Bills trade Watkins to Rams, get Matthews from Ea­gles

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

The Buf­falo Bills’ off­sea­son over­haul isn’t over yet now that re­ceiver Sammy Watkins and cor­ner­back Ron­ald Darby be­came the lat­est play­ers to be sent pack­ing. The Bills dealt both starters in separate block­buster trades on Fri­day in an ef­fort to re­shape the ros­ter un­der new coach Sean McDer­mott.

Watkins was traded to the Los Angeles Rams, while Darby was sent to the Philadel­phia Ea­gles. Buf­falo ad­dressed both po­si­tions by ac­quir­ing re­ceiver Jor­dan Matthews from Philadel­phia and cor­ner­back E.J. Gaines from the Rams. The Bills also con­tin­ued look­ing to the fu­ture by fur­ther stock­pil­ing 2018 draft se­lec­tions. They ac­quired a sec­ond-round pick from L.A. and a thir­drounder from the Ea­gles, while also send­ing a sixth -round pick to the Rams. Buf­falo now has two picks in each of the first three rounds next year af­ter ac­quir­ing the Kansas City Chiefs first-round se­lec­tion in April.

The ad­di­tional picks pro­vide Bills gen­eral man­ager Bran­don Beane as­sets in a draft that looks as if it will have sev­eral top-end quar­ter­back prospects. Bills starter Ty­rod Tay­lor’s fu­ture is un­cer­tain be­yond this sea­son. McDer­mott ac­knowl­edged his most dif­fi­cult chal­lenge was not merely break­ing the news of Watkins’ de­par­ture to Tay­lor.

“I’ll take it a step fur­ther: How do you sell it to the en­tire team?” McDer­mott said, be­fore out­lin­ing his mes­sage. “You put one step in front of the other and we move on,” he said. “I asked them to con­tinue to trust me and our decisions in terms of what we’re do­ing.” Just don’t call it a re­build­ing plan , Beane said.

“This is not a throw-in-the-towel thing at all,” Beane said. “If we were throw­ing in the towel, I wouldn’t be try­ing to get that start­ing re­ceiver back.” The deals, how­ever, in­volve more changes to a team with just 28 play­ers who opened train­ing camp on Buf­falo’s ros­ter a year ago. The Bills also have just 14 play­ers whom they’ve drafted, not in­clud­ing this year’s six-player class.


The trades caught Bills play­ers by sur­prise a day af­ter a 17-10 pre­sea­son-open­ing loss to Min­nesota. “It’s tough to lose a guy like Sammy,” Tay­lor said. “We have to put a pos­i­tive lin­ing. It’s a win now league. And as a team, we have to re­fo­cus, do what­ever it takes to win games.” Watkins’ fu­ture in Buf­falo was al­ready in ques­tion af­ter the Bills de­clined to pick up his fifth-year con­tract op­tion in May. Matthews is also en­ter­ing the fi­nal sea­son of his con­tract. When healthy, Watkins showed glimpses of be­ing a dy­namic threat since Buf­falo gave up a 2015 firstround pick to trade up five spots and se­lect him fourth over­all in 2014. He has 153 catches for 2,459 yards and 17 touch­downs in three sea­sons, but topped 1,000 yards just once, in 2015.

Watkins has been ham­pered by an as­sort­ment of in­juries and lim­ited to play­ing just eight games last sea­son af­ter hav­ing surgery for a bro­ken left foot. He re­quired a sec­ond op­er­a­tion in Jan­uary af­ter ag­gra­vat­ing the in­jury last sea­son.

He joins a re­vamped group of re­ceivers on a Rams of­fense that has ranked last in the NFL in each of the past two sea­sons. Buf­falo is also re­tool­ing its re­ceiver po­si­tion, with the trade com­ing four days af­ter sign­ing vet­eran free agent An­quan Boldin .

Matthews was Philadel­phia’s most pro­duc­tive re­ceiver, av­er­ag­ing 75 catches, 891 re­ceiv­ing yards and six touch­downs in his first three sea­sons. But the Ea­gles signed free-agent re­ceivers Al­shon Jef­fery and Tor­rey Smith and drafted Mack Hollins and Shel­ton Gib­son. The key for Philadel­phia was adding a start­ing-cal­iber cor­ner­back in Darby to a de­fense that plays in the passhappy NFC East.

“It’s a cor­ner-de­fi­cient league. It’s hard to find those guys,” Ea­gles ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of foot­ball op­er­a­tions Howie Rose­man said. “And teams that have them aren’t re­ally ready to move them.” Darby started 29 games since the Bills se­lected him in the sec­ond round of the 2015 draft. Gaines was a valu­able de­fen­sive back in the Rams’ ro­ta­tion. He won a start­ing job in 2015, but then got hurt be­fore the sea­son started. He be­came ex­pend­able af­ter the Rams ac­quired Kayvon Web­ster this off­sea­son, who is pegged to start op­po­site Tru­maine John­son.

McDer­mott is aware how the trades have the po­ten­tial of set­ting back Buf­falo’s pre­pared­ness at a time the fran­chise is in the midst of a 17-year play­off drought - the longest ac­tive streak in North Amer­ica’s four major pro­fes­sional sports.—AP

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