Buffalo Bills Trade Away Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 28: Sammy Watkins
HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 28: Sammy Watkins /
1 of 2

Well, Friday morning just got a little bit more interesting. Let’s try to make sense of one of the most shocking NFL trades in recent memory.

Need something to feel energized enough so you can get out of bed this morning? How about this? And this? You’re welcome.

We’re all going through various stages of grief, anger, misunderstanding, confusion, attempts at optimism and frustration after the news that the Bills traded away both Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams and Ronald Darby to the Philadelphia Eagles.

For Watkins, the Rams gave them cornerback E.J. Gaines and a 2018 2nd round draft pick. The Eagles traded wide receiver Jordan Matthews and a 2018 3rd round draft pick for Darby.

This is a head-scratcher folks. If not for what was traded (although we’ll get to that later), but for the timing. You see, we’re less that 24 hours removed from the first preseason game. One that had Sammy Watkins catching the first three passes. There was even hope the Tyrod-to-Sammy partnership could even last.

But less than one month before the season opener against the New York Jets, that hope is kaput. Now Tyrod is going to be throwing to three possession receivers (Matthews, Boldin and Zay Jones) and hoping that Andre Holmes can go deep.

Let’s first start with the timing, which is perplexing but potentially smart.

Since the hiring of Sean McDermott, the question on the mind of most Bills fans is “Are they in a rebuild mode?”. The actions taken by the head coach (and new GM Brandon Beane) indicated that wasn’t the case. They brought back Tyrod Taylor, signed Anquan Boldin, and didn’t trade away aging talent like LeSean McCoy or Charles Clay.

In the middle of all of that, they traded down in the 2017 draft with Kansas City, a move that gets them two first round picks next year. McDermott and Beane preach about setting the foundation for a winner, while also trying to win now; this off-season seemed like a good embodiment of that.

Then this happened, a move that surely indicates that Buffalo is looking toward the future. There’s no way to spin how it looks in the present (as in this season), the Bills are downgrading at receiver. Yes, they just signed Boldin, and Jordan Matthews has been quietly productive since entering the league in 2014 (3 straight years of 800+ yards). But now the Bills don’t have a true deep threat, unless you’re counting on Walt Powell, Andre Holmes and Rod Streater leaving defensive backs in the dust.

In other words, Rick Dennison better love running the football, cause we’re going to see a lot more of it now that Sammy is gone.

But to enter “glass-half-full” mode for a second, maybe the timing was smarter than you think.

The first three plays of the Bills’ preseason game last night were passes to Sammy Watkins. After a 2016 season and a 2017 off-season of waiting for him to get healthy, it was proof that Sammy was ready to go.

I can imagine the Rams, with no real number one receiver, liked watching that. Their franchise QB Jared Goff desperately needs to play well this year, and probably wanted to put him in the best position to succeed. Thus, they’re willing to pony up for what they presume is a healthy Sammy Watkins. There’s a good chance they wouldn’t have done that for one that was still nursing a foot injury.

Trying the defend the timing of the Darby trade is a little more difficult.

He has just spend the whole off-season in McDermott’s system, while E.J. Gaines hasn’t. Production-wise, it’s a nearly equal trade, so at least the Bills probably aren’t getting worse at cornerback. In fact, considering that Darby is more of a man-coverage corner instead of a zone one, you could argue it will make the Bills’ defense better.

But still, you’d wish that the Bills could’ve given Gaines a longer time in their system, especially with the regular season so close.