The team said in a statement Friday that Bowe had signed after missing the entire offseason program and training camp in St. Joseph, Mo. Bowe is due about $9.5 million this season after the two sides failed to reach a long-term deal by the July 16 deadline.
It was unclear whether Bowe would join Kansas City for its trip to St. Louis for a preseason game Saturday. The team will resume practice at its facility near Arrowhead Stadium next week.
The more pressing question is whether Bowe can learn new coordinator Brian Daboll’s offense in time to play against Seattle on Aug. 24. The Chiefs wrap their preseason schedule the following week at Green Bay, and the regular season starts Sept. 9 against Atlanta.
Bowe was the last franchise player to sign with his team. Pittsburgh wide receiver Mike Wallace has yet to sign a restricted free agent tender, and Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew has been holding out in hopes that the Jaguars will give him a new contract.
Bowe is coming off another strong season in which he caught 81 passes for 1,159 yards and five touchdowns, despite a season-ending injury to quarterback Matt Cassel that left him with the likes of Tyler Palko and Kyle Orton throwing him the ball.
Bowe has been seeking a new contract after five strong seasons in Kansas City, but he had little leverage once he was tagged: He could sit out or sign the one-year contract.
By sitting out as long as he did, Bowe may have drawn the ire of club executives tempted to make him one of the NFL’s highest-paid wide receivers. That in turn could hurt his ability to sign the long-term deal he covets after this season.
The former first-round pick already has 356 catches to rank seventh in team history, and his 4,927 yards receiving ranks eighth. Bowe’s best season was in 2010, when he caught 72 passes for 1,162 yards and a franchise-record 15 TDs while helping the Chiefs make the playoffs.
The time that Bowe missed gave Jonathan Baldwin a chance to impress the coaching staff as the team’s de fact No. 1 wide receiver. Baldwin was the Chiefs’ top pick last season, but got off to a shaky start in the NFL when he got involved in a fight with a teammate in camp. It left him with a broken bone in his hand that kept him out for the start of the season.
Baldwin has shown signs of big-play ability, but he’s yet to produce on the same consistent level of Bowe, who has at least 1,000 yards receiving three of the past four years.
Bowe joins an offense that should be among the best in the AFC next season.
Running back Jamaal Charles and tight end Tony Moeaki are back from torn ligaments in their left knees, the offensive line has been upgraded with the signing of Eric Winston, and tight end Kevin Boss and running back Peyton Hillis provide additional depth at key positions.