The Buffalo Bills have shown that the drama of the NFL off season is far from over. On Friday, the Bills traded away their starting WR, Sammy Watkins, and their top CB, Ronald Darby.
The Bills just traded WR Sammy Watkins. WOW— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 11, 2017
Watkins was one of QB Tyrod Taylor’s favorite targets. Watkins was drafted fourth overall in the 2014 NFL Draft after a fantastic career with the Clemson Tigers. Ronald Darby was drafted 50th overall in the 2015 NFL Draft. Darby finished second in the voting for defensive rookie of the year in 2015.
What could motivate such a maneuver by the Bills management? Draft picks, and a focus on building the future.
Buffalo traded Watkins and a 2018 sixth-round pick to the Los Angeles Rams for cornerback E.J. Gains and a 2018 second-round pick. For Darby the Bills received a 2018 third-round pick and WR Jordan Matthews from the Philadelphia Eagles. Both Matthews and Gains are competent players, but not the talent of Watkins and Darby. Both Matthews and Gains are playing on the last year of their respective contracts. After the 2017 season the Bills are not going to be saddled with expensive or lengthy contract obligations. With these moves the Bills now have six picks in the first three rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft (two first round, two second round, and three second round). Depending on how the Bills play the remainder of the preseason they could earn another 2018 third round pick based on the NFL’s compensatory pick system.
Although the Bills recently signed veteran WR Anquan Boldin to a one-year deal, trading his favorite target does not bode well for the former Hokie QB.
First year head coach Sean McDermott and first year general manager Brandon Bean look to be setting up the 2018 NFL Draft to be what they will be betting their career with the Bills on rather than trying to build a team around the pieces left behind by former HC Rex Ryan and GM Dough Whaley.
As I stated in my Virginia Tech NFL Preseason preview this is a make or break year for Tyrod. These recent moves seem to indicate that the Bills are focusing on the future and will likely be unwilling to take the $18 million cap hit that Tyrod would represent if they kept him on the roster past March 2018. Survival is a great motivator. Even if his future does not lie with the Bills, Tyrod will need to spend this season demonstrating his value to the quarterback hungry league.