Bills: Photo of Fan-Favorite WR at Airport Raises Eyebrows

Isaiah McKenzie

Getty Isaiah McKenzie #19 of the Buffalo Bills warms up prior to the game against the Carolina Panthers at Highmark Stadium on December 19, 2021.

The Buffalo Bills have a lot of difficult decisions when it comes to which players they can afford to keep next season, as they are hard against the salary cap with a slew of impending free agents.

For example, Bills wide receiver Isaiah Mckenzie is likely looking for a pay bump and a long-term contract. Buffalo re-signed “Lil Dirty” to a one-year, $1.27 million contract including $350,000 guaranteed at signing back in March 2021, according to Spotrac, which means the 26-year-old is once again a free agent.

On Monday, January 24, one day after the Bills’ devasting overtime playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, McKenzie sent a direct message to Allen on Twitter. He tweeted, “@JoshAllenQB ILoveYou brotha thanks for everything” — which to many, sounded like a goodbye tweet.

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During the 2021 NFL season, McKenzie recorded 20 catches for 178 yards, one touchdown, and 6.8 yards per target. While head coach Sean McDermott appeared to lose confidence in McKenzie as a punt returner and was relegated to the bench for part of the season, as a replacement player, he also recorded nine rushes for 47 yards and another touchdown.

Bills Mafia has been hoping the Bills figure out a way to keep McKenzie, so when the receiver shared a video on Instagram showing that he landed at Buffalo Niagra International Airport on Saturday, February 26, it seemed fans may be getting their wish. A screenshot of the video McKenzie posted on his Instagram stories quickly made the rounds on Twitter, and jumpstarted the conversation of his possible return.

Per league rules, contracts not signed beyond the 2021 NFL season expire at 4 p.m. ET on March 16, 2022 “meaning that teams have from the end of the season until that time to sign their pending free agents to contract extensions,” per USA Today.

While McKenzie suddenly popping into upstate New York could be signaling that he’s heading into contract negotiations for the 2022 NFL season. he was already slated to be Buffalo for the Legends and Stars autograph signing event on Sunday, February 27.

Although if McKenzie is already in town, there’s a strong chance he’s invited to swing by McDermott’s office before flying back home.

McKenzie’s Best Performance of the Season Was Against the Patriots in Week 16

McKenzie’s position with the Bills this year was a rollercoaster. He was benched after fumbling a kick return against the Colts in November, but the fifth-round pick from the 2017 NFL draft got the chance to start in Week 16 after Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis were both placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, and he was near unstoppable.

Against the New England Patriots, McKenzie finished the game with 11 catches for 125 yards and a touchdown. Prior to Sunday’s game against the Patriots, he had tallied a total of six catches on the season. This standout performance could put him in line for a raise, and if the Bills don’t pay up, another team might.

With so many offensive weapons on the Bills roster, Mckenzie, who first signed with Buffalo in 2018, was used sparingly against the Chiefs, tallying one reception for three yards. Next season, he may want to find a franchise that will utilize his talents on a more consistent basis.

Sports Illustrated Suggests the Bills Drop Beasley to Keep McKenzie (& More)

While the Bills should be able to find a way to keep McKenzie, as he’s not in line for any sort of monster salary bump, Buffalo will have to say goodbye to more than a few veteran players heading into next season unless they are willing to take a pay cut. According to Over The Cap, the Bills — who are currently in the red at $8.1 million over the maximum league-wide cap number — can also create approximately $37.5 million in cap space through simple contract restructures alone.

Earlier this month, Sports Illustrated‘s Nick Fierro encouraged the Bills to drop veteran receiver Cole Beasley in order to keep McKenzie and re-sign other players such as defensive tackle Harrison Phillips and cornerback Levi Wallace.

“McKenzie showed more than just potential in 2021 as the eventual replacement for standout slot receiver Cole Beasley, who will turn 33 in April and will carry a $7.6 million salary cap hit in 2022,” Fierro wrote. “The Bills could get instant relief of $6.1 million with a trade or release, according to Over the Cap.”

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