Once the shock and awe wore off after two of the biggest Bills trades in recent memory, a clearer picture has begun to emerge of the events that transpired. Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane helped to clarify some points during an afternoon press conference, but stayed pretty close to the company line while doing so. Just like draft picks and any trades, the full magnitude of, and return on, these trades can’t be fully judged until years down the road. However, there is no doubt that these moves have immediately changed the course of the Buffalo Bills for 2017 and beyond.
To recap, the Bills shipped away Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams for a second-round pick and cornerback E.J. Gaines. In a corresponding move announced only minutes later, Buffalo sent Ronald Darby to the Eagles for wide receiver Jordan Matthews and a third-round selection in the 2018 draft.
While it took fans and the media some time to dissect the moves, each Bills player had his own share of baggage during their time in Buffalo, and they were by no means perfect players. For Watkins, there were no guarantees that he would be a member of the Buffalo Bills after the 2017 season regardless, so the Bills decided to get something for the former first-round pick rather than let him walk away for nothing. As for Darby, his sophomore slump last season definitely didn’t help his cause with the new front office and coaching staff. Another reason he was shown the door was that Darby is better suited (and was drafted) to play corner in a man-to-man defense like the one Rex Ryan and Dennis Thurman ran the last two seasons. With McDermott’s defense relying more on zone coverage, it put Darby in an interesting spot. I think Darby has the talent to make that switch in only his third season in the NFL, but now he won’t get the chance to.
The Bills are now especially loaded in next year’s draft, having at least two picks in each of the first three rounds. That bodes well for the future, but the Bills also have ample ammunition if they desire to use some of those draft picks in trades next spring to try and move up to acquire a coveted franchise quarterback.
The loss of Watkins is still going to take time to process, especially after all of the resources the team put into him, but this deal will most likely help his career and the future of the Bills for the long haul. Matthews and Gaines fill roster spots for now, but who knows how long either will spend in a Bills uniform or the impact they will have in the Queen City. Watkins is going to go down as another first round pick who just didn’t work out in Buffalo, but he still has potential to lead the league in receiving one day.
Overall, it was a franchise-altering day in Buffalo that still leaves a ton of unanswered questions with the three weeks of preseason football left to play. After Watkins and Darby, it begs the question as to who and/or what is next. Beane and McDermott have shown they aren’t afraid to make the moves that they feel are best for the team long-term, and Friday’s blockbusters may have just been the beginning.