Isaiah McKenzie

Bills To Release WR Tavon Austin

The Bills picked up Tavon Austin midway through the offseason, but the former top-10 pick has not seen any game action. As a result, the sides are parting ways.

Austin is no longer on Buffalo’s practice squad, according to WGR 550’s Sal Capaccio (on Twitter). This is a mutual parting, per Capaccio, aimed at Austin finding a better opportunity elsewhere. A team could have plucked the former Rams investment off the Bills’ P-squad, but Austin would not have been free to choose another destination this way.

This Austin news comes after the Bills have sustained injuries at the receiver position. Jamison Crowder suffered a fractured ankle, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, and Isaiah McKenzie went down with a concussion during Buffalo’s Week 4 game in Baltimore. It does not sound like the Bills were planning to make Austin part of their solution, despite the veteran’s past as a slot/gadget player. Behind the Stefon DiggsGabriel Davis duo, the Bills roster rookie Khalil Shakir and Jake Kumerow. Should McKenzie be unable to go against the Steelers, the Bills will need to make at least one addition to their receiving corps.

Austin, 32, never ended up justifying the investment the Rams made in him, though the diminutive playmaker had moments during his time in St. Louis and Los Angeles. The Jaguars ended up using Austin as a rotational receiver during points last season. He caught 24 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown for the 3-14 team. The West Virginia product played a bit part as a Cowboys receiver in each of the previous two years.

The Bills are expected to replace Austin on their 16-man P-squad with Jaquarii Roberson, Garafolo adds (on Twitter). The Steelers cut Roberson, a Wake Forest product, from their taxi squad on Tuesday.

AFC East Rumors: Bills, Wilson, Hall, Pats

The Bills have an obvious 1-2 punch at wide receiver in Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis. In the slot, though, it has looked, recently, like Buffalo may be moving towards a bit of a position battle, according to Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic.

After initially favoring Isaiah McKenzie in the first few weeks of the season, the Bills moved closer to an even split of snaps between McKenzie and Jamison Crowder in the team’s win last week over the Titans. Buscaglia notes that, in the game, the duo were only on the field at the same time for three snaps, indicating a one-or-the-other situation. In the remainder of the game, excluding garbage time, Buscaglia counted 21 offensive snaps for McKenzie and 16 for Crowder, a stark difference from the snap advantage McKenzie enjoyed to begin the season. This could lead one to believe that Buffalo is becoming more comfortable with the consistency it gets out of Crowder than the all-or-nothing, big play potential it gets out of McKenzie.

This theory failed to hold up in today’s loss to the Dolphins. Though snap totals have yet to be reported, quarterback Josh Allen clearly favored McKenzie today, targeting him nine times to only three for Crowder. McKenzie rewarded the extra attention with seven catches for 76 yards and a touchdown, tacking on a six yard rush, while Crowder only reeled in one pass for nine yards. If the Bills staff needed to see consistent production out of McKenzie, today was a good start.

Here are a few more rumors from the AFC East, starting with some usage notes from the Jets:

  • There was early concern surrounding New York’s usage of rookie first-round pick Garrett Wilson after the tenth-overall pick only saw the field for 38 of the offense’s 79 snaps in Week 1, according to ESPN’s Rich Cimini. Two weeks later any concerns have certainly been quelled for the time being. Wilson’s playing time did increase to over 50% of the team’s offensive snaps, increasing to 61% in Week 2. While Jets fans may want to see him on the field even more often, he’s made the most of his playing time, becoming the favorite target for quarterback Joe Flacco. After three weeks, Wilson’s 32 targets and 214 receiving yards outpace Elijah Moore‘s 22 targets or Corey Davis‘ 187 receiving yards, both second on the team, despite both older receivers spending more time on the field.
  • There’s been an unpredictable fall from grace this year for Jets cornerback Bryce Hall, according to Cimini. Last year, Hall was fourth in the entire league for defensive snaps played. So far this year, it’s been a completely different story. Hall understandably lost his starting job to rookie fourth-overall pick Ahmad Gardner, but after three weeks, it appears that he’s also fallen behind the other four cornerbacks on the roster. Hall only played five defensive snaps in Week 1 and has been a healthy scratch for the past two games.
  • According to Mike Reiss of ESPN, the Patriots were experiencing some punter-envy today. Reiss reported that Ravens rookie punter Jordan Stout was “highly regarded by the Patriots in this year’s draft.” Stout entered the week ranking 30th in the league for average punt distance, but, even after a dismal 23 yard punt today, he was able to improve to 20th in the league with a 45.9 yard average.

Latest On Bills’ WR Competition

The Bills are in line to once again have one of the league’s most prolific passing attacks in the NFL in 2022. They have undergone some changes at the receiver position, though, setting up a competition for the starting role in the slot to replace Cole Beasley

Isaiah McKenzie “appears to have an early lead” to land that role, based on his usage during the spring, according to ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg. The 27-year-old has been a starter for only 18 of the 53 games he has played in with the Bills, so seeing first-team reps on a full-time basis would be somewhat new. McKenzie has played just one-quarter of Buffalo’s offensive snaps the past two seasons, totalling 50 receptions, 460 yards and six touchdowns.

The former fifth-rounder has, of course, showcased his speed on special teams as well. He turned 24 kick returns into 584 yards last year, adding 147 yards on punt returns as well. As a result of his overall production, McKenzie earned a two-year, $8MM extension this offseason. His speed gives him a complimentary skillset to No. 1 wideout Stefon Diggs, and a very different profile to his primary competition for the slot role.

The Bills added veteran Jamison Crowder in free agency, after a three-year stint with the Jets. He had a down year in 2021, but was a consistent presence in New York’s offense the two prior years (137 catches, 1,532 yards, 12 touchdowns), giving him the opportunity to replace Beasley as a dependable chain-mover. In addition, Getzenberg notes that the 29-year-old has stood out during his first spring practices with the team.

Between Diggs and Gabriel Davis, the Bills are set on the perimeter at the WR position. As Getzenberg predicts, though, the competition between McKenzie and Crowder to determine the pecking order in the slot will be one of the most intriguing ones in training camp next month.

Bills Re-Sign WR Isaiah McKenzie

The Bills have agreed to terms on a new two-year contract with wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. The deal is reportedly worth $8MM, the biggest payday McKenzie has seen in his five-year career. 

McKenzie was picked up by the Bills off waivers after being waived by the Broncos, who drafted him in the 5th round of the 2017 NFL Draft. After finishing out that initial contract in Buffalo, he rode out two one-year deals in 2020 and 2021 worth around $1MM each.

His first year in Buffalo saw him used as the primary kick returner and a bit of a gadget player on offense, receiving and helping out in the rushing game after injuries to running backs LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory. In his first full season as a Bill, his returner role was diminished with the addition of Andre Roberts, but he continued as a special teamer and gadget player, even contributing in Week 17 as a reserve cornerback.

After re-signing on his first one-year deal in Buffalo, McKenzie saw his most productive season in 2020. McKenzie saw career highs in receptions (30), receiving yards (282), and receiving touchdowns (5). He also recorded his first special teams touchdown on an 84-yard punt return.

The 2021 NFL season didn’t see a large change in McKenzie’s offensive production, but he re-cemented his role as the team’s return specialist, which appears to be the basis for his new contract. McKenzie did see his role on the offense increase a bit when Cole Beasley missed time due to COVID-19.

With star-receiver Stefon Diggs and Beasley set to return, along with Gabriel Davis who emerged as the team’s third receiver for the future, this signing gives the Bills a solid one through four in their receiving corps, with McKenzie set to continue handling return duties.

Bills To Re-Sign Isaiah McKenzie

The Bills are keeping their gadget player. Buffalo has agreed to terms on a new deal for receiver/returner Isaiah McKenzie, his agency announced on Twitter. It’s a one-year deal worth $1.15MM with $350K guaranteed, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets.

Before he decided to re-sign with the Bills, the Bears were a team that expressed interest in McKenzie as a free agent, a source told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link). McKenzie entered the league as a fifth-round pick of the Broncos back in 2017. He struggled fielding punts, was cut midway through the 2018 season, and promptly claimed by Buffalo. Since then, he’s turned into a very nice find for Sean McDermott.

On his only punt return of the season in 2020, he returned it 84 yards four a touchdown. He couldn’t be the normal returner due to the presence of All-Pro Andre Roberts, but with Roberts signing in Houston McKenzie should be the return guy in 2021.

He also carved out a sizable role on offense, playing around a quarter of the offensive snaps last year. He finished with 30 catches for 282 yards and five touchdowns, and also had ten carries.

East Notes: Williams, Mills, Flowers

Trent Williams has been one of the most-discussed players in the NFL for about a year now, and it presently does not sound like the Redskins are close to trading their disgruntled left tackle. One of the more overlooked talking points, however, is what happens if a trade is not completed?

We recently heard that the team does not plan to release Williams, which means he would remain under contract with the Redskins through 2020. And holding out wouldn’t earn him any leverage with the Redskins or with a team interested in trading for him, so as Albert Breer of SI.com writes, Williams would have no choice but to play for Washington next season. He clearly does not want that to happen, but at this point, his clearest path to a lucrative new deal may be to stick it out for one more season with the ‘Skins and prove he is still a top-tier LT.

Let’s round up a few more items from the league’s east divisions:

  • CB Kendall Fuller is back with the Redskins on a four-year deal, and he tells John Keim of ESPN.com that a number of factors brought him back to D.C. The Baltimore native played his collegiate ball at Virginia Tech and was drafted by the Redskins in 2016, so Washington is home for him. He also cited new head coach Ron Rivera and Rivera’s reputation for developing CBs as a draw, along with the defensive staff as a whole. Fuller indicated that he does not know if he will play primarily in the slot or outside the numbers (Twitter links).
  • The Eagles brought back Jalen Mills on a one-year, $4MM pact, and the club plans on transitioning him from cornerback to safety in the wake of Malcolm Jenkins‘ departure. Mills says that Philadelphia was the only team that wanted to move him to safety (Twitter link via Eliot Shorr-Parks of 94 WIP), but obviously that switch was agreeable to the 2016 seventh-rounder. It’s fair to wonder, however, exactly how much interest Mills was generating as a CB on the open market.
  • Ereck Flowers couldn’t hack it as an offensive tackle in the NFL, but he has reinvented himself as a guard and parlayed a strong showing at LG with Washington in 2019 into a surprising three-year, $30MM contract with the Dolphins last month. This will not come as much of a surprise, but Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald says Miami intends to have Flowers line up at guard, though his experience at tackle made him attractive to head coach Brian Flores, who clearly targeted FAs with positional versatility.
  • The Bills opted against giving WR/KR Isaiah McKenzie an RFA tender, but they did re-sign him to a one-year pact just the same. McKenzie told Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News that he did have other free agent offers, but despite the fact that he is unlikely to see more playing time with the Bills in 2020 than he did in 2019, his preference was to return to Buffalo (Twitter link).

Bills To Re-Sign WR Isaiah McKenzie

When the Bills assessed their restricted free agent situation, Isaiah McKenzie did not receive a tender offer. But the wide receiver/return man will stay in Buffalo nonetheless.

McKenzie agreed to re-sign with the Bills, according to his agents (on Twitter). He has been with the Bills since they claimed him on waivers in 2018. This deal will certainly be less than the original-round tender price ($2.13MM).

A former Broncos fifth-round pick, McKenzie could not stick in Denver due to fumbling issues. But he established himself as a role player in Buffalo. The 5-foot-8 wideout caught 27 passes for a career-high 254 yards and a touchdown last season. He will attempt to play a role in a receiving corps that now includes Stefon Diggs.

Having signed Andre Roberts, the Bills did not use McKenzie as much in the return game last season. McKenzie, 24, served as the Bills’ primary return man down the stretch in 2018. Roberts is under contract for 2020, but the Bills are bringing McKenzie back regardless.

RFA/ERFA Tender Decisions: 3/16/20

Monday’s restricted free agent and exclusive rights free agent tender decisions will be posted below. Deals will be updated throughout the day.

RFAs

Tendered at original-round level:

Non-tendered:

ERFAs

Tendered:

Non-tendered:

  • Chiefs: TE David Wells

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/5/18

Here are Monday’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

  • Signed off Colts’ practice squad: OL Zack Golditch

Buffalo Bills

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Oakland Raiders

Philadelphia Eagles

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/2/18

Here are today’s minor moves:

Dallas Cowboys

  • Designated to return to practice from IR: TE Noah Brown

Denver Broncos

  • Promoted from practice squad: WR River Cracraft
  • Waived: WR Isaiah McKenzie

Miami Dolphins

New York Jets

Oakland Raiders