The Buffalo Bills thought they had found the perfect addition to their backfield when they agreed to terms with running back J.D. McKissic on a two-year deal in March. Until McKissic changed his mind, opting to return to the Washington Commanders for the same $7 million deal the Bills had offered him.
It was a perplexing turn of events for general manager Brandon Beane, who went from having added a versatile pass-catching threat to the running back room as a complement to Devin Singletary to once again needing to find another running back in free agency.
From Beane’s point of view, the Bills and McKissic had agreed to a two-year, $7 million contract during the NFL’s preliminary negotiating period, but the contract had not yet been signed. With no ink on the contract, the Commanders reached out to McKissic, an unrestricted free agent, offering him the same terms as Buffalo’s contract. McKissic ultimately decided to remain in Washington because he had “unfinished business” with his former team.
“That was tough. Obviously, he was a guy that we targeted. In this business, in general, when you have an agreement it’s good. But until there’s ink on the paper. There are some things that went down with the other organization. Which is painful, but they chose to do what they did, and I couldn’t stop it,” Beane told reporters during a press conference soon after McKissic changed his mind.
According to an ESPN report, the Commanders thought they would have an opportunity to match any offer to McKissic—similar to how the Bills had a chance to match the Chicago Bears’ offer sheet to offensive lineman Ryan Bates.
But the key difference in those two scenarios is Bates was a restricted free agent, which meant the Bills would have five days to match any offer sheet from another team. McKissic, meanwhile, was an unrestricted free agent. meaning he was free to sign wherever he pleased this offseason.
McKissic recalled the situation as “so crazy,” and he was unable to describe the events that led him to do a reversal and head back to our nation’s capital instead of signing with the two-time defending AFC East champions.
“You can’t ask for a better organization to be chosen by (in the Bills), but I had unfinished business in Washington. The way we left off, we felt we were inclining. I had things I wanted to prove in Washington. I made my decision off where I wanted to be. Buffalo is a great organization, but I feel we can do great things here as well,” said McKissic, who eventually inked a two-year, $8.2 million deal in Washington.
Because of the McKissic situation, Beane said the relationship between Buffalo and Washington is now “complicated,” which speaks volumes to Beane’s displeasure with the franchise when you consider how close he was with head coach Ron Rivera from their days with the Carolina Panthers.
McKissic isn’t the first player to have a change of heart during the NFL’s legal tampering period. The Dallas Cowboys announced they were bringing back defensive end Randy Gregory before he spurned the Cowboys and signed with the Denver Broncos instead.
McKissic is an established threat as a pass catcher out of the backfield, compiling 123 receptions for 984 yards with four touchdowns over the past two seasons in Washington. McKissic was the league’s third most prolific receiving back, trailing only Alvin Kamara (New Orleans Saints) and Austin Ekeler (Los Angeles Chargers).
During the 2021 season, McKissic rushed for 212 yards with two TDs on 48 carries and added 43 receptions for 397 yards with two TDs for Washington.