By JOHN WAWROW
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Receiver Cole Beasley ended a brief retirement to take one more shot at extending his career by reuniting with Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills on Tuesday.
Beasley was signed to Buffalo’s practice squad, rejoining the team that cut him in March for salary-cap reasons and after failing in their bid to trade him. The 11th-year player was out of work until being signed to Tampa Bay’s practice squad in late September.
The 33-year-old Beasley had four catches for 17 yards in two games with the Buccaneers before announcing his retirement on Oct. 5.
The AFC-leading Bills (10-3) have won four straight games and have the inside track to clinch their third consecutive AFC East title. Buffalo hosts division rival Miami (8-5) on Saturday night.
Despite the success, the Bills continue searching for consistent production from their receiving group behind Stefon Diggs on an offense that ranks second in yards gained and sixth in yards passing in the NFL.
Diggs is carrying a majority of the load. His 94 catches for 1,239 yards and 10 touchdowns are nearly double that of Buffalo’s next receiver, Gabe Davis, who has 38 catches for 696 yards and six scores.
The Bills have had particularly inconsistent play at the slot receiver position, with Jameson Crowder sidelined since Week 5, and Isaiah McKenzie having difficulty filling the role.
Buffalo was one of three teams that free agent receiver Odell Beckham Jr. recently visited in his bid to return to the NFL after tearing a knee ligament during the Super Bowl while playing for the Los Angeles Rams in February. The Bills also recently brought back former receiver John Brown, who spent the 2019 and ’20 seasons starting alongside Beasley.
In three seasons with Buffalo, Beasley established himself as one of the team’s primary threats while playing the slot in what became one of the NFL’s top passing offenses. He had 231 catches for 2,438 yards and 11 touchdowns in Buffalo, with Beasley’s rate of production surpassing the numbers he put up in his first seven seasons with Dallas, where he had 319 catches for 3,271 yards and 23 TDs.
Among Beasley’s highlights were playing through a broken leg in helping the Bills reach the 2020 season AFC championship game, which Buffalo lost to Kansas City.
Beasley, however, caused a stir the following offseason by going public with his anti-COVID-19-vaccination stance, which led to him at one point threatening to retire. Though he matched a career best with 82 catches in 2021, he managed just 693 yards receiving and one score — both lows with Buffalo — in 16 games, and he struggled getting open against man coverage.
In other moves Tuesday, Buffalo signed defensive tackle Brandin Bryant to the active roster after he was cut by Houston this week. Bryant is a fourth-year player who spent parts of the past three seasons with Buffalo and was cut by the team in October.
The Bills made room for the additions by releasing defensive tackle C.J. Brewer and practice-squad receiver Marquez Stevenson.