Yesterday, the Buffalo Bills made a couple of surprising moves that appeared to show a lot about their intentions for this season. It may have been perceived by fans and the league that the Bills were laying an egg and looking towards the future. Yes, even though they added draft picks, there is a chance that these trades so late in the offseason could lead to a lack of chemistry on the Week 1 roster, and hurt the relationship the team has with it’s fans. After 17 years of no playoffs, a lot was expected this season. But there’s not necessarily reason to panic after the trades made.
It will be interesting to see how the team reacts to these moves this season, namely Tyrod Taylor, who just lost his number one receiver. He will now be entering this season, one that is important to not only Taylor’s future with the Bills, but his future as a starter in this league, with his five top receivers as guys he’s never played a regular season snap with. Sammy Watkins is a generational talent, one that the organization traded up a lot to acquire, and regardless of injuries, to let him go for an average to under average starter in LA Rams CB E.J. Gaines and a 2nd round pick is surprising and hard to understand. Here’s what the moves mean for Buffalo’s present and what it could mean down the road.
For a team that has enough pressure as it is, what does trading your team’s top receiver, and best young defensive back say to the rest of the players in Buffalo? It says nobody’s safe, and team is looking to build a contender for the future through the draft. Chemistry on the team may be hurt by this as well. Tyrod Taylor is on his second “prove-it” deal in a row, and although the talent this year at receiver is significantly better, getting rid of a potential star in Sammy Watkins hurts the core significantly. Although Watkins has had an injury-plagued career, when he’s been on the field he’s been effective and all he needed was one full season to show what he can do.
The team however, did add WR Jordan Matthews from the Philadelphia to replace Watkins as the de facto number one receiver. Matthews has shown flashes of being a solid NFL receiver, with 225 catches for 2,673 yards over his first three seasons, and has only missed two games over those years. If he can take another step forward this season with an increase in targets, these trades may not look so bad.
Hopefully Matthews and Taylor can develop some sort of relationship in these last couple of weeks of the offseason, along with other top newcomers rookie Zay Jones and veteran Anquan Boldin. Boldin was a huge signing for Taylor, and could go a long way in his development at the QB position.
As far as moving CB Ronald Darby to Philadelphia as part of the trade for Matthews, I don’t really get it. Darby has shown flashes over his first two seasons as a potential lock down corner in this league and to get an average receiver and a third round pick hurts the depth of this position as well as putting a bunch of pressure on rookie 1st round pick Tre’Davious White‘s shoulders, who becomes the teams number one corner. Yes, Buffalo also received E.J. Gaines from the Rams in the Watkins trade, but from what GM Brandon Beane has to say, Gaines isn’t even a lock to make the roster. The Bills lacked depth at the position before trading their best player there on the depth chart, so this season will show a lot about HC Sean McDermott, who has been known for his ability to develop corners, namely Josh Norman.
Down the Road:
With these additions however, the Bills look really good going into the 2018 NFL Draft. After adding a 2nd round pick and a 3rd round pick in those trades, Buffalo now has two 1st-rounders, two 2nd-rounders, and two 3rd-rounders in this years draft. That’s not bad to build a future around in a talented 2018 draft. It also gives young players like Zay Jones and Tre’Davious White the opportunity to develop in bigger roles in their rookie year.
So, the other way to look at this is that Bills management is looking past this year, and going all in on the 2018 QB draft class which is very talented and is headlined by guys like Sam Darnold, Mason Rudolph, Josh Allen and many others. The Bills could be looking at Taylor as a rental for this season, and if he pans out as a viable starter then they can use the picks to build in other areas, like receiver or corner where they were hurt in these trades. Standout receivers like Deon Cain from Clemson and James Washington from Oklahoma State could be available in the early rounds with one of those picks which would giver the Bills a solid top 2 combination with Zay Jones for the long term.
So after all of this, the Buffalo Bills didn’t make themselves that much worse in the present. They downgraded a couple of positions, but odds are Watkins would have gotten injured, and Buffalo will still have a better receiving core than last year with Jones, Boldin, Matthews and other guys like Andre Holmes and Philly Brown.
The cornerback position may have lost their best player, but adding E.J. Gaines, who has shown flashes of a capable starter with the Rams, could give Tre’Davious White the reigns at number one corner and give him an experienced guy opposite him to be a safety belt.
Obviously Sammy Watkins is a fantastic talent, but until he can stay on the field he’s worth little to nothing, shown from the production out of Bills receivers minus Watkins last season. Buffalo has phenomenal depth at the position this year, and adding a veteran like Anquan Boldin, a future hall of famer, could be huge for the development of young guys like Zay Jones and Jordan Matthews.