Nothing like some big, breaking NFL news as we inch toward the start of the season. It was confirmed early Friday afternoon that the Buffalo Bills had traded away two of their star players in Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby.
The blockbuster trade came as somewhat of a surprise with little trade talk surrounding the players being mentioned before their departures.
Details: The Bills completely reshape their roster with a pair of separate deals:
- Wide receiver Sammy Watkins, the fourth overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, was sent to the Los Angeles Rams along with a 2018 sixth-round draft pick in exchange for cornerback E.J. Gaines and a 2018 second-round selection.
- Separately, cornerback Ronald Darby was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for wide receiver Jordan Matthews and a 2018 third-round selection.
The moves come after the team’s first preseason game on Thursday, and speaks loudly to the direction they are trying to go.
With Watkins being the Bills No.1 receiver, and Darby being their No.1 corner, you might think the Bills have given up hope on this season. The addition of two draft picks next year, including a second rounder, could support that theory as well. And in reality, it may be true.
Adding Jordan Matthews is the only factor in these trades that helps the Bills cause and make it seem as if they aren’t attempting to tank. Mattews, who has been a high-quality, versatile receiver for Philadelphia over the years, should be able to find placement as Buffalo’s new No.1 receiver. As long as he can stay healthy (something Watkins wasn’t very good at), Matthews could make the Bills receiving core better…a little.
As much as Watkins found himself sidelined, his potential still seems as though it is untapped. Whenever he has been on the field, he has made big plays, and has made it seem as though Buffalo could finally reach the playoffs again. Unfortunately however, those injuries held him back, and teams can only take so much of that before they dump you off.
The Bills paid a massive price to acquire Watkins three years ago, trading first-round picks in 2014 and ’15, as well as a 2015 fourth-rounder, to move up five spots for the Clemson wide receiver. Are they truly getting an equal return on him now? Debatable.
Saying goodbye to Darby as well makes it seem as if the Bills are all in to “Out-Tank” the New York Jets this season. As the Bills’ second-round draft pick in 2015, Darby has started all 29 games in which he’s appeared. He’s made 137 tackles and had two interceptions in that time. Darby’s rookie season was particularly strong, and even though his play took a step backward in 2016, he still figured to be one of the two starting cornerbacks for the Bills on the outside along with rookie first-round draft pick Tre’Davious White.
Instead, the Bills brought in a replacement for Darby in a trade, while also adding significant draft capital.
While it can be argued that the Bills made some smart moves by saying adios to injury-prone Watkins and Darby, it can also be recognized that the Bills are more concerned for their future.
The trades leaves them with 6 total draft picks next season. While they realize that they may not be able to challenge the Patriots this season, they understand that they could be the next team in the division to do so.
Jordan Matthews makes for a reasonable replacement for Watkins, and most likely gives a little hope to the once dominant players on the Bills offense (McCoy, Boldin). The addition of E.J. Gaines also relieves any fear about a diminished secondary.
If the Bills do indeed tank, they could be in line for a big 2018 off season. A top pick in the draft and 5 seperate picks could give the Bills the final boost they need to make themselves a threat in the AFC.
Since taking over, Coach Sean McDermott and GM Brandon Beane have slowly dismantled the Bills’ roster constructed by former GM Doug Whaley. The current 90-man roster shows just 31 players who have appeared in a regular-season game for the Bills before. (via BuffaloNews.com)
What do you think? Who will finish with the better record in the AFC East? Are the Bills making the right moves? What about the other teams involved in the trades?
Kyle Hirshkind is the managing editor for Full Press Coverage's New York Jets channel. Originally from Long Island, New York, Kyle has been an avid Jets fan for 20+ years.