Bills move Watkins, Darby in blockbuster deals

Team now owns 6 picks in first 3 rounds of 2018 draft

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WROC-TV) - The quiet start to the Buffalo Bills 2017 training camp came to an end Friday with the team making two massive trades one month before the start of the regular season.

Star wide receiver Sammy Watkins and a 6th round pick are on the move to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for cornerback E.J. Gaines and a 2nd round pick in 2018, while starting defensive back Ronald Darby heads to the Philadelphia Eagles for wideout Jordan Matthews and a 2018 3rd round pick.

The Bills currently hold two draft picks in each of the first three rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft. Friday's deals showcase the team's decision to go all-in on the future while not totally dismissing the present.

"I'm always going to try to win today and win tomorrow," said general manger Brandon Beane. "That's the nature, that's how I'm wired. That's how I think you win in this league. If I'm coming off a 14-2 season and someone offers me good capital, and what is a worthy investment, I have to consider it. That's what happened here."

Beane admitted that he received calls for his two recently dealt players as far back as June. It was only this week when talks accelerated. 

Dealing arguably the best player on the team is a difficult pill to swallow for fans of a team that hasn't made the playoffs since 1999, but Sammy Watkins brings along his own question marks for the future.

The wideout has been plagued with multiple foot injuries over the last two years and is heading into the final year of his contract after the Bills declined the 5th-year option on his rookie deal earlier this year. By making this move, the Bills receive assets from a player that could leave town for nothing in a few months.

"You do have to consider everything," Beane said. "It's what he's done in his career over three seasons, how much he's played. You do consider all that. And again, he's going into the last year of his deal. Signability, cap situation, everything honestly went into this decision."

Selling a move like this to fans is difficult enough, but the Bills currently on the roster now require taking a leap of faith with the new regime of Beane and head coach Sean McDermott.

"My stance is to be honest and upfront with these guys," said McDermott. "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."

The Bills are coming off their preseason opener on Thursday night where Sammy Watkins caught four passes from Tyrod Taylor for 39 yards and proclaimed after the game he's felt as good as ever when it came to his nagging foot issues. One day later, Watkins is gone.

"I have faith in our management, faith in Coach McDermott that they made a decision based on the betterment of this team," said Taylor on Friday after a team walkthrough.

The Bills return to St. John Fisher College for the final three days of training camp beginning Sunday at 2:15pm. Their next preseason game is Thursday, August 17th at Philadelphia.


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