Wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie re-signing with the Bills

Sal Maiorana
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
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Firmly intent on keeping the band together, the Buffalo Bills have re-signed another of their own unrestricted free agents, this time wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie on a one-year deal worth $1.15 million.

He becomes the sixth free agent to rejoin the Bills on the heels of linebacker Matt Milano, offensive linemen Daryl Williams and Jon Feliciano, special teams ace Taiwan Jones, linebacker Andre Smith, and cornerback Levi Wallace.

McKenzie, who joined the Bills midway through the 2018 season, has become a favorite weapon for offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to utilize.

His diversity as a receiver who can line up on the boundary or in the slot has given Daboll flexibility in the sets he runs, and McKenzie has also been used as a runner on jet sweeps or pop passes. Also, he logs a lot of mileage as a motion man which helps quarterback Josh Allen read coverages.

Bills receiver Isaiah McKenzie looks for running room after a catch.

Near the end of last season, Daboll said of McKenzie, “He’s an important part of our team. He’s like that little Energizer bunny. He gets everybody going. Since he’s been here, I’m so happy we’ve acquired him from Denver when Denver let him go. He’s got energy. He’s got great focus. He works incredibly hard at practice.”

Perhaps more important on the 2021 Bills, though, is McKenzie’s ability as a return man now that Andre Roberts has signed a new deal with the Houston Texans.

McKenzie flashed in that role in the season finale against Miami when he returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown. The Bills really didn’t have anyone on the current roster to plug into the kickoff and punt return positions, but McKenzie would now seem to be the frontrunner.

In his career with the Bills and Broncos, McKenzie has 39 punt returns for an average of 9.5 yards, and 20 kickoff returns at 19.2 yards per attempt. Those are not up to Roberts’ standard, but McKenzie hasn’t been given a full opportunity to evolve in those roles.

With McKenzie’s return, the Bills are now at least five-deep at receiver with Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis and Emmanuel Sanders ahead of him, and McKenzie gives the team nice depth, plus nearly three years of knowledge in Daboll’s system.

Last year, McKenzie set career highs across the board with 30 catches for 282 yards and 5 touchdowns, impressive given that he played nearly 200 fewer offensive snaps in 2020 than he did in 2019 when he had 27 catches for 254 yards and a TD.

Sal Maiorana can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana. 

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