Beane brings back another.
Personally, I have long advocated for the return of Isaiah McKenzie to the Buffalo Bills. It is my long-held belief that the man affectionately known as “Lil Dirty” (known for his speed, offensive efficiency, and dance moves that makes Bills Mafia swoon) needs to be part of this 2021 roster. Unfortunately for Isaiah McKenzie, prior to signing, he had to deal with the uninformed ramblings of losers like this on Twitter.
In all seriousness, Isaiah McKenzie’s return should be welcomed because Brandon Beane has again retained talent at a below-market rate. Buffalo can now run it back for the 2021 season with a league-high 88% of total snaps returning, per Jason Fitzgerald at Over the Cap.
At $1.5 million, per Ian Rapoport, the Bills return a veteran who put up 282 yards through the air, with five touchdowns and two more coming on the ground.* Moreover, they bring a player who can hopefully merge the roles split by him and Andre Roberts in the last two seasons. He also ranked third in the NFL in catch rate.**
This deal nets out as a positive for the Bills and this offense. Isaiah McKenzie, while not putting up huge numbers as a fifth wide receiver, played an important role in this offense as window dressing on offensive sets, running jet motions to make defenses show their cards, and open up the field for other players. Brian Daboll runs a complex passing offensive, and knowledge of the scheme is an important skill to have. Secondly, “paying your guys” matters when it comes to culture. Even though he is not a Beane draftee, the Bills picked him up after getting booted out of Denver, and since then he has blossomed as a player and personality.
This deal does not guarantee he is on this roster in 2021. With only 350,000 guaranteed, the Bills are free to take a swing on a day three pick at the position without the pressure of that pick having to step up and play meaningful reps. It also provides protection if McKenzie’s punt game woes that appeared in 2018 reappear in 2021. McKenzie should have to earn the returner spot, not have it handed to him.
Ultimately, this deal provides depth at an already deep position and returns a known quantity. But this does not prevent them from seeking an upgrade. Now that Buffalo has returned or replaced all key players from their AFC Championship runner-up season, the onus is on Beane to find ways to improve an already Super Bowl-caliber roster, and we may be waiting until the draft for the next move.
Make sure to check me out @sportsroc2 on Twitter and my podcast the @585report that drops every Saturday.
*Pro Football Reference
Be sure to check out Rico’s interview with Isaiah McKenzie on The Buffalo Fanatics Podcast Network.