The Buffalo Bills began the process of reshaping their receiving corps Thursday by announcing they will not make a contract offer to Donald Jones.
Jones is a three-year veteran who started 22 games over the past three seasons, including 10 last season. He was due in March to become a restricted free agent, meaning the Bills could have retained his services with a one-year minimum contract offer of $1.33 million.
By declining to make that offer, Jones will become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins March 12.
Said Bills General Manager Buddy Nix in a statement: “We have made the decision not to re-sign Donald. We’re going in a different direction, and this move today gives Donald the opportunity to catch on with another team early on in the process. We thank him for his years with our organization and wish him the best in the future.”
Jones made the team as an undrafted free agent out of Youngstown State in 2010. He caught 18 passes as a rookie and 23 in eight games in 2011 before going down with an ankle injury.
Last season Jones was the Bills’ fourth-leading receiver, catching 41 passes for 443 yards and four touchdowns.
“It was pretty upsetting to get the call today,” Jones said. “It kind of was a shock. But it is what it is. Now me and my family will move forward to another team and hopefully I get to play against the Bills.”
Jones, 25, missed the last three games of 2012 with a calf injury and a medical condition that he said is fully resolved.
“It’s definitely an opportunity to go somewhere else,” Jones said. “It stinks that I have to prove myself all over again, but you have to prove yourself every year in this league. I’m not in control of any of this, the man upstairs is.”
“I’m definitely happy with the opportunity they gave me in Buffalo,” Jones said. “They gave me a chance to get some great film out there and I took as much advantage as I can. The next team I get to they’ll see exactly what I can do, from catching the ball, making big runs, making big blocks, making tackles on special teams.”
The Bills are expected to be on the hunt for a big receiver either in free agency or the draft, or both. They have another third-year receiver, 6-foot-5 David Nelson, who is due to become a restricted free agent and is expected to get a tender offer by the March 12 deadline.