Bills dealing Sammy Watkins latest proof rebuild is on
In two bold, surprising moves that further signal the Buffalo Bills are rebuilding for the future, the NFL club pulled off two big trades yesterday.
First, the Bills dealt oftinjured wide receiver Sammy Watkins and a sixth-round 2018 draft choice to the Los Angeles Rams, in exchange for cornerback E.J. Gaines and a 2018 second-rounder.
Second, the Bills sent starting third-year cornerback Ronald Darby — the team’s first selection in the 2015 draft, 50th overall in the second round — to the Philadelphia Eagles, in exchange for wideout Jordan Matthews (a second-round selection in 2014) and a 2018 third-rounder.
The trades are contingent on players passing physicals.
In sum, then, the Bills lose a starting wide receiver and a starting cornerback, gain a starting wide receiver and a starting cornerback — but acquire two high draft picks in the process.
You can argue that Watkins has, by far, more upside than any other player in these trades, which is true. So why would they willingly send him away? Well, endless leg and foot injuries have prevented Watkins from showing much of that potential on the field, at least consistently.
And there are no guarantees he has yet fully healed from surgeries on the left foot that has pained and limited him since the 2015 season.
In catching Tyrod Taylor’s first three passes in Thursday night’s preseason game against visiting Minnesota, Watkins appeared to run somewhat cautiously.
But if Watkins truly is healthy again, then why trade him? After all, the club surrendered first- and fourthround picks to move up five spots in Round 1 of the 2014 draft to select Watkins at No. 4 overall. That’s how sure general manger Doug Whaley was that Watkins was a rare top-shelf talent, even if it turned out the Bills could have picked true superstar receiver Odell Beckham Jr. — who fell to the New York Giants at No. 12 overall — without moving up.
But if Whaley’s replacement in May, new Bills GM Brandon Beane, believes that either Watkins wouldn’t re-sign in Buffalo next March when he’s set to become a free agent, or doesn’t have the desire to franchise-tag Watkins for 2018 at a likely $17-million guaranteed contract (which would count 100% toward the salary cap), or is unsure if Watkins will ever be healthy or pan out, then perhaps the thinking was they’d might as well get something for him now.
Beane and his Bills football-ops co-leader, head coach Sean McDermott ,are wasting no time in further turning over Buffalo’s roster.
After Friday, 28 of the 53 men on the Bills’ final 2016 regular-season roster are gone.
And look at what the McBeanes have stockpiled for the 2018 draft.
After McDermott and lame-duck GM Whaley traded down with Kansas City on Day 1 of April’s draft to acquire an additional 2018 first-round pick, the Bills now possess two first-rounders, two second-rounders and two third-rounders.
At his news conference following the trade announcements yesterday, Beane took offence to the suggestion he’s sacrificing today for tomorrow.
“This is not a throw-inthe-towel thing at all,” Beane insisted. “Quite honestly, that’s annoying to me.
“If we were throwing in the towel, I wouldn’t be trying to get a starting receiver back (in the Philly trade).”
Still, the number of onetime faces-of-the-franchises who have left the Bills since March is eye-opening. Can’t just be coincidences.
Beane said he did not actively shop either Watkins or Darby; the Rams and Eagles approached him.
That said, is any Bills player untouchable? Any?
“I don’t like the word untouchable,” McBean said. “I’m not actively shopping guys, selling guys, anything like that. That’s the honestto-God truth. It’s just you’re always looking in this business to help yourself now and tomorrow. That’s the facts.
“I can’t stand up here and say I would never trade a guy in the next three weeks, but I’m not actively shopping anybody.”
The departures of Watkins and Darby mean the Bills since March have failed to retain, or let walk away, or dealt away their first selections of the 2012-15 drafts.
Indeed, in addition to 2014’s Watkins and 2015’s Darby, cornerback Stephon Gilmore (the No. 10 overall pick in 2012) signed as a free agent with the New England Patriots, and quarterback EJ Manuel (Buffalo’s epicfailure of a first-round pick in 2013) signed with Oakland for minimum salary in the unlikely hope of beating out last year’s QB draftee, Connor Cook, to become Derek Carr’s primary backup.
The Bills’ ability to draft well, and then retain their best drafted players, remains abominable — a crisis all century long.
Only two draftees from Buffalo’s 2011, 2012 and 2013 classes remain on the team: under-performing DT Marcell Dareus from ’11 and LT Cordy Glenn from ’12. And only five from the 201415 classes: LB Preston Brown and OT Seantrel Henderson from ’14, and G John Miller, TE Nick O’Leary and WR Dez Lewis from ’15. @JohnKryk
who’s the lead singer of a heavy metal band, is a makeup artist, model and songwriter. She enjoys concerts, travelling — and tattoos. Molly’s dream is to tour with her band.
SAMMy WATKInS Traded to Rams