Friday, May 9, 2014
Trickle-down effect of Watkins trade
By Mike Rodak
The Buffalo Bills' trade Thursday night that netted Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins has implications beyond its steep cost.
In moving up five spots to select Watkins, the Bills gave up their 2015 first- and fourth-round picks, limiting their ability to add players in next spring's draft. The implication there? The Bills better make the playoffs, or there could be another group of decision-makers calling the shots next season.
There are more immediate effects, however. Let's dive in:
No excuses for Manuel: To borrow a line from "Wedding Crashers," quarterback EJ Manuel must follow rule No. 76: "No excuses, play like a champion." If the Bills are right about Watkins, then Manuel has his No. 1 receiver. Calvin Johnson makes Matthew Stafford better, Julio Jones makes Matt Ryan better, and A.J. Green makes Andy Dalton better. If Manuel doesn't improve this season, it will be hard to justify the Bills keeping him as the starter into 2015. But it's very realistic to expect Manuel to improve. The Bills have given him what he needs to be successful and it should be a fun training camp and preseason as we potentially see Manuel mature.
What to do with Stevie? When asked about Stevie Johnson's future Thursday night after the trade, general manager Doug Whaley told reporters that they could "pontificate" about that as they wished. Well, why not? The Bills aren't going to publicly say it, but it makes plenty of sense for the team to listen to trade offers for Johnson. He's not the Bills' No. 1 receiver anymore and with Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin looking to take a step forward in their second seasons, there could be less opportunities for Johnson. He still has three years remaining on his deal, which means the Bills wouldn't have much of a salary cap benefit by trading or releasing Johnson this offseason. I would expect the Bills to entertain offers in the coming weeks and months and make a decision by training camp if they want to do a deal or not.
What about Graham? Remember T.J. Graham? He's now buried on the Bills' depth chart at wide receiver. A former third-round pick, you could argue Graham is now as low as No. 6 on the Bills' depth chart. He won't push Watkins, Woods, or Johnson (if he remains) for playing time and barring Mike Williams being a complete disappointment, Graham won't surpass his playing time, either. Graham will need to push Goodwin for a role, but it still would be shocking if Goodwin was cut after just one season. With special teams captain Marcus Easley also part of the mix at wide receiver, Graham will need to hope for an injury or Johnson's departure if he is to make the team. Graham started six games last season, and aside from a few deep catches was generally a disappointment.
Tight end, tackle skipped over: We'll go more in-depth into the Bills' second- and third-round options later Friday, but by trading up for Watkins, the Bills passed up selecting a tight end or offensive tackle at No. 9. They could target either of those positions on Day 2, but for right now, Scott Chandler remains their starting tight end, with Tony Moeaki his only true competition on the depth chart. The Bills remain shaky at right tackle, with Erik Pears and Chris Hairston potentially battling for the starting job if the Bills don't pick up a lineman Friday night.