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90 Buffalo Bills players in 90 days: WR Deonte Harty

The newcomer holds intriguing potential this year in Buffalo’s offense

Syndication: Democrat and Chronicle Jamie Germano/Democrat and Chronicle / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Buffalo Bills have overhauled their wide receiver room since general manager Brandon Beane arrived in 2017. Throughout the majority of his tenure — and nearly all of quarterback Josh Allen’s career — Isaiah McKenzie was a constant in the receiver room. Regardless of the new additions to the squad, McKenzie stayed.

Now that Lil’ Dirty is no longer the most-tenured wideout on the team (that honor, if you can believe it, now belongs to Stefon Diggs, whose arrival in March 2020 ushered in a new era for the Bills’ offense. Beane has remade the receiver room again this offseason, as he’s searched for players who either have tremendous size or excellent speed and quickness.

In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we discuss a player who certainly fits into the latter of those two categories. What he lacks in size, though, he makes up for in shiftiness, and the Bills are hoping that he’ll cause major headaches for opposing defenses.

Name: Deonte Harty

Number: 11

Position: WR

Height/Weight: 5’6”, 170 pounds

Age: 25 (26 on 12/4/2023)

Experience/Draft: 5; signed with the New Orleans Saints following the 2019 NFL Draft

College: Assumption (MA)

Acquired: Signed with Buffalo on 3/16/2023

Financial situation (per Spotrac): Harty signed a two-year deal with Buffalo last spring, a pact worth $9.5 million overall. His $3.745 million cap hit this season is the second-highest figure among Buffalo receivers, trailing only Stefon Diggs. The Bills would carry a dead-cap number of $4.75 million if they were to release him.

2022 Recap: After a promising 2021 season where Harty set career-highs in receptions (36), receiving yards (570), and receiving touchdowns (3), the 2022 season was one where Saints fans expected him to take a big step forward. Instead, Harty managed to play in only four games thanks to a turf toe injury that ended his season after Week 5. Harty only played on a total of 24 offensive snaps last season, managing two catches for 13 yards in the Saints’ first two games. He had three punt returns for eight total yards and six kickoff returns for 137 total yards, as well, in what was a very disappointing campaign.

Positional outlook: Harty is one of multiple wideouts vying for a roster spot and playing time this year. Along with the aforementioned Diggs, Harty is joined by Gabe Davis, Khalil Shakir, Trent Sherfield, Justin Shorter, Marcell Ateman, Bryan Thompson, Isaiah Coulter, Andy Isabella, KeeSean Johnson, Tyrell Shavers, and Dezmon Patmon.

2023 Offseason: Harty is fully healthy and he has been Buffalo’s primary punt-return option thus far in training camp in the wake of Nyheim Hines’ season-ending injury.

2023 Season outlook: Harty will likely fill the Isaiah McKenzie role in the offense as the gadget guy/jet-sweep runner/slot wideout — and even though his 2022 numbers aren’t encouraging, he’s a bit more refined than McKenzie as a route-runner and a receiver. And, while losing Hines as the primary return man is clearly a big blow, Harty was First-Team All-Pro as a punt returner in his rookie season, as he returned 36 punts for 336 yards and a touchdown in 2019. He’s not going to be the team’s primary slot wideout — that honor will probably be split between Trent Sherfield and tight end Dalton Kincaid, with some Khalil Shakir sprinkled in for good measure — but he’s definitely someone who can and will help the team in spread formations. Speed kills, and Harty has plenty of it. I expect that offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey will be able to use him on somewhere between 12-18 offensive snaps per game to stretch the field both vertically and horizontally. Harty is another solid weapon in the cache for quarterback Josh Allen.