BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Just prior to the official start of NFL free agency, the Buffalo Bills made a move to keep one of their own.
Wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent this week, agreed to terms on a new two-year deal to stay with the team.
McKenzie, 26, will enter his fifth season in Buffalo after being claimed off waivers from the Denver Broncos in 2018.
The fan favorite had a mixed season in 2021, losing his spot as a returner due to fumbling issues, including in the loss to the Indianapolis Colts, and being a healthy scratch for two games. But he put up an impressive performance in a key Week 16 win over the New England Patriots. In that game, McKenzie set career highs with 11 catches on 12 targets for 125 yards and a touchdown.
The Bills' wide receiver room is expected to see change this offseason with the team approving Cole Beasley's request to seek a trade earlier this month. He currently has a cap hit of $7.6 million in 2022 as Buffalo has been working to open up more cap space. If Beasley were to depart, McKenzie would be a natural candidate to slide into the slot receiver role.
"Sometimes Isaiah, when he got his chances, he made plays," general manager Brandon Beane said at the conclusion of the 2021 season. "I think that kind of took Cole out of the game sometimes just for our running stuff, and as we got our running game going a little bit down the stretch, we just felt Isaiah really helped that because the stuff behind the line of scrimmage is harder for these backers or whoever the safety coming down to read, and it's not a way we would use Cole in that way."
The team also agreed to terms with receiver Jake Kumerow on a one-year deal, while veteran Emmanuel Sanders has indicated retirement may be in his future following the conclusion of his one-year contract in Buffalo.
Wide receiver Stefon Diggs is a candidate for a contract extension, which would lessen his team-high $17.9 million cap hit this year.
Supporting quarterback Josh Allen is one of the top priorities for the Bills, and McKenzie has shown the capability to be a versatile weapon, especially with his speed. Allen will have a new offensive coordinator for the first time in his career with quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey taking over for Brian Daboll, who was named head coach of the New York Giants.
The returner position has been inconsistent for the Bills, with McKenzie, wide receiver Marquez Stevenson and safety Micah Hyde all filling the role at various times in 2021. McKenzie will remain a candidate to fill that role long-term after returning 24 kickoffs for an average of 24.3 yards (sixth-best) and 19 punts for an average of 7.7 yards in 2021.
Retaining their own players when possible is a priority for the Bills.