Isaiah McKenzie’s breakout game against the Patriots to help the Bills regain control over the AFC East has caused fans to ponder about Cole Beasley’s future with the team. Beasley, who has been very outspoken regarding COVID, missed the matchup due to a positive test, leaving the door open for McKenzie to shine in Beasley’s role. Rightfully so, followers of the Bills have begun to question whether or not Beasley or McKenzie should be shouldering the majority of the workload in the slot moving forward. With that being said, let’s take a deeper look into Beasley.
For starters, Beasley is one of the better slot receivers in the league, and I’d probably rank him around 10th. He’s been a reliable target for Josh Allen on short routes, and he’s seemingly always open. However, he’s 32 years old now, and he’s limited in the sense that he isn’t a vertical threat whatsoever. Many of the NFL’s best slot machines are younger, faster, and shiftier. Take some guys that primarily line up in the slot like Tyreek Hill, Chris Godwin, Tyler Boyd, CeeDee Lamb, and Cooper Kupp for example (who I all consider better than Beasley). They’re all under the age of 29 and have a lot left in the tank, and some are still developing into even more talented receivers, while Beasley’s best years are likely behind him. He’s only hauled in one TD reception this year and currently has his lowest yards per catch of his career. Additionally, out of 41 players with at least 75 targets, Beasley comes in at 5th lowest with 1.42 yards per route run.
Now let’s look at the money side of things. Cutting Beasley prior to June 1 would save the Bills $6.1M (cap hit of $7.6M, dead cap hit of $1.5M). Considering the Bills are only projected to have $9.4M in cap space this coming offseason (via Spotrac), cutting Beasley and saving over six million dollars could be crucial. The Bills can potentially put that money towards finding a different slot receiver in free agency, or they could use their cap space to bolster other positions of need. If need be, the Bills can just draft a guy to play slot. If Beane decides to turn to free agency, Christian Kirk could be a guy they target. Kirk has a lot of experience in the slot (5th in slot snaps this year) and he’s also a vertical threat as well. Despite spending the majority of his time in the slot, where players traditionally run shorter routes, Kirk has an average depth of target of 11.7, compared to Beasley’s 5.4. Kirk is just 25 years old and is in the midst of the best season of his career. He should continue to progress, and he could be a big part of any offense moving forward. In the event that the Bills fully believe in Isaiah McKenzie, he could also be the guy manning the slot for the Bills. McKenzie is a cheaper option, he knows the playbook already, and he’s shown flashes, however, he lacks the volume that other players have.
With all of that being said, I personally believe moving on from Beasley is the right way to go for the Bills. By no means do I think Beasley is a bad player, I just believe that there are better options to play slot for the Bills moving forward. They can find a younger and more talented option elsewhere, and save some money in doing so.