Tim Graham: Bills leaders admit they’ll need to sell trades to team, fans

Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane, the Buffalo Bills’ rookie head coach and GM, each was asked if the 2017 roster got better after Friday’s trades.

They slipped the questions as Pernell Whitaker would a haymaker.

But throughout their news conferences at One Bills Drive, they acknowledged they hurt their chances of winning this year.

The Bills traded lead receiver Sammy Watkins and a sixth-round draft choice to the Los Angeles Rams for cornerback E.J. Gaines and a third-round pick. They also dealt top cornerback Ronald Darby to the Philadelphia Eagles for receiver Jordan Matthews and a second-round draft choice.

McDermott and Beane conceded they would need to sell Friday’s trades to the locker room and to fans who’ve waited nearly 18 years for a playoff appearance.

“I get it,” McDermott said. “I absolutely get it. That’s why I didn’t sleep last night because these are tough decisions. I’m a part of that. When I signed my name to that dotted line, I became a part of that 17-year time period.”

McDermott added, “I’m invested. I feel what they feel.”

The draft picks, if used properly, will serve the Bills longer than whatever Watkins and Darby would’ve contributed in 2017. And those losses are additionally mitigated by obtaining Matthews and Gaines.

Buffalo owns six selections within the first three rounds of next year’s draft.

As one AFC general manager texted to me, second- and third-round picks for players the Bills obviously didn’t want is a nice return.

Beane was asked how he’ll try to convince Bills veterans — defensive tackle Kyle Williams needed to be persuaded to return for a 12th season — they’re still trying to field the best possible team and make a playoff run.

“Well, it’s hard,” Beane said, “because these guys are talented players. … They don’t necessarily know Jordan or E.J. So hopefully they’ll reserve judgment until those guys get in and strap the pads on and jump in with them. We’ll see where it goes from there.”

When quarterback Tyrod Taylor re-signed with the Bills this offseason, he expected to throw to Watkins.

Taylor and Watkins took 16 snaps together in Thursday night’s exhibition against the Minnesota Vikings at New Era Field. Taylor connected with Watkins on each of the first three plays and sent five of the eight passes he attempted Watkins’ way.

Fifteen hours after the game, Watkins was gone.

McDermott was asked how he will explain Friday’s decisions to Taylor.

“I’ll take it a step further and how you sell it to the entire team,” McDermott said before Friday’s practice. “My stance with our football team and the leaders of our football team — you mention Tyrod, being one of them — is to be honest and up front with these guys.

“They know that we’re going to do everything possible and make every decision that’s in the best interest of this football team short- and long-term. That’s my responsibility.

“I believe in clear and concise communication and developing trust, and that’s what I hope has developed over the course of the first six months on the job.”

Hope. Faith. Sell.

Those aren’t words you need to use with woke NFL players and frustrated fans when a trade makes your roster noticeably better.

The draft picks are the prize that could pay off, but not until more players have moved on from the Bills.

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