LeSean McCoy was once one of the most awe-inspiring, naturally-skilled runners in the NFL. But like all aging running backs facing a natural decline, the veteran McCoy could be playing out his final weeks as a Buffalo Bills running back.
It’s not a stretch to say that 2019’s training camp represents an all-or-nothing scenario for the former NFL rushing leader. McCoy needs to be the starting running back due to his age and his contract. It’s difficult to see the Bills’ front office keeping him on as a second-string back should he appear uninspiring during training camp.
Publicly, general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott have stuck to the party line, lavishing supportive praise on McCoy. And, truthfully, he’s still the best option at running back as of right now.
However, The Bills would save $6.4 million against the cap next season if McCoy was released.
The scenario has less to do with Gore, rookie Devin Singletary, or even T.J. Yeldon or Marcus Murphy. It revolves around the impeding doom that Bills fans faced during the 2018 season when McCoy finally slowed down after a spectacular career.
McCoy still had the juice in 2017. In 2018, he simply did not. His numbers told a disappointing story: 514 rushing yards and a 3.2 average per carry, the lowest figures of his ten-year career. And at a cost of $9.05 million in 2019, the 31-year-old McCoy’s salary would rank as the third-highest cap figure at running back in the league behind Arizona’s 27-year-old David Johnson ($9.75 million) and the Rams’ 24-year-old Todd Gurley ($9.2 million).
The notion that Shady could be looking at his final days as a Bill wasn’t lost on Howard Simon and Sal Capaccio of WGR 550 Sports Radio on Thursday morning.
For Simon, there’s “absolutely a question about LeSean McCoy.”
“The fact that he’s still here is constantly talked about outside of the organization. The Bills really don’t say anything about it,” said the radio host. “I don’t know if he’ll be here opening day. I think if he looks shaky in the games, in camp, if he looks again like, yep, he’s lost that step, he’s not sharp, he’s not getting through the hole, he just doesn’t look right... it’s entirely possible he doesn’t make it to opening day, because you have plenty of other options in the backfield.”
Capaccio noted that McCoy’s status on the depth chart once training camp starts could reasonably change.
“He’s going to be the number one running back heading into training camp. What happens after today, all bets are off,” said Capaccio.
“You don’t really need to keep him,” replied Simon. “He’s not your bell cow back. He’s not your clear-cut number one having 20, 25 carries. He doesn’t, he had 11 carries per game last year.”
But it’s not as simple as keeping McCoy for depth if he isn’t the lead dog.
“It’s going to be either all or nothing for him,” said Capaccio. “If he’s not the number one guy maybe you could argue he could share carries with Frank Gore and be the number two. Maybe. But because of his age, because of his salary, I think he has to be the number one or he’s not here. He’s certainly not going to be a backup on the bench every game wondering if he’s going to be active or not.”
If Shady doesn’t make it out alive, Beane has shown enough enthusiasm for Singletary to get plenty of Bills fans excited. But its still too early to tell how the rookie running back out of FAU will respond to NFL defenses.
What remains is plenty of arguments pointing to Shady needing this training camp to show the team that he’s still the starter.
If he doesn’t, Bills Mafia could be in for one of the team’s most dramatic roster changes in some time.