Bills re-signs Isaiah McKenzie: What does this mean for Cole Beasley, early free agency?

the Buffalo Tickets announced Sunday night that they had re-signed receiver Isaiah McKenzie to a two-year contract. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport said the new deal was worth $8 million.

McKenzie’s future at Buffalo looked uncertain after being benched for a stint last season. He was extremely close to former Bills offensive coordinator Brian Dabollwho left this offseason to take up the position of head coach of the New York Giants.

The Bills don’t have a ton of free cap space. Based on general manager Brandon Beane’s comments last week — he said the team was over the cap by about $6 million — the McKenzie deal puts Buffalo back in the red. Beane released veteran offensive lineman Jon Feliciano and linebacker AJ Klein last week to open up some space.

Now that McKenzie is back, Beane likely has more work to do to open up room to add more players when free agency opens next week. The first order of business likely involves veteran wide receiver Cole Beasley, who was given permission to search earlier this month. The Bills could add $6.1 million to the cap if they release Beasley, but it doesn’t hurt Beane to look for a team to take the 34-year-old in the final year of his contract.

McKenzie returning with an average annual salary of $4 million (his 2022 cap is very likely to be lower than that) will make it difficult for the Bills to retain Beasley without some sort of restructured deal. Beane said there was no closed door on Beasley’s return, but McKenzie looked like a superstar in the slot when he started for an absent Beasley against New England in a critical matchup. ‘AFC East in Week 16. McKenzie caught 11 of his 12 targets. in the game for 125 yards and a touchdown in a blowout win over the Patriots that helped the Bills clinch their second straight division title. Beasley played in 52 games (including the playoffs) for the Bills in his three seasons and had just one game with over 125 receiving yards.

The addition of McKenzie doesn’t change much about Beane’s approach in free agency or the draft. He fills a very specific role and could be the starting team next season (especially considering the money he receives). But let’s not pretend we don’t know how Beane works. He wants to add as much competition to the roster as he can find. He drafted Marquez Stevenson and the Bills had him in kickback competition all last summer. McKenzie will receive nothing. Emmanuel Sanders is a free agent and it’s unclear if he still wants to play. He will be 35 next week.

There probably won’t be a major change in free agency on a wide receiver, but the Bills could still go for an elite receiver in the draft. There could be a few studs on the board when Beane chooses no. 25 and if he’s the best player available, McKenzie staying at Buffalo doesn’t change the ideology.

Beane has taken some steps to create some cap space, but he’ll need to do more work if he hopes to be active on the Monday and Tuesday when the tampering period occurs. The Bills haven’t made much of a splash in the past two offseasons in free agency. Since trading for Stefon Diggs, Beane has been trying to fill the holes. He avoided creating a hole by bringing McKenzie back.

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