ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills' passing game is basically non-functional, and that's what prompted general manager Doug Whaley to take a flier on retired wide receiver Percy Harvin, signing him Tuesday to a one-year contract.
The Bills had been rumored as a team that might consider a trade for a receiver, given how injury-depleted they are at the position.
The names of Chicago's Alshon Jeffery and San Francisco's Torrey Smith kept popping up, as unrealistic as that may have been. But the trade deadline came and went Tuesday, and by signing Harvin, they didn't have to relinquish a player or a future draft pick.
"I wouldn't say desperate, but we're always looking no matter what position to look to upgrade, and obviously we were decimated with injuries, and we're comfortable with the guys we have," Whaley said.
"But if we saw a person that could help us get better, and upgrade a position, we're going to do it, be it wide receiver or any other position."
It was a nice job by Whaley to soft-sell the signing, but the Bills were desperate at wide receiver and anyone watching knows that. Without injured Sammy Watkins, the Bills have no one threatening out wide, and it has been a drain on the offense ever since Watkins went on injured reserve after Week 2.
Robert Woods is a good No. 2 receiver, but that's all he is, and playing with the sore foot that knocked him out of the Miami game, he's barely No. 2 level.
Marquise Goodwin missed the New England game because of a concussion, but even when he's healthy, he's an unreliable player who does only one thing well, catch the occasional deep pass.
Behind them, there's Justin Hunter, Brandon Tate, and Walter Powell, and that comprises perhaps the worst group of receivers in the league.
Harvin signed a one-year free agent contract with the Bills before the 2015 season after playing for Minnesota, Seattle, and the New York Jets during his first six injury-plagued years in the NFL. He was looked upon as a big-time deep threat to line up opposite Watkins last year, but the duo never really materialized.
Because of injuries to both players, they wound up playing in only 2 1/2 games together. Harvin's stint with the Bills lasted only five games before knee and hip injures sidelined him for the season, and the 28-year-old caught only 19 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown.
Harvin entered free agency this past offseason but really didn't draw any interest and that's when he decided to call it quits. If Harvin is in shape and healthy, he immediately could be the Bills' best receiver.
The Bills aren't sure if he can play Monday night in Seattle, but they certainly hope he can make it because against that defense, without him, it won't be a fair fight for the Bills offense.
"I think any athlete who wants to perform how he wants to perform and he's not allowed to do that, it's very frustrating," Harvin said. "I knew the level that I wanted to play at and my body just wouldn't let me play at that level with my knee.
"It was time for me to just step back and let my body heal without training it, putting the time on it, and knowing I'm getting rest. I just wanted to take time off for myself. I was able to relax with my family. At this time, I'm just kind of getting myself together. I'm refreshed and I'm ready to go."
The Bills are second-to-last in the NFL in yards per game at 179.4, and the receiver problems are a big part of it, but starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor also bears some of the blame.
The Bills handed Taylor a five-year, $90 million extension right before the start of the season, thinking they had finally found their franchise quarterback.
Eight games into the season, and now with 22 NFL starts on his resume, Taylor is nowhere near being a franchise quarterback.
As electric as he is when he runs and scrambles, he is just as inconsistent and frustrating as a passer. His inaccuracy on the most basic of throws is holding the Bills passing game back because he either misfires completely, or he puts the ball in a spot that requires a much more difficult catch, which then kills any chance for yards after the catch.
Coach Rex Ryan has been queried often about Taylor, and he remains firmly behind his starter, even pointing to all the problems at receiver as one of the things holding him back.
"I think it might be fair to judge him when you have everyone out there," Ryan said. "It'll be nice one day to sit back and have a full roster. You talk about the talent of the team. We've got to get them all healthy, and then we'll probably be able to evaluate this team a little better."
SERIES HISTORY: 13th regular-season meeting. Seahawks lead series 7-5. The Bills haven't played in Seattle since 2004, and they were 38-6 winners. In the last meeting, the game was played in Toronto as part of the defunct Bills Toronto Series which had Buffalo playing one home game per season at Rogers Centre. The Seahawks embarrassed the Bills 50-17. The first meeting ever occurred in 1977, a 56-17 Seattle blowout which happened to be the final game O.J. Simpson played for the Bills.
--To make room on the 53-man roster for the addition of newly-signed wide receiver Percy Harvin, the Bills placed safety Aaron Williams on the injured reserve list. It's a crushing blow for Williams, whose career possibly is in jeopardy. Williams was knocked out of the Miami game by a blatant cheap shot crack-back block by Jarvis Landry and he sustained another neck injury. After missing 13 games last year due to career-threatening neck surgery, this is an injury that might convince Williams to retire, although he has not said that.
When he was asked if he was worried about Williams' future last week, coach Rex Ryan said: "Yeah, I think so. I don't think there's any doubt that there's some long-term concerns there."
General manager Doug Whaley said that putting Williams on Injured Reserve was difficult, but it was the right move.
"Well, from the medical staff, we knew he would be out for an extended period of time," Whaley said. "And we'll take this time, he'll take this time to get healthy. Once the medical staff deems him able to play, then obviously that's a decision he's got to make. But also in our back pocket, we have the designation for return. So we have a couple of candidates so this doesn't say his season is definitely over."
--Rookie first-round pick Shaq Lawson saw his playing time go way up in his second NFL game, from 14 snaps to 36, because the Bills lost linebacker Lorenzo Alexander to a hamstring injury in the first quarter while he was covering a punt. Alexander's status will probably be questionable for the Seahawks game, so the Bills may have to rely on Lawson even more.
"Shaq is getting there, Shaq has only had two weeks of practice," coach Rex Ryan said. "So it's not like an ideal situation; you would like him to be able to go through some training camp or whatever. I thought Shaq played pretty well, he did some good things in the game. I loved the way he competes. Did he have some mental mistakes, yes we did. I think he will learn from them. I think the role really expanded when Zo went down. So we just got to overcome some of those things. And if this kid, once we eliminate those mental mistakes and things like that, this kid is going to be a terrific player for us."
Ryan said he regrets using Alexander as much as he has on special teams, especially now that his injury came while covering a punt. Alexander was signed in the offseason to be a special teams player, but he became a starting linebacker when Lawson underwent shoulder surgery and did not practice until after Week 6.
"Yep, I do because those things are 40-yard sprints," Ryan said of covering punts. "You know with a hamstring, his play number extended. We have to be mindful of this moving forward. He had 80 some snaps the previous week. Yeah I definitely, do I regret it now, absolutely."
NOTES: RB LeSean McCoy (hamstring), who might be able to play in Seattle, still ranks fifth in he NFL in rushing with 598 yards despite missing a game and a half. ... QB Tyrod Taylor ranks 23rd in passer rating, and he's averaging only 6.43 yards per pass attempt. ... LB Zach Brown continues to lead the league in tackles with 87, and eight of those have been for losses, including three sacks. ... LB Lorenzo Alexander, the NFL's sack leader with nine, sustained a hamstring injury against the Patriots and his status will likely be questionable for the Monday night game in Seattle. ... WR Percy Harvin joined the Bills on Tuesday and participated in a light practice. The Bills will decide late in the week whether he's ready to play after not playing in a game since early October 2015. ... S Robert Blanton, who started on defense in place of Aaron Williams last week, is tied for the NFL lead with eight solo special teams tackles.