On August 11th, 2017 the NFL was turned upside down. After the news that Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot will be suspended for six games for violating the NFL conduct policy, the Bills pulled the classic “Hold my Beer” move and made two blockbuster trades to grab control of the headlines. The trades are:
Recap Last 45 minutes:
Zeke Suspended 6 games
Sammy Watkins to Rams for CB E.J. Gaines.
Jordan Matthews to Bills for CB Ronald Darby.
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) August 11, 2017
These two trades will have a major impact on the season and each of these teams in the coming years. Before I explain what each team did and why they did it let’s take a look at all three team’s current 2018 draft picks after the trades.
2018 Draft Picks
Rams own their own first, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh round picks. They also own the Bills and Lions sixth round picks. Eight total picks. Eagles own their own first, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh round picks. They also own the Patriots and Vikings fourth round picks. Seven total picks. Bills own their own first, second, third, fourth, fifth and seventh round picks. They also own the Chiefs first round pick, Rams second round pick and Eagles third round pick. Nine total picks.
Sammy Watkins, Andrew Whitworth, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Gerald Everett, John Sullivan. The Rams have worked hard to help Jared Goff. — Field Yates (@FieldYates) August 11, 2017
Los Angeles Rams
With the acquisition of Watkins the Rams have a clear message for Jared Goff; you are our guy! If new head coach Sean McVay wanted to draft his guy during the 2018 NFL draft, the team wouldn’t have traded away a second round pick for Watkins. After an offseason of moves, the Rams offense looks totally different and now with Watkins it is very similar to the Redskins offense last year; where McVay was the offensive coordinator.
Watkins is the new DeSean Jackson, Robert Woods is the new Pierre Garcon, rookie Cooper Kupp is the new Jamison Crowder, and rookie Gerald Everett is the new Jordan Reed. Now I’m not saying the Rams’ players are as good as the Redskins’ players last year, with the exception of Watkins, but the Rams now have similar style players in similar roles. Gaines was a starter but the team likes the depth behind him and believes Kayvon Webster is capable of being the number two cornerback.
Now that the Rams have given plenty of weapons for Goff, he must show serious improvement this year. With a strong defense and excellent special teams, the Rams can contend for a playoff spot if the offense can put up 21 points per game. Assuming Watkins stays healthy this season, expect the Rams to place the franchise tag on him if they can’t work out a long-term deal. The Rams are pushing a lot of their chips into the pot with this trade and are putting their faith in Goff’s development.
Have to give Howie Roseman credit, here. He managed to pry away a starting caliber CB for Jordan Matthews, who was going to walk. #Eagles
— Matt Lombardo (@MattLombardoPHL) August 11, 2017
After many people believed his time with the Eagles was up, Nelson Agholor is having a great training camp and is currently expected to be the team’s slot receiver. Matthews was penciled in as the starting slot receiver earlier in the offseason but injuries in camp began to put that in doubt. The team also wants to get more speed from their slot receiver; giving Agholor an advantage over Matthews. Finally, reports have stated that Matthews was unhappy with his contract and wanted an extension. With Matthews unhappy, rumors began to swirl of a possible trade.
With all the offseason moves over the past two years the Eagles have put together a team ready for a playoff push. However, the cornerback spot was a major weakness as the team lacks a number one caliber cornerback. With the trade, the Eagles flipped an unhappy receiver and a draft pick for a number one cornerback. Darby will allow the Eagles to have a competition for the other starting spot between Jalen Mills, Ron Brooks and rookie Rasul Douglas.
The only downside in this trade for the Eagles is now they have only one draft pick during the first two days of the 2018 draft. With their second round pick going to the Browns as part of the Carson Wentz trade. However, the Eagles have drafted well in the middle rounds the past few years and do have three fourth round picks currently, which gives them flexibility if they wish to move up into day 2.
New head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane are sending a loud and clear message with the two trades made today: we are getting rid of the last regime’s players and tanking for draft picks. The Bills traded away two of their best players for second and third round picks. However, look at how the team drafted this year. They took cornerback Tre’Davious White in the first round and wide receiver Zay Jones in the second round. Both players are now expected to play a major role for the Bills this season.
With the trades the Bills now have six picks in the first three rounds of the 2018 draft, tied for the most with the Browns. The team can add a 2018 third and fourth round compensatory pick if they cut these players by week ten: Vladimir Ducasse, Ryan Davis, Andre Holmes and Steven Hauschka. Expect the Bills to cut all four in order to add more 2018 draft picks. With the team clearly looking to move proven players for draft picks, expect more trades to happen.
My guess is the Bills want to build their team similarly to how the Titans built theirs. Get as many draft picks as possible and use them all to build a young talented team. However, that is much easier said than done. The Bills will need to finish in the top five of the draft, which shouldn’t be hard, and draft the right quarterback at the top if they want this rebuilding process to work. Assuming they pick the right quarterback, the Bills then will have to add more young pieces around him to pair with their great 2017 draft class.
As the Bills look to add more picks don’t be surprised if more trades happen. My guess is linebacker Reggie Ragland is the next player to go. He doesn’t fit McDermott’s defense and is currently third on the depth chart. Expect a team to offer up a mid round pick for Ragland, and for the Bills to take it. If the Bills are really serious about tanking look for them to try and trade LeSean McCoy and even Tyrod Taylor.
Trading those two players will be hard to sell to a fanbase that haven’t seen the playoffs in 17 years, but it would be the right move. McCoy could fetch the Bills a second round pick if they put him on the block. The Patriots seem content with their current running backs, but adding McCoy for the cost of a second round pick and maybe Rex Burkhead would make the Patriots even heavier Super Bowl favorites.
With Taylor it’s a little harder to trade him but not impossible. If a team’s quarterback goes down for the season like Ryan Tannehill in Miami, the Bills should call and offer Taylor. Even without an injury an opportunity to trade Taylor could happen. For example, the Texans could struggle on offense with Deshaun Watson or Tom Savage and could offer the Bills a third round pick for Taylor. Similarly the Jaguars could be ready to make a playoff push but Blake Bortles continues to struggles and the Jaguars could offer the Bills a third round pick for Taylor. Trading Taylor would also allow the Bills to take a look at fifth round rookie, Nathan Peterman.
The day started off with the six game suspension of Elliot and that will be the headline for the NFL over the next few weeks. However, these two trades will have a major effect for three franchises and most importantly the Bills. The NFL is turning into the NBA; trade your best assets for draft picks and tank for a quarterback. The Bills are going all-in on this strategy and these two trades just kicked it off.