Short and long term benefits of trades led Bills to pull the trigger

Bills GM Brandon Beane had no intention of moving Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby off the team’s roster. But inquiries for Watkins had been relatively steady since June, and interest in Darby gained steam with the Eagles of late. When it became clear that the Rams and Eagles were serious and were offering a player and a draft choice in return, it proved to be a wise investment for 2017 and beyond.

“We were not actively shopping either of these guys,” Beane said. “We’re not actively shopping anybody, but L.A. became very serious about Sammy and Philadelphia got very serious about Ronald and the timing worked out. As I realized the timing worked out I was able to acquire Jordan (Matthews) to help fill in for Sammy and add E.J. Gaines to help fill in for Ronald.”

Beane informed head coach Sean McDermott and owner Terry Pegula that the two trade proposals had reached critical mass after the preseason opener against Minnesota. They just had to mull both deals over and determine whether they would pull the trigger on both.

“Trying to have these conversations late into the night — not a lot of sleep last night,” said McDermott. “Difficult decision. One that we spent a lot of time discussing. These are the types of conversations that have to be had. Some conversations are easier, some are more difficult—like this one.”


What made the trades so appealing for Beane and McDermott as they build a foundation for this team in year one is the fact that they could fill the holes left behind by Darby and Watkins with a pair of starting caliber players in Matthews and Gaines, and then were able to add draft capital in the form of a second and third-round pick next spring.

“We’re always going to try to win today and win tomorrow,” said Beane. “I said it when we acquired Anquan (Boldin). That’s how I’m wired. That’s how I believe you win in this league. If I’m coming off a 14-2 season and someone offers me something that I think is good capital and a worthy investment I have to consider it. That’s what happened here.”

Beane admitted he was “annoyed” that there was an opinion that the Bills were pulling the rip cord on the 2017 season to stock up for the 2018 draft.

“This is not a throw in the towel thing at all,” he said in reference to the 2017 season. “Somebody mentioned that somebody said that and quite honestly that’s annoying to me. You don’t know me if you think I’m throwing in the towel. If we go out there and play ping pong or whatever we’re going to do I’m not throwing in the towel. If we were throwing in the towel I wouldn’t have tried to get a starting receiver back.

“I’m thrilled in losing a guy like Sammy we were able to acquire a guy like Jordan Matthews who has skins on the wall. E.J. has started 25 games in this league. He was on the NFL All-Rookie team. So he has some pedigree. He’s not walking in here not knowing what to expect. He’ll compete with the other corners. He’s not guaranteed a spot, but he’ll come in and we’ll see where it goes”

The challenge now is to blend Matthews into the offense and Gaines into the defensive scheme with a month before the season opener.

“The vision at this point is for them to get in and for us to get up to speed on terminology,” said McDermott. “That’s really where it starts. And the timing of this, these are never exactly how you want it to be.  That said, if we were going to do it, it had to happen sooner rather than later because of the timing and getting acclimated to what we do—the passing game as it relates to Jordan and the quarterback and the terminology for E.J. on defense. That is of utmost importance.”

How that all plays out will be determined come the fall, and in the spring Beane knows his college scouting staff will have to come through for them.

“I believe in our scouting staff. I definitely do,” said Beane. “They just left last week, the college (scouts). You have to draft well in this league to win. That’s the financial model. Those players are the most affordable. That helps us to have that kind of currency in the first three rounds and the prices you pay those guys versus paying free agents and other players.”

For now, it’s the here and now that’s of most concern to the fans of the team and the players still on the roster. McDermott addressed his team after the moves were made and was clear that the direction, the vision and the goal hasn’t wavered one bit.

“My stance with our football team and the leaders of our football team is to be honest and up front with these guys,” he said. “They know that we’re going to do everything possible and make every decision that’s in the best interests of this football team—short and long term. That’s my responsibility.

“I believe in clear and concise communication and developing trust. That’s what I hope has developed over the course of the first six and a half months on the job. And we’re going to continue to work our tails off to put this football team and this organization in a position to win and sustain success.”


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