The Buffalo Bills enter their offseason after a down year for the offense. The one member of the offense that did produce at a very high level was LeSean McCoy. But as McCoy passes his 30th birthday with a big cap hit, general manager Brandon Beane must perform his due diligence and at least look at the possibility of moving on from Shady. We did too, and the analysis was pretty overwhelming.
If you’re a data-oriented fan, his yards per carry might be cause for alarm. At 4.0 yards per rush, it’s his lowest efficiency ever, just behind his rookie season at 4.1. He’s had three years over 5 yards per attempt, including the 2016 campaign where he was astoundingly efficient at 5.4 yards per attempt on 234 carries. Is he showing signs of age, or did other factors contribute to what was in some ways a disappointing season?
His elusiveness and agility are what make him dangerous and are attributes that are generally present or not - you don’t luck into them. The conclusion for McCoy is that these traits remained somewhere between very good and incredible all year. From an ability standpoint, the 2017 season doesn’t seem to provide evidence of a drop off. This is all the more impressive considering he saw the second-most number of touches in his career (287 rushes and 59 catches on 77 targets).
And if you need more reasons to think that McCoy had the odds stacked against him, here’s a quick list of other factors that likely impacted his efficiency. Rick Dennison’s blocking schemes and play calling were “less than ideal.” It’s a safe bet anyone reading this has heard that the Tyrod Taylor led passing offense was not great. The quality of backups behind McCoy was often questionable. We probably don’t need to go on.
If the Bills were to release McCoy, they would save $3.7 million on their 2018 salary cap. They would also lose one-third of their total offense, which would necessitate a total rebuild of the running game in a year where the passing game, specifically the quarterback position, is expected to be overhauled.
They cannot justify cutting McCoy and replacing him with a high draft pick at the running back position, especially given the number of other holes the team needs to fill. They cannot justify releasing him to save less than $4 million.
2018 cap hit: $8.95 million
Workout bonus: $250,000
Salary due: $6.075 million
Dead money: $5.25 million
Cap savings: $3.7 million ($6.325 million post-June 1)
Marcus Murphy is the only running back currently under contract along with McCoy. Murphy was activated from the practice squad for the Week 17 tilt against the Miami Dolphins. Murphy performed well, rushing seven times for 41 yards. Murphy’s number wasn’t called during the Wild Card Game against Jacksonville, so he didn’t have any more chances to prove his worth on the field.
Jeremy Hill (25) from the Cincinnati Bengals and Isaiah Crowell (25) from the Cleveland Browns are two younger and presumably cheaper options. Hill’s a very large man (6’1”, 233 lbs.) with deceptive speed. Before suffering a season-ending ankle injury midway through 2017, Hill, who has a 1000-yard rushing campaign under his belt, had shown good durability throughout his career. Crowell (5’11”, 225 lbs.) also has good size and has demonstrated excellent durability, having played in all 64 games of his four-year career.
Looking a little deeper, Carlos Hyde (27), Alfred Morris (29), and LeGarrette Blount (31) would all be cheaper options but are even less attractive than Hill and Crowell.
More than likely, we’ll be looking at guys as number 2 running backs to give McCoy a breather and step in should he have an injury. The 30-year-old back won’t be able to carry the load forever, but unless they package picks to move up into the top 10, they won’t be able to replace his production.
Penn State’s Saquon Barkley appears to be a top-10 lock. He is already being compared to the best running back prospects of the last five years. Kid’s a stud, but Buffalo would have to move up into the stratosphere for him.
LSU running back Derrius Guice is the only other running back going in the first round of some mock drafts, but he’s in the second half, right around where Buffalo is picking. Sony Michel and Nick Chubb split carries at Georgia, which is why neither has really shown what they can do. Michel averaged almost 8 yards per carry and Chubb is more of a thumper. USC’s Ronald Jones II put on weight last offseason and was rewarded with 19 touchdowns and 1550 yards rushing with quickness and his size. Kerryon Johnson flashed on the big stage against Alabama and Georgia, boosting his draft stock to Day 2.
With all the information now at your disposal, it’s time to make up your mind. You’re the brain trust at One Bills Drive. Which option is the best call? Discuss in the comments section, too.
What should the Buffalo Bills do with LeSean McCoy this offseason?
This poll is closed
Extend him past the 2019 season when he’ll be 32
Keep him because he’s good
Cut/trade him and sign a free agent running back
Cut/trade him and trade up to get Saquon Barkley
Cut/trade him and draft one of the second tier guys