When the Buffalo Bills traded a conditional seventh-round draft pick in 2020 to the Cleveland Browns for former first-round draft pick Corey Coleman, the conventional wisdom had Coleman emerging as one of Buffalo’s best wide receivers.
At the very least, Coleman was expected to serve as a valuable deep threat, someone to take the top off of opposing defenses with his speed and athleticism.
Instead, following a preseason where Coleman, the No. 15 overall selection out of Baylor, struggled to learn the playbook and failed to make a splash on the field, Coleman was one of 34 Bills cut during Saturday afternoon’s roster cut-down.
In a comprehensive sit-down interview with Tim Graham of The Athletic, second-year Bills general manager Brandon Beane addressed the rationale behind cutting Coleman from a corps that, on the outside, appears to be one of the weakest in the NFL.
Coleman caught only one pass out of 62 snaps in three preseason games, and whenever he was on the field, he seemed lost and out of sorts trying to operate in Brian Daboll’s complex offense.
Despite the fact that Beane said the speedster “tried hard. He really did,” it wasn’t enough to make Coleman earn a roster spot over unproven talents like Robert Foster and Ray-Ray McCloud III.
“Where he came in to learn a new offense, he just didn’t jell. It’s one of those things you ask yourself, ‘Have we given this enough time?’ Beane said. “The talent’s there. Anybody that’s been around the practice field, you see he has a skill set. But we just never were able to make it mesh on the field with him, and it’s a production business.”
While Coleman missed 13 games his first two seasons (suffered a broken hand injury in each season), he is a known speedster (4.37 40 time) whose presence was expected to immediately gives Buffalo a credible deep threat.
While he has shown glimpses of his potential, with 56 catches for 718 yards and five touchdowns in his first two years, his potential didn’t stop Beane from moving on from Coleman less than a month after acquiring him.
This despite the addition of a $3.5 million dead money hit against Buffalo’s 2018 cap, including Coleman’s guaranteed 2018 salary and his guaranteed 2019 salary, which accelerates into the Bills’ 2018 cap.
“People think, ‘Oh, GMs love to protect their draft picks.’ Well, if I’m protecting my draft picks, I gave a seventh-round pick for this guy and guaranteed some cash [$3.55 million for the 2018 season]. You don’t want to see that. But you’ve got to be true to who earned the spot, and we just felt in the limited time that we were still unsure it was going to work, and to kick someone else out that we knew would work or felt better about, we just didn’t feel that was right,” Beane said when providing his rationale for keeping unproven wideouts like Foster, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Alabama, and McCloud, a sixth-round draft pick out of Clemson. “We talk about earning your spot. We just didn’t feel he’d done enough to earn it, and in fairness to Corey, it is hard to get here in August and learn an offense when you’re fighting for reps and haven’t practiced with any of these quarterbacks. That’s where I left myself late Friday night as I was debating this: ‘Am I being fair to Corey, and am I being fair to the team?’ At the end of the day, I have to be fair to the team.”