Chase Claypool eager to take advantage of 'clean slate' with Bills


Staff member

Chase Claypool already has his first win as a member of the Buffalo Bills.

The team’s new wide receiver undoubtedly aced his introductory news conference following Tuesday’s practice, saying all the right things about his latest – and perhaps last – NFL opportunity.

“I think it is tough believing the player that you are or can be, and falling short of those expectations, especially over the last two years, for sure,” Claypool said. “It is a tough position, because I know there are times where it can be frustrating if I’m not living up to my potential – but if it’s frustrating to the outside world, it’s even more frustrating for me. I understand where I should be, and I understand that I haven’t met those expectations. That’s why I work harder and harder and harder and harder every year – so I can meet and exceed those expectations.”

If that happens, the Bills will get a bargain. Claypool signed a one-year deal with the club for the veteran-minimum salary of $1.135 million, that included just a $25,000 signing bonus. For that money, it’s worth seeing if he can recapture the form he showed from his two years in the NFL with Pittsburgh. If not, all it would cost is $25,000 in dead money against the salary cap.

Bills wide receiver Chase Claypool goes through individual drills during a recent practice. Harry Scull Jr., Buffalo News

A second-round draft pick out of Notre Dame in 2020, Claypool was an immediate contributor for the Steelers. As a rookie, he was targeted 109 times, finishing with 62 catches for 873 yards and nine receiving touchdowns. He followed that in 2021 by catching 59 passes (on 105 targets) for 860 yards with two touchdowns.

Claypool scored 10 touchdowns, including two on the ground, in his first 10 games with the Steelers, but over the next 29 games, would reach the end zone just four times. Pittsburgh traded him to Chicago midway through his third season for a second-round draft pick. That deal ended up being disastrous for the Bears, as Claypool managed to make just 18 catches for 191 yards and one touchdown in 10 games over two seasons.

He was traded again in 2023, this time going from the Bears to the Dolphins for a 2025 late-round pick swap. Before leaving Chicago, Claypool publicly questioned whether the Bears’ coaching staff was using him the right way.

“I’ve learned from all the mistakes,” he said. “I feel like every time you make a mistake or any time you have mishaps, you have to learn from them, and if you learn from them, you grow from it. So, I think that’s what I’ve done. There are going to be good days and there are going to be bad days, but I think it’s important to learn from the bad days and build on the good days and eventually you’ll be in the spot that you want to be at.”

That wasn’t Miami for Claypool. He played in nine games with the Dolphins, finishing with just four catches for 26 yards. Claypool was basically an afterthought, relegated mostly to special teams. As it turns out, however, that proved to be a valuable personal experience.

It “made me realize my love for the game,” Claypool said. “Because even though I was doing nothing that I wanted to do, or expected to do, special teams and stuff like that at the time, I realized how much I love football.”

Claypool is also self-aware. At some point, the phone stops ringing with job offers, and now on his fourth team in the past three seasons, Claypool is dangerously close to that point.

“I understand my situation. I understand any opportunity I have to help the team win, I need to jump on that opportunity, so special teams is one of those things,” he said. “If I am on all four units, that’s amazing, because that means I’m helping the team in some way.

“When I did get the opportunity to be out there, I loved it, even if that was kick return, kickoff. It’s really just making the most out of your situation and loving what you do. Like, if I didn’t love the game, that’d be easy to just fold. I just think since I love the game, it’s cool as long as I get an opportunity out there.”

He’ll get that with the Bills, who have undergone significant roster turnover at wide receiver since last season ended. Only one receiver who caught a pass for the Bills last season, Khalil Shakir, is still on the roster. That means it will be a clean slate come training camp for those hoping to earn a job. Head coach Sean McDermott was highly complementary of the job Claypool has done since signing with the Bills on May 3.

“Very impressed with Chase,” McDermott said. “Really just starting with his approach, here’s a veteran receiver, former high pick, that has been on a journey ... I applaud Chase for coming here to see where things go.

“He’s very focused, he’s working extremely hard day in and day out and embracing not just the wide receiver role that he could play for us, but also the special teams role that he could play for us. You don’t find that a lot around the NFL where a player has been at a certain level and then is on a mission right now to reclaim what he once was in that regard. … He’s been a good addition to our team.”

The Bills were interested in Claypool earlier in free agency, but waited until after the draft before making a move. General Manager Brandon Beane ended up taking just one receiver, Florida State’s Keon Coleman, with the first pick of the second round, and Claypool signed the following week.

Coming to the Bills means Claypool, 25, gets a chance to play with quarterback Josh Allen, giving him his best situation since he was paired with Ben Roethlisberger as a rookie with the Steelers. He’s also fond of the similarities between Buffalo and Pittsburgh – two Rust Belt cities known for their loyal fan bases.

“When you come to Buffalo, it’s all football all the time,” he said. “I really do like that – similar to Pittsburgh, and places like Green Bay, where there might not be too much going on, but that’s completely fine. You know, that’s kind of what we do and what we get paid for. So, Buffalo gives me an opportunity to work as hard as I can and make the people around me proud.”

Bills wide receivers Chase Claypool, left, and rookie Keon Coleman take a break Tuesday during OTAs at ADPRO Sports Training Center. The Bills are Claypool's fourth team since being drafted out of Notre Dame in 2020. Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News

During the first practice of the spring that was open to the media, Claypool made one of the highlight catches of the day, elevating to make a catch over cornerback Ja’Marcus Ingram. It was one small sign of the type of athletic ability the 6-foot-4, 238-pounder possesses. After practice, Claypool kept the play in proper perspective, saying he’ll be more excited if he can consistently do things like that at training camp.

His first two seasons showed that, when used correctly, Claypool can have NFL success. Now, it’s a matter of sustaining it.
“There’s inefficiencies in everyone’s game, and you have to be able to realize those,” he said. “I know my inefficiencies and things that I have to work on.”

Claypool has been struck by the Bills’ family atmosphere since he arrived – something he considers easy to talk about, but much more difficult to actually be about. McDermott’s tradition of having new players address the entire team, explaining their background and where they came from, has continued. Claypool hasn’t had his turn yet, but believes the sessions have allowed him to connect with his new teammates on a deeper level.

Given that one of the knocks against him was his presence in the locker room, having a fresh start and a new perspective in a new city has been hugely beneficial.
“I love how they just treat me like family right away. I don’t come in with any baggage from the outside world,” Claypool said. “It’s frustrating, especially when it’s so far from the truth, I would say, but I’m not here to prove that I’m not what they say I am, I’m just here to be who I am and be a part of the team. I’m not trying to prove anyone wrong or right; I’m just being who I am. It doesn’t matter what the outside world says, as long as my teammates know the kind of guy I am, and coaches do, too.”