Buf­falo trades Darby, Watkins

Bills have two picks in each of first three rounds next year.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS -

The Buf­falo Bills’ off­sea­son over­haul isn’t over yet with re­ceiver Sammy Watkins and cor­ner­back Ron­ald Darby the lat­est play­ers to be sent pack­ing.

The Bills dealt both starters in sep­a­rate block­buster trades Fri­day as part of 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 third-rounder from the Ea­gles, while also send­ing a sixth-round pick to the Rams. Add in the ac­qui­si­tion of the Kansas Chiefs’ first-round pick in trade com­pleted in April, and the Bills now have two picks in each of the first three rounds next year.

The ad­di­tional picks pro­vide Bills new gen­eral man­ager Bran­don Beane as­sets in a draft that looks like it will have sev­eral top-end quar­ter­back prospects. Bills starter Ty­rod Taylor’s fu­ture is un­cer­tain beyond this year.

Beane dis­puted the no­tion he’s strictly look­ing ahead to next year.

“This is not a throw-in-thetowel 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.

Watkins’ fu­ture in Buf­falo was al­ready in ques­tion af­ter the Bills de­clined to pick up his fifth-year con­tract op­tion in May. He is en­ter­ing the fi­nal year of his deal. Matthews is also en­ter­ing the fi­nal sea­son of his con­tract, so the Ea­gles also faced the pos­si­bil­ity of los­ing him in free agency.

Watkins showed glimpses of be­ing a dy­namic threat when healthy in three sea­sons with Buf­falo since be­ing se­lected in the first round of the 2014 draft. 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 sev­eral in­juries and played just eight games last year af­ter hav­ing surgery to re­pair 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.

The change for the Bills came four days af­ter sign­ing vet­eran free agent An­quan Boldin. Matthews av­er­aged 75 catches, 891 re­ceiv­ing yards and six touch­downs in his first three sea­sons. But the Ea­gles signed freeagent re­ceivers Al­shon Jef­fery and Tor­rey Smith and drafted Mack Hollins and Shel­ton Gib­son.

WR Sammy Watkins (left) joins a Rams team in need of of­fense; Ron­ald Darby could be­come a start­ing cor­ner­back for the Ea­gles.

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