ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — The Buffalo Bills released receiver Isaiah McKenzie in a salary cap-saving move on Friday, and following a season in which the sixth-year player struggled in an expanded offensive role.
Cutting McKenzie on the day he was due a roster bonus frees up about $2.2 million in salary cap space for a team general manager Brandon Beane projected had about $9 million to work with a day earlier. The move also comes days after the Bills signed free agent receiver Deonte Harty, who is more than two years younger and possesses similar speedy qualities as the 27-year-old McKenzie.
In suggesting McKenzie’s future was uncertain on Thursday, Beane said: “Love Isaiah. He’s been great for us. But, yeah, we’re talking internally about making sure we don’t have too much duplicates.”
McKenzie had one year left on his contract after completing his fourth-plus season in being the longest-tenured receiver on Buffalo’s current roster. Drafted by Denver in 2017, he was claimed off waivers by Buffalo the following season and eventually established himself as a multi-use specialist on offense and as a returner.
Though coming off a season in which he scored four touchdowns and posted career-bests with 42 catches and 423 yards, McKenzie committed numerous drops — he was targeted 65 times — in being given the opportunity to take over the slot receiver’s job. His inconsistencies led to Buffalo making the mid-season move of signing Cole Beasley out of retirement to shore up the position.
McKenzie also struggled with handling the ball, with a series of bobbles leading to him briefly losing the return job in 2021.
Overall with Buffalo, McKenzie had 137 catches for 1,316 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns, including a career-best five in 2020. He also scored four touchdowns rushing, scored another on a punt return, and completed a touchdown pass on a trick play to quarterback Josh Allen in 2020.
At 5-foot-8 and 173 pounds, McKenzie was beloved by his teammates for his confidence and sense of humor, often referring to himself as the team’s franchise player.
His time in Buffalo lasted much longer than McKenzie initially anticipated.
Before the start of the 2019 season, McKenzie was living in a hotel while keeping all his belongings in boxes in front of his locker. McKenzie said he did so as motivation to make the roster, and also out of convenience that should he be cut, he was already packed in the event he had to hurry off to land another job.