Next up on our free agency roundup is the speedy Isaiah McKenzie. Last week on the Rico Report, I argued that McKenzie could be the replacement for fellow pending free agent, Andre Roberts. Nothing has changed since, and after I explained my case, it’s becoming more and more likely to some that it’s a definite possibility.
After being waived by the Denver Broncos midway through 2018 and picked up by the Bills in early November, McKenzie saw an increase in his playing time season after season. He’s been used in a myriad of positions: receiver in the slot, outside, punt returner, kick returner, running back, quarterback, and even a little cornerback.
McKenzie re-signed with the Bills last offseason on a one-year contract for $962,500, a bargain for a player who was used so often in the Bills’ offense last season. Now as a free agent for the second time in his career, and with last season proving he could be a valuable part of almost any offense, the former Georgia Bulldog is set to gain some serious interest from other teams. Will one of those teams be the Bills? I would hope yes.
Despite this newfound interest from other teams, it would make sense for the Bills to re-sign McKenzie. He’s proved this season why he deserves to get paid, and Brandon Beane should acknowledge it and pay him. Here’s why.
The Obvious: He’s a Swiss Army Knife
As stated earlier, we’ve seen McKenzie everywhere on both sides of the ball. Throughout the regular season, McKenzie was used as the backup slot receiver to Cole Beasley. He was, without question, a threat as a receiver, but his usual go-to play calls designed to get the ball to him were usually sweeps, scoring once against the Tennessee Titans. We may only have seen him play multiple positions in Week 17 last year against the New York Jets and this season against the Miami Dolphins, but with his versatility, it’s possible we could see him playing a handful of positions if he remains a member of the Bills.
Based on his performance in both of those games, especially in 2020 where he scored three times (two receiving TDs and one on a punt return), it could mean that the Bills have future plans for him all over the field. Another scenario has McKenzie manning both kick and punt return duties if Roberts walks. There’s no question he would have some big shoes to fill, and, to be candid, he was viewed as something of a liability when he did play those positions. However, I believe that McKenzie has the skills and will excel if given the lead role at those positions.
At $962,500, McKenzie’s AAV (average annual value) was just under $1 million. That’s not a lot, especially if you compare it to Matt Milano (projected at roughly $13.8 million), Jon Feliciano ($8.3mm), and Daryl Williams ($7.8mm). These may just be projections, but it gives us good insight on what’s to come with future contracts with any of these players.
Realistically, I see McKenzie being offered anywhere from $900k – $2 million. For the Bills, of course, it would be best to get him in the 1-year, $1 million range. If we compare those numbers to Andre Roberts, it’s definitely more team-friendly. I explained last week that Roberts will probably get in the $4 million range, most likely for another team. If the Bills want the cheaper guy, McKenzie wins this category.
No argument here. McKenzie will be 26 years old before he enters his fifth season. Compared to Roberts, who turned 33 on the same day the Bills got their first playoff win in almost three decades, McKenzie gets the nod. We’ve seen a fair share of returners stay in this league well past the age of 30, such as future Hall of Famer Devin Hester. Hester retired at age 34.
Meanwhile, McKenzie is just entering his prime. His best football may be yet to come, which could also turn the heads of other team’s front offices.
McKenzie has been a pleasant surprise for the Bills in the three seasons he’s been here. Though somewhat underappreciated, he has made the most of his opportunities and playing time. He will definitely gain interest from other teams around the league. In fact, I see him best fitting in with the Kansas City Chiefs if the Bills don’t re-sign him. But for now, McKenzie made it clear on Instagram that he wants to remain in Buffalo and keep building this team towards a championship.
Stay or Go: Stay.
What will probably happen: re-sign on either a one or two-year deal in the low $1 million range.
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