Just four days after the Buffalo Bills released Isaiah McKenzie, who still had another year on his contract, the wide receiver found a new home in the AFC South. On Tuesday, March 21, Mckenzie’s agents at SportsTrust Advisors were the first to break the news that he agreed to sign with the Indianapolis Colts.
McKenzie appears to be the Colts’ answer to “fill the hole left by” wide receiver Parris Campbell, per IndyStar‘s Joel A. Erickson. Campbell left to sign a one-year deal with the New York Giants.
While the exact details of McKenzie’s contract were not revealed, “It’s not expected to be all that lucrative given the current wave of free agency NFL teams are in,” per SB Nation.
“Indianapolis is hoping it can get a more consistent, dynamic McKenzie than the player the Bills ultimately decided to release,” Erickson wrote, while also complimenting his durability. The return specialist appeared in at least 15 games over the past four seasons in Buffalo, during which he recorded a total of 137 passes for 1,316 yards and 11 touchdowns in 68 matchups.
McKenzie looks to step into the role as Indy’s No. 3 receiver behind Michael Pittman Jr. and Alec Pierce, but USA Today‘s Kevin Hickey says the 5-foot-8 Georgia alum will likely need to fight for it. “It remains to be seen how many snaps he’ll get as the slot receiver since “Ashton Dulin will see time in 11 personnel packages”
While McKenzie was one of the most beloved players in the Bills’ locker room, by cutting the former fifth-round pick from the 2017 NFL Draft, Buffalo saved over $2 million. The 27-year-old’s release came ahead of the $250,000 roster bonus he was due later that day.
Bills fans wished McKenzie nothing but love after the announcement was made. One fan tweeted, “Best of luck @_IsaiahMcKenzie !!! Keep grinding and being yourself. Loved your time with Buffalo,” while WROC-TV sports director Thad Brown wrote, “Colts locker room is about to get a whole lot more fun. All the best to @_IsaiahMcKenzie.”
“Lil Dirty” left the Bills on good terms, even hyping up the signing of the player who was basically his replacement. On March 14, Mckenzie sent a message to “Big Baller Beane” on Twitter, “THE WORLD IS WAITING BBB⌚️.” While it was unclear which move McKenzie was dying to see, the next day, McKenzie retweeted the report of the Bills picking up former New Orleans Saints wide receiver Deonte Harty in free agency.
The Bills adding the 2019 Pro Bowler appeared to be a move to upgrade from the veteran receiver. On Monday, the Bills also signed former Miami Dolphins receiver Trent Sherfield.
McKenzie Is Coming Off the Best Season of His Career
McKenzie, who started out his career with the Denver Broncos before landing in Buffalo in 2018, had high expectations going into the 2022 NFL offseason to step up from being a punt returner to being a reliable slot receiver. While McKenzie statistically had the best year of his NFL career, recording 42 catches for 423 yards and four touchdowns in 15 games, along with nine carries for 55 yards and a rushing touchdown, his lack of consistency was an issue.
With the Bills trading for Nyheim Hines last season, McKenzie’s role as a punt returner was also diminished. With limited cap space, it seemed the Bills couldn’t afford to keep McKenzie on the roster as the team’s biggest morale cheerleader.
“There could even be more cap casualties as guys are added,” general manager Brandon Beane revealed while Beane warned on Thursday, March 16, noting how they weren’t “necessarily done” with making moves in free agency. When specifically asked about McKenzie, “Love Isaiah, he’s been great for us,” Beane said. “We’re talking internally about making sure we don’t have too much duplicate.”
Several Ex-Bills Players Signed With New Teams in Free Agency
In addition to McKenzie, several other Bills players who were not re-signed were able to find new teams this past week. On Monday, it was announced that running back Devin Singletary was signing with Houston Texans, and safety Jaquan Johnson was joining the Las Vegas Raiders.
Singletary will have a familiar face in Texas as former Bills backup quarterback Case Keenum signed a two-year deal to return to Houston last week.
Former Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds made a big splash in free agency when he signed a four-year, $72 million contract with the Chicago Bears last week.