Final cutdown day in the NFL is bound to have its fair share of surprises.
But early Saturday, the Buffalo Bills dropped possibly the biggest shocker of the weekend by releasing veteran running back LeSean McCoy, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Buffalo loaded its backfield ahead of the preseason, but McCoy was expected to help pace the group. With Frank Gore, T.J. Yeldon, and rookie Devin Singletary in the backfield, there was no longer a need for McCoy.
The move is still a surprise given McCoy’s past. But his production has quickly declined over the last two seasons, especially last season. He rushed for only 541 yards on 161 carries (3.2 yards per carry) and three touchdowns.
He was especially limited in divisional play, rushing 71 times for 214 yards against AFC East opponents. Against the New England Patriots, he ran for 22 yards on only 18 carries.
McCoy’s longest rush of 2018 was just 28 yards. His struggle last season in 14 games was unexpected given a pair of 1,000-yard seasons the two years prior. His age showed most last year, and entering his age-31 season McCoy is on the backside of his career.
However, it was still unexpected and Pro Football Talk even confirmed there was no attempt by the Bills to ask McCoy for a pay cut. The move, in all likelihood, was a salary dump.
With McCoy out, Frank Gore becomes the primary back for Buffalo. He’s even older than McCoy, entering his age-36 season. However, he hasn’t slowed too dramatically and still managed 4.6 yards per carry last season. Gore is nearing 15,000 yards for his career and is on a two-year, team-friendly deal.
Behind him, T.J Yeldon has experience having played as a feature back for the Jacksonville Jaguars prior to his career. While he never got the bulk of the carries, he was involved in the passing game a good deal, adding to his value. With McCoy gone, Yeldon’s status is likely safe.
Rookie Devin Singletary has been a revelation throughout the preseason and though his game production hasn’t indicated, he is long-yardage back. He averaged six yards a carry in college and could duplicate that success in the NFL with the proper protection and mentoring from a veteran like Gore.
A Shady Career
McCoy has had quite the career since entering the NFL in 2009. Drafted in the second round out of Pittsburgh, he was already one of the league’s top backs by his second season.
He has topped the 1,000-yard plateau six times in his career and has made the Pro Bowl as many times. In 2011 and 2013 he was named an NFL All-Pro when he was with the Philadelphia Eagles. That 2013 season was his best, leading the NFL with 1,607 yards on 314 carries.
Since leaving Philly for Buffalo, McCoy’s numbers remained pretty consistent with his career average until last season. Even though he struggled through 2018, the Bills were intent on remaining loyal to the veteran McCoy. However, given the business-first nature of the NFL, McCoy’s days in Buffalo were cut short rather abruptly.