Hours after Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane announced on “The Pat McAfee Show,” on Monday, March 21, that the franchise was “pretty much done” with free agency because they didn’t have much money left to spend, the front office must’ve come across a spare few million dollars.
The Bills seemed to have found their new slot receiver for the 2022 NFL season after releasing veteran Cole Beasley. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweeted, “WR Jamison Crowder to the #Bills on a one-year deal worth up to $4 million, per source.”
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The 28-year-old receiver, who signed a three-year $28.5 million deal with the Jets in 2019, was expected to test out the free agency waters this offseason. Prior to the start of the 2021 NFL season, Crowder, who had a cap hit of $11.4 million, agreed to a pay cut. The Duke alum’s base salary went from $10 million to $5 million so the team could add Keelan Cole, Corey Davis, and Elijah Moore, per The New York Daily News.
During Crowder’s first season with the Jets, he recorded 833 yards and six touchdowns, but there’s been some regression in his performance over the years due to injuries and a continuous rotation of starting quarterbacks. Over three seasons with New York, he tallied a total of 1,979 yards with 14 touchdowns.
Crowder was initially selected by the Washington Commanders in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. During the 2016 season, he put up his career-best numbers, catching 67 receptions for 847 yards and seven touchdowns.
WR Isaiah McKenzie was Largely Expected to Take Over Beasley’s Role
Much to Bills Mafia relief, Buffalo was able to reach an agreement with the fan-favorite offensive player, Isaiah McKenzie. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted on March 13, “The #Bills and WR Isaiah McKenzie have agreed to terms on a 2-year deal worth a total of $8M, source said.”
This new contract is a major pay raise for McKenzie. Last season, “Lil Dirty” signed a one-year, $1.27 million contract with the Bills, per Spotrac. The bigger contract seemed to indicate that McKenzie would have more responsibility and take on a bigger role on offense moving forward, especially since he proved to be a reliable fill-in for Beasley.
During the Bills 32-21 victory over the New England Patriots in Week 16, McKenzie stepped up after veteran receiver was placed on COVID reserve and caught 11 catches for 125 yards and a touchdown. During the 2021 NFL season, McKenzie recorded 20 catches for 178 yards, one touchdown, and 6.8 yards per target.
In 12 game appearance last season, Crowder became Jets quarterback Zack Wilson’s top target, totaling 447 yards and two touchdowns. In comparison, Beasley, during the 2021 NFL season, caught 82 receptions for 693 yards and one touchdown.
With Crowder joining the Bills, it puts McKenzie’s role in flux.
The Athletic‘s Mark Kaboly wrote of the former Jets receiver earlier this month, “Crowder isn’t big or fast but is an excellent slot receiver. More than 75% of his career snaps have come from the slot. He had a career-low 8.8 yards per catch last season but is sure-handed with four drops in 160 targets in two years, per PFF.”
Will the Bills Still Try to Draft WR Jameson Williams?
Crowder joins a receivers room in Buffalo that includes two-time Pro Bowler Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis, McKenzie, and Jake Kumerow, along with tight ends Dawson Knox and O.J. Howard.
However, it wouldn’t be shocking if the Bills looked to draft a wide receiver in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, especially if another Jameson is still available. Alabama standout Jameson Williams has already met with the Bills, and ESPN NFL Draft analyst Matt Miller said Buffalo should nab him if he slides to No. 25.
“It’s feasible that he’s there and if so, Brandon [Beane] should turn [the card in] faster than when they picked Josh Allen,” Miller told 7 ABC. “It should be the fastest pick in NFL history because he is perfect for that offense.”
After the news broke that Crowder was heading to Buffalo, News 1 Buffalo reporter Jon Scott tweeted, “I’m here to tell you that a one-year deal for Jamison Crowder shouldn’t deter from idea of #Bills drafting WR in 1st round. Even if CB and G are certainly more of a ‘hole’ right now, Beane won’t pick one just because of that. If right guy falls, pull that trigger.”
The Bills have not drafted a receiver in the first round of the NFL Draft since 2014 when they selected Sammy Watkins as their No.4 overall pick