goes against the modus operandi of the Patriots that tends to prefer wideouts of the small and shifty variety, Bowe's talent is exactly what the Patriot offense has been missing since the days of one Randy Moss. A fast, explosive, game-breaking receiver that has the build and physicality (220 lbs.) to release off the line with the height (6'2") to go up and grab a less-than-perfectly thrown ball.
While Brandon Lloyd was certainly a cost-effective step in the right direction as the Patriots diversified an offensive approach that too easily stalls in key games, you still get the feeling that a cog is missing when pitted against bigger, physical opponents. As potent and lethal as the Patriot offense is, it's typically been a mismatch for the types of defenses that are prevalent in the postseason. The running game ills have officially been diagnosed; Bowe's talent would add yet another facet to an increasingly difficult to defend offensive approach.
While the market for Bowe will be vast, it may not be as large as some are expecting. A scout recently told Sports Illustrated's Peter King that he is "scared to death" of committing to Bowe. While Bowe has avoided some of the bigger behavioral headlines, he is known to present some problems including clashing with coaches. With the Patriots military-esque hierarchy of a cohesive locker room, they are in better shape than most to bid on Bowe's services and contend with any off-field issues that may present themselves. With nearly an entire roster of perceived "problem players," the Patriots continue to hoard and benefit from extremely talented, red-flagged individuals that many franchises aren't stable enough to take on.
Why He's Not: Make no mistake: Bowe will command top-dollar in a market where three of the league's most revered receivers hit free agency including and . If last season was any indication, teams looking to penny-pinch the wideout position would be advised to stay away from a market that is fresh off of handing $32 million and $42 million deals to the likes of Laurent Robinson and Pierre Garçon, respectively.
Players like Aqib Talb and Sebastian Vollmer will be considered more pressing needs that will stabilize the secondary and the all-important offensive line and will need to be dealt with first. And Welker? A Patriots commitment to Bowe would likely spell the end for Wes, unable to bring back all of their free agents while simultaneously making bold moves in free agency.
The Patriots' willingness to delve into Bowe will be predicated almost entirely on a) their success in negotiating deals with their own free agents and b) how the market unfolds in regards to dollars and years. The Patriots have consistently avoided a "strike while the iron's hot" mentality, preferring to wait on the FA feeding frenzy to die down while they make quieter deals amidst the settling dust.
The Consensus: If reports start to surface that Bowe is involved in a bidding war with more than a handful of teams issuing offers, watch out; the Patriots aren't touching this one.
A talent like Bowe's would render the wide receiving corps exponentially improved, but the Patriots are likely to stay away at the cost of sacrificing other positions. With the Chiefs unlikely to re-sign Bowe with plenty of needs to contend with, it becomes even more likely at least one team with enough cap flexibility can and will offer the five- or six-year commitment to Bowe at the $9-$10 million per he'll want. That's a price that's just too high for the Patriots to manage.