Colts Reel in Veteran Slot WR From AFC Contender: Report

Isaiah McKenzie

Getty The Colts addressed their wide receiver needs by adding a veteran on March 21.

The Indianapolis Colts are adding to their wide receiver depth by signing former Buffalo Bills slot WR Isaiah McKenzie, according to a tweet by his agents at SportsTrust Advisors.

The six-year NFL pro has spent five of those years donning a Bills uniform. In 2022, he had the best statistical season of his career putting up 42 catches, 423 yards and four touchdowns.

McKenzie also served as a return specialist in Buffalo. In five years, he returned 58 punts and 50 kickoffs for 1,630 all-purpose yards, adding a kickoff return for a touchdown.

It did, however, seem as if McKenzie’s role on offense and special teams diminished after a Week 12 win against the Lions, when he led the team with 96 receiving yards. For the rest of the season (five games), McKenzie only notched 12 catches for 108 yards and ended up splitting kick return duties.

The reasons for that?

The Bills shook up their lineup for the last few games of the season.

Buffalo re-signed veteran slot WR Cole Beasley to a short-term deal in mid-December. He came out of retirement to give the team more WR depth before the playoffs began, earning one start.

WR Khalil Shakir also started a game (Week 13) while the team inserted fullback Reggie Gilliam into the starting lineup in Week 16.

In regards to McKenzie’s returning duties, former Colts running back Nyheim Hines took over most of them. Hines, who was traded to Buffalo before last November’s trade deadline, had a game in January in which he returned two kickoffs for a touchdown.

McKenzie’s new contract means he reunites with his former Bills teammate in running back Zack Moss, who was a part of the Hines trade.

How McKenzie Fits Within Indy’s Offense

McKenzie will immediately slide in as the team’s starting slot wide receiver, per ESPN’s Colts depth chart. Indianapolis’ 2022 leading receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and Alec Pierce are projected to be the primary pass catchers out wide.

The 2017 fifth-round selection will replace WR Parris Campbell, who signed with the New York Giants on March 16. Campbell had career-highs in receptions (63) and yards (623) for the Colts last season.

McKenzie and Campbell share similar traits: speedy, footwork-based slot receivers.

The biggest difference between the two is size. ESPN lists McKenzie at just 5-foot-8, 173 pounds, while Campbell is 6-foot, 208 pounds.

But as he showed in Buffalo, McKenzie thrives in short-route situations and by getting instant separation from the line of scrimmage.

Horseshoe Huddle’s Zach Hicks wrote that he thinks McKenzie could be used as more of a vertical threat under new Colts head coach Shane Steichen.

More Offseason Work to be Done

The Colts WR room is growing, as the team already re-signed Ashton Dulin to a deal earlier this month.

But the team may want to continue focus on the receiving corps depth as the offseason continues. Mike Strachan (who only has five catches in two seasons) is currently listed as the WR5 behind Pittman Jr., Pierce, McKenzie and Dulin.

After Campbell initially joined the Giants, The Athletic’s Zak Keefer said he expects the Colts to target rookie WRs.

“I expect them to draft one, and high,” Keefer wrote on March 16.

McKenzie signing with the Colts means that the team is making progress to address its offensive woes from 2022. The team, however, will need to continue focusing on a glaring issue with the draft approaching: quarterback.

Gardner Minshew, who signed from the Philadelphia Eagles in mid-March, is currently the acting starting QB.

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