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5 thoughts and a grade on the Buffalo Bills signing WR Deonte Harty

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5 thoughts and a grade on the Buffalo Bills signing WR Deonte Harty


The first wave of reaction to the Deonte Harty signing from Buffalo Bills fans included plenty of skepticism.

Harty barely played football last season and is more than a year removed from his best NFL season. He was an undrafted free-agent addition for the New Orleans Saints in 2019 and broke out as a receiver in 2021.

Plenty of NFL analysts have high expectations for Harty in the Bills offense. Syracuse.com’s Ryan Talbot reported that Harty took less money to join the Bills and had “a sizeable market” for his services. The initial figures of his contract - two years and $13.5 million - looked more substantial than the actual details of the deal reveal.

The Bills guaranteed just $5 million of the contract and his 2023 cap hit comes in at less than $4 million ($3.7 million to be exact). If Buffalo wants to move on from the player in 2024, general manager Brandon Beane can release him for a small dead cap charge ($1.37 million) and add north of $4 million in salary cap space.

Harty isn’t a big-ticket item, but it’s a small commitment by the Bills with major upside potential. Here are five thoughts on the deal and a grade.


1. Harty gives the Bills something they don’t have on the roster

When Brandon Beane sat behind the microphone at his NFL Scouting Combine press conference, he was asked if there are traits that make a great playmaker. The first one he referenced was RAC (run after catch).

“You love that, those are the easiest ones you see,” he said. “those (plays) turned into home runs or big chunk plays so you’re just trying to find guys.”

Harty brings speed and a proven track record of production after the catch. He ran an unofficial 4.39 at his pro day and broke out as a receiver in 2021 with career highs in receptions (36), receiving yards (570), and touchdowns (3). After the catch, though, was where Harty shined. He finished sixth in the NFL in 2021 in yards after catch average (6.8 yards per reception).

Gabriel Davis and Isaiah McKenzie combined for 90 receptions for 985 receiving yards last season, but managed only 274 yards after the catch. Harty had 246 YAC of his 570 total in 2021.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Harty doesn’t just possess long speed, he has quickness, too. Only 10 receivers got more separation in 2021 than Harty, who averaged 3.6 yards of separation from the nearest defender.

2. Beane’s track record at receiver is stellar

Harty isn’t Odell Beckham Jr. or D.J. Chark. He isn’t Jerry Jeudy or DeAndre Hopkins - two hot names that have been flying around in Internet trade rumors. What Harty is is a dart throw by Beane that doesn’t cost a lot of money. Diggs is on the books for north of $20 million per season and Davis might be an extension candidate this summer.

Spending big at the receiver position was always a long shot with what was on the books already. Harty is a bit of an unknown with a limited amount of experience and a sample size of success. When he’s been on the field he’s been electric. He’s made big-time plays down the field and the speed is undeniable. He adds additional value as a kick/punt return option too.

Beane pivoted off big catch radius receivers like Kelvin Benjamin after Allen’s rookie season and targeted John Brown and Cole Beasley. Both players thrived in the offense. Then he drafted Gabe Davis, who’s been a smashing success as a fourth-round receiver. Emmanuel Sanders wasn’t elite but he had some big-time games.

The Bills need answers in the slot who can separate and win down the field. Harty has flashed an ability to do that and he worked out of the slot almost as much as he did out wide in New Orleans. Beane has done well for himself in evaluating receiver talent. My guess is Ken Dorsey’s offseason assessment of last year’s offense landed the Bills on Harty. The cost is just right, too.

3. Potential is there

Shortly after the news broke, Nick Underhill, who’s covered the Saints since 2014 - with a small break to cover the New England Patriots - loves the move for the Bills

“Still feel like Deonte Harty has untapped potential at wide receiver,” he tweeted. “That’s a fun offense to envision him in.”

Pro Football Focus analyst Steve Palazzolo had a bold prediction after the signing: “Deonte Harty going 40 catches for 800 yards and 12 TDs with Josh Allen in Buffalo. Love it,” he tweeted.

Harty is the kind of player that has the potential to make GMs look good. Buy low guys who have the kind of juice to explode as part of a talented offense. The Bills can now look toward the draft and find another potential weapon at receiver to add to the competition. They can look deeper into free agency, too.

4. There’s a bit of a fumbling issue

Harty has played 554 offensive snaps and 354 special teams snaps over the course of his three seasons. Five of his nine career fumbles have been muffed punts and the other four all happened on special teams. He’s never fumbled the ball on offense.

Nine fumbles, though, are definitely concerning. It’s an area of his game that I’m sure Beane and coach Sean McDermott are going to monitor. The fumbles aren’t a big enough problem to ignore the traits and some of the highlights he’s produced with the ball in his hands.

Nyheim Hines was a great returner for the Bills last season. Harty could factor into the competition to return kicks or punts, but he could also focus on a receiver role.

5. What does this mean for Isaiah McKenzie?

Some fans pondered whether Harty’s arrival might signal the end of McKenzie’s tenure in Buffalo. McKenzie posted on Twitter that he was excited about the move.

McKenzie was a slight disappointment in 2022 when he was able to get the majority of the slot receiver snaps. Harty has a lot of versatility, but the easiest fit into the Bills offense is in the slot - especially considering his size at 5-foot-6 and 170 pounds.

The Bills could save $2.5 million on this year’s cap if they cut McKenzie, but he’s a valuable depth piece. He knows the offense and can be a weapon in the run game, too. I’d expect McKenzie to stick around and challenge for a roster spot in the summer.


There’s not a lot to dislike about this move when you take a deep dive into the details. Harty doesn’t cost a lot and there are people who have watched him play in the NFL who think he could bring some juice to the Bills offense. Think about it this way: If the Kansas City Chiefs, who lost JuJu Smith-Schuster to the New England Patriots, signed Harty instead of the Bills, and you read all the positive notes on the player out of New Orleans, would you hate it? This move makes a ton of sense - all upside.



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When Beane spoke at the Combine and "RAC"   “You love that, those are the easiest ones you see,” he said. “those (plays) turned into home runs or big chunk plays so you’re just trying to find guys.”

You knew he would be looking for that in Free Agency, and the draft.   

(By the way, what is the difference between YAC and RAC Beane?)

Harty, formerly known as Harris, definitely fits that RAC profile.
And quite frankly so do both Cook and Hines.   Beane sure does have a type. 

If, and it is an If not a certainty, Beane drafts a WR in the Draft, expect someone with RAC potential. 




  • Agree 1

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Some of the same things said about Cook and then Hines last year, how exciting they can be in our "offense". That didn't go as planned. Until Dorsey proves he can not only draw up plays to utilize weapons, but actually call those plays in game, signings like these (potential) mean little to me.

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Crowded elevators smell different to midgets............

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