ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WROC) — The Bills may end up with THE headline from cutdown day in the NFL.
Running back LeSean McCoy has been released.
“We made a tough decision today,” Bills GM Brandon Beane said by conference call Saturday. “We felt it was the right time to make this move. Got nothing but great things to say about LeSean. We wish LeSean the best. He, obviously was frustrated. Rightfully so. But we made the decision that we made and we’re going to move forward.”
The Bills have stated more than once since last season they still believed in McCoy’s ability as a top running back. Beane did not back off that thought, even after releasing McCoy.
“We believe in LeSean and still believe he can play.”
The Bills addressed the running game in both free agency and the draft during the offseason. They signed 36 year-old vet Frank Gore and took Devin Singletary in the third round.
Beane says the Bills have been satisfied by Singletary’s development in the preseason enough to believe he can contribute right away. Not every rookie is ready so quickly.
“Don’t want to put him on a pedestal, but he’s done a very good job so far,” Beane said. “He’s a hard worker. He’s very humble. I really like how he’s come in and who he is. He’s been such a great young man to work with, but he’ll have a lot to prove as a rookie.”
Beane said how much Singletary plays will be up to offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and running backs coach Kelly Skipper.
Singletary’s ability in the passing game was one of the concerns with the rookie going into training camp. Not just as a pass catcher, but as a pass protector.
Even if a back has shown an ability to be dangerous as a receiver, Beane pointed out that defenses will constantly blitz to force that back to remain in the backfield as a blocker. Singletary had a longer climb to learn the protection part.
“I thought early in camp, he’s been inconsistent with technique,” Beane said. “He’s shown enough (since) to be in there on any of the three downs.”
Beane said the idea of keeping a pair of 30-plus running backs was something the team was comfortable doing. Instead, it’ll just be Gore carrying the OG flag in the running back room.
“He’s a pro’s pro. He’s been good with the young guys,” Beane said of Gore. “We feel he understands his role. If we want him to start, he’ll start. If we want him to back up, he’ll back up.”
Parting ways with McCoy does save the Bills over $6 million against the salary cap.
It also may save a headache. Beane admitted McCoy’s acceptance of a potentially lesser role in a backfield by committee was a factor in the release.
“There’s young guys in the locker room who probably played with McCoy in Madden who probably looked up to him,” Beane said. “Not the first tough decision the Bills had to make. There will probably be more.”
Beane said the Bills did do their due diligence checking around for a trade involving McCoy, the same as they would for any player they planned to release.
There was never any serious discussions. Part of the reason is Beane says the decision to cut McCoy was not made until Saturday morning. “It went to the 23rd hour, so to speak.”
Rumors of serious trade discussions last year were also, apparently, just rumors. Beane says there were some calls about McCoy, but again, nothing that ever got close to a deal.
Beane avoided a question about whether McCoy was asked to take a pay cut. As rumors of his departure in Buffalo swirled, the six time Pro Bowler was never, apparently, a problem.
“He put his best foot forward. He handled it well. He never said anything negative to me,” Beane said. “It was a competition. We made that clear to all our guys.”
McCoy had his worst season as a pro in 2018, rushing for only 514 yards on 161 carries. His 3.2 yards per carry was, by far, the worst of his career.
“Last year, I don’t fault LeSean. I think our offense didn’t get going for a number of reasons. A lot of that blame you can put on me,” Beane said.
McCoy only spoke with media once during training camp and said he was confident he would still be the lead back for Buffalo in 2019.
Instead, he’s likely going to be the lead story on cut down day.
“We said it all along, there were going to be tough decisions. Nothing tougher than cutting a guy like LeSean,” Beane said. “Some work out great. Some don’t. We’ll see on this one.”