The Buffalo Bills surprised many Friday by announcing two trades involving two prominent players. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins was dealt to the Los Angeles Rams while cornerback Ronald Darby was sent to the Philadelphia Eagles.
In exchange for Watkins and a sixth-round draft pick next year, the Bills received cornerback E.J. Gaines and a second-round draft pick in 2018. The Bills acquired wide receiver Jordan Matthews and a third-round pick in 2018 for Darby.
"Jordan Matthews is a wide receiver with a long résumé, already in a three-year career and he's had great production with multiple quarterbacks," said Bills head coach Sean McDermott. "With E.J. and what he's done with his career, we thought that he would give us a chance as well at the corner position."
General manager Brandon Beane told reporters he is not actively shopping any Bills players around the National Football League but had been receiving calls from other teams expressing interest in both players. The calls about Watkins, he said, stepped up around June.
"We're not actively shopping anybody but L.A. got very serious about Sammy and Philadelphia got very serious about Ronald," Beane said. "The timing worked out and as I realized the time worked out, I was able to acquire Jordan to help fill in for Sammy and E.J. Gaines to fill in for losing Ronald."
Many are now questioning whether these deals, and the draft picks the team is accumulating, is a sign the team is already thinking about looking beyond the 2017 season to focus on building for 2018. Beane sharply denied it, saying he would not have acquired veteran wide receiver and former Super Bowl champion Anquan Boldin if the team was intending to downgrade.
"This is not a throw-in-the-towel thing at all," Beane said. "Someone our there said that and, quite honestly, that's annoying to me because that's not me. You don't know me if you think I'm throwing in the towel."
McDermott expressed his support for the GM, stating "I have the ultimate trust in Brandon and his staff."
The Buffalo Bills have missed the NFL postseason for 17 years. McDermott told reporters he knows the passion of Bills fans and their thinning patience.
"I get it. I absolutely get it. That's why I didn't sleep last night," said McDermott. "These are tough decisions. As I said before, I'm a part of that.
"When I signed my name to the dotted line I became a part of that 17-year time period. I see the RVs pulled out here every game. I heard about it and then two nights ago, I experienced it."
Those RVs were just some of the vehicles that park and host pregame festivities leading up to a kickoff.
The Bills lost their first preseason game of the 2017 schedule Thursday night, 17-10, to the Minnesota Vikings at New Era Field.