Let me be the first to say it... Buffalo should take him.
Hines Ward was supposed to retire in a Steelers uniform. Just two seasons ago, his contract was restructured to go through 2013, he had already logged 14 seasons with Pittsburgh, where he had been drafted to start his NFL career, and had been essential in winning two Super Bowls for the franchise.
For the love of Lombardi, he was the Super Bowl XL MVP, catching 5 for 123 and a TD, as well as rushing for 18 yds in the win over Seattle (even with Bettis playing in his last game for the Steelers, his only ring). In his, again, 14 SEASONS with Pittsburgh, Ward has 1,000 receptions (a Steelers franchise record) for 12,083 yards (Steelers record), with 85 TDs (...record for them as well) and 428 yards rushing... which may not be a record but still puts him over 12,500 all purpose yards.
As a die hard Bills fan, I don't think it's out of line to say, "Mr. Nix... GO GET HIM!!".
Buffalo has been looking for just this type of receiver to pair with young wildcard Steve Johnson, as Ward's calm and storied veteran who can drive the demons right out of the Bills' future franchise receiver. Let's face facts, the Steelers may have been know for their player loyalty, but they really dropped the ball here with Hines, deciding that retaining Mike Wallace was worth losing one of the grinning faces of their organization. Mr Rooney, you mishandled this, it should have been enough that you restructured Roethlisberger's contract to free up $8 million in cap room, you shouldn't have had to bounce Ward as well, but business is business and Ward's open for suitors.
Buffalo may not be the sexiest choice, but desperation can be quite persuasive at times. While the Patriots can offer him the best chance to win another Super Bowl, it appears that their veteran wide out signing will be Brandon Lloyd, who'll likely follow newly returned Josh McDaniels to New England. Arizona may come calling as well, hoping Ward can fill the hole left by Anquan Boldin's departure, but that's an awfully far move and I don't see the Cardinals doling out big bucks to bring him in (what with Larry Fitzgerald already on the payroll).
What do the Bills have? Well, youth for one, giving Ward the chance to become the cool, sage of the team, a captain on the field and a coach on the sidelines. Buffalo is rife with young talent, including QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who needs someone to help him over the rough patches as he tries to grow in to the leader the Bills are hoping he'll become (they did sign him to a $59 million, six year contract that he'll have to earn better than he has thus far). Ward isn't the fastest receiver, but his sure hands, strength, and consistency are something the Bills are sorely lacking in the passing game. In the slot, there's no one better, bringing defensive attention that will benefit younger talents like David Nelson and tight end Scott Chandler, giving them opportunities to build on the promise of 2011.
I'm semi-serious when I say that Buffalo is just a few pieces away from making a postseason run. Let me repeat that for those still reading and not laughing to tears: Buffalo is almost a playoff caliber team. With a healthy running game, two solid star receivers, and just the slightest tweak to their offensive line (cough, cough... LEFT TACKLE...cough...), Fitzpatrick and the boys should be able to take on all comers, especially if the Draft helps them find the pass rush they seemed to misplace last season. Ward is that second star receiver, regardless of the perception that the 35 year old has lost a step.
This isn't the Terrell Owens debacle again, this is a smart move for a smart football player who still has talent to burn (and now has a newly developed attitude about proving it). Buffalo fans, do you remember how good it felt when Drew Bledsoe first got to town? Remember that first year and how that one veteran piece was able to life the Bills for a season, almost taking them to the playoffs? This is that time again, that chance to bring in a name and create a little buzz around the franchise. It's good to have Buffalo rolling around on the sports networks again, for there was a time when it was more constant and it can be again with just a little money.
The Bills have said that they'll do what it takes to win this year, will spend what needs to be spent and will find the talent wherever it be in the Draft, or in free agency. Well, here's the chance to prove that dedicated attitude, Buddy. Go to Ralph Wilson and tell him that you want Hines Ward, that the Buffalo fans deserve him, and that it's the right player for the Bills right now. If they sign him for two years, that'll be the same length of time he was planning on playing anyway, so I don't expect him to make a fuss should they not offer him more.
Buffalo... Put your money where your mouth is and maybe you can finally show the world that you're better than the #4 Most Miserable Sports City in the US (according to Forbes). Pick up the phone, call Hines's agent, and get him a Bills uniform before the end of the day. If I were a very, very, very old rich guy with money to burn and a football team that was just on the doorstep of glory again, I'd do it.