Trade alert, trade alert!! The Bills are making moves!! To recap, the Bills traded WR Sammy Watkins and a 2018 6th Rd draft pick to the Rams for CB E.J. Gaines and a 2018 2nd Rd draft pick. Also traded was CB Ronald Darby to the Philadelphia Eagles for WR Jordan Matthews and a 2018 3rd Rd draft pick. Whether you are a negative Nancy or a positive Peter dictates how you feel about this trade. A lot of talk has been made regarding whether the Bills are tanking and stockpiling draft picks. I don’t believe this to be the case. I believe the Bills are making moves to build through the draft while not sacrificing the present. They are are the Buffalo Bills, not the Cleveland Browns. They share the same lake, but not the same approach. Buffalo now owns 6 draft choices in the first 90 picks in next years draft and a team that can win more than 1 game in a season. This allows flexibility to build a winner while not sacrificing this year’s team. Yes, the Bills lost some talent, but not depth, and they picked up pieces to build for the future.
Sammy Watkins has left a lot to be desired during his time in Buffalo, having missed key portions of each season due to injuries. The Bills also declined the 5th year option on his rookie deal, making Watkins a free agent after the season. The likelihood of the Bills signing him to a long term deal was possible, but would have come at a steep price due to the ever increasing amount teams willing to pay for talent. The Bills were smart to move Watkins while his value was high, obtaining draft capital and a CB to reinforce the secondary which was shown to be horrendous last season.
It has been heavily documented that Sammy Watkins suffered a Jones fracture which has required 2 surgeries and uncertainty of returning to form without complications. The previously linked article from Buffalo Rumblings is an excellent read, got to give credit where it’s due! Besides the Jones fracture, Watkins has sustained numerous injuries including a hip labrum tear and ankle, calf, thigh, groin, and rib injuries during his time with the Bills. While his stats have lined up with his contemporaries in the 2014 NFL draft when on the field, Watkins missing time is more crucial due to the Bills relying on his abilities alone in order to win. As a fan, I would rather have a lesser talent who can participate weekly with the team than someone who isn’t certain to contribute.
Breaking down E.J. Gaines injury history, which includes a 2014 concussion that was sustained in Week 16 and a thigh injury sustained in 2016 towards the end of the season are worth mentioning. The only major injury Gaines has sustained is a Lisfranc injury during training camp in 2015 which caused him to miss the entire season. The injury occurred due to Kenny Britt stepping on his foot during practice. A Lisfranc injury is where the long bones in the foot called the metatarsals that connect to the cuboid bones in the mid-foot become fractured or dislocated. In Gaines case, stepping on the foot caused the injury. In other cases, falling forward when the toes are pointed down can cause this injury. It is not a sexy way to seriously injury one’s self. In all cases, surgery is recommended if there is a fracture or dislocation. While this injury is serious, it is one that appears to be less complex, such as the complications that Watkins has had with his foot injury. Besides arthritis in the coming years, I don’t anticipate that this will continue to hamper Gaines’ production in the defense.
Analyzing Jordan Matthews injury history, he has sustained injuries including a sprained ankle at the end of the 2016 season, knee tendinitis in 2016-2017, back spasms in 2016, and an oblique injury in 2014. Besides the ankle sprain that limited him at the end of last season, there isn’t much that has prevented Matthews from contributing. The knee tendinitis is somewhat of a concern as it can continue to linger, but hasn’t caused him to miss any time. He has produced with consistency that has puts him with elite company. I am hard pressed to find a player who does not deal with some sort of injury throughout the NFL season. What I am concerned about is the extent of time missed due to injury and complications with returning to full health such as Watkins. I do not see these concerns with Matthews. While not all injuries can be prevented, it is important to understand how the injuries occur and the lasting impacts it has on player performance. It remains to be seen how this trade will play out in the coming season and years.
While there are many more discussions regarding the players and their performance on the field, I believe the Bills came away with solid draft picks allowing them to find players who can help them win. I also believe that player wise, the Bills moved players who could continue to be a liability on the field for players that are proven at what they do. They also do not have as significant injury histories, allowing them to stay healthy and contribute towards winning and building depth for the season.