NFL PLAYER NEWS

Bills deals show no one is untouchable

Sports Xchange

August 11, 2017 at 7:07 pm.

Jan 3, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins (14) runs the ball after a catch while being defended by New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis (24) during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Bills beat the Jets 22 to 17.  Photo Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 3, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins (14) runs the ball after a catch while being defended by New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis (24) during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Bills beat the Jets 22 to 17. Photo Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane said Friday afternoon that he doesn’t like the word “untouchable” as it pertains to the trade status of players on his team. But after the bombshell he dropped at One Bills Drive, one would have to believe that no one on the Buffalo roster is untouchable.

Wide receiver Sammy Watkins and cornerback Ronald Darby were sent packing in two separate trades within minutes of each other, and it left the Bills with a collective, wide-eyed look as they convened for a short practice. If guys like that, two starters including one who was a No. 4 overall draft pick just three years ago, can be dealt, then anybody is in play.

“Definitely surprised,” said quarterback Tyrod Taylor. “Being in this league seven years, you know every day you step into the building could be your last day. I wish Sammy the best. I have faith in coach (Sean) McDermott, I have faith in management that they made a decision based on the betterment of this team. Just surprised it happened so fast.”

Watkins and a sixth-round draft pick in 2018 are on the way to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for cornerback E.J. Gaines and the Rams’ second-round pick in 2018. And 2015 second-round pick Ronald Darby, who started two years at cornerback for Buffalo, was sent to Philadelphia in exchange for wide receiver Jordan Matthews and a conditional third-round pick in 2018.

Running back LeSean McCoy, like Taylor, was surprised by the trades, but unlike Taylor, he knows what it feels like to get the shocking news that you never saw coming. In 2015, the Eagles traded him to the Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso and it took a year for McCoy to fully grasp what happened, and to get comfortable in his new surroundings.

“I’m sure he’s hurt,” said McCoy. “You get traded. It’s a business and he has to understand that. But I can understand how he feels, being traded for a guy that he’s better than.”

The deals had been coming together over the past few days, and after the Bills’ 17-10 preseason-opening loss to the Vikings, Beane met with McDermott and owner Terry Pegula to lay it on the table, and the decision was made to pull the trigger.

“They were two separate moves, though fortunately the timing worked out the way I wanted,” said Beane. “I had calls from multiple teams about Sammy back to June shortly after I took over the job. People ask about different players all the time; you never know what’s serious or just bait. We were not actively shopping either of these guys, but L.A. got very serious about Sammy, and Philadelphia got very serious about Ronald and the timing worked out.”

McDermott admitted to being taken aback slightly, but as everything was presented, he clearly saw the vision.

“Last night, coming off my first game, trying to digest some of that and then have these conversations late into the night, not a lot of sleep,” said McDermott. “It was a difficult decision, one that we spent a lot of time discussing, but these are the conversations that have to be had.”

The Bills are a team trying to build for the future. Beane repeatedly said the goal for 2017 remains unchanged and the Bills want to win now, but it’s obvious these moves were made for success down the road. The Bills now have two picks in each of the first three rounds of the 2018 draft, and that will give Beane plenty of ammunition to either plug multiple holes on the team, or packaging some of the picks to perhaps draft an elite quarterback.

So comes to an end a somewhat disappointing three-year stint in Buffalo for Watkins. The Bills paid a hefty price to draft him in 2014, switching places with the Browns (No. 9 to No. 4) while also giving the Browns their 2015 first-round pick to ensure they could pick Watkins.

Watkins endured non-stop nagging injuries, and he wound up missing 11 of the possible 48 games he could have played, but also was well less than 100 percent in many others. He caught 153 passes for 2,459 yards and 17 touchdowns as a Bill. By comparison, the man who will probably replace him in the starting lineup – Matthews, who was the Eagles’ second-round pick in 2014 – has missed only two games in his career and has 225 catches for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns.

As for Darby, he had a nice rookie season in 2015, but declined last season, so a change of scenery may do him good. Unlike Matthews, who should be able to earn a starting job, Gaines will be joining an open competition to replace Darby.