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Bills deny Watkins trade was made with eye toward future

Brandon Getty Images

When the Bills gave up, as a practical matter, more draft picks for receiver Sammy Watkins than it would take to get tight end* Jimmy Graham away from the Saints, it seemed fairly obvious that the current stewards of the football organization weren’t worried about losing future picks they may not be there to use, given the looming ownership change.

Current CEO Russ Brandon — who could be former CEO Russ Brandon after the new boss takes over — tried to downplay the notion that the franchise’s future was mortgaged to ensure that key employees would have a future with the franchise.

It has nothing to do with the future,” Brandon told Judy Battista of NFL Media.  “It is everything about the future is now.  [G.M.] Doug Whaley and our player personnel department are empowered and have full autonomy to make football decisions.  That was a football decision, and it wasn’t tied to the future of the organization.  It is business as usual.”

If it was business as usual, it was an unusual move to give up so much future value to move up five spots.  Especially when Whaley’s philosophy is to build through the draft.

“We’re making football decisions, no matter what,” Brandon said.  “We’re making business decisions as we would, in a very prepared and methodical way. Doug Whaley did a great job preparing for the draft — they stayed true to doing what they wanted to do, and that was to move up to take Sammy Watkins.  Everything is about winning.  I know it’s a cliché.  It has not one iota of an impact on who the future owner may be.”

Brandon is saying that because he has to.  But the truth is that Brandon and Whaley and coach Doug Marrone and everyone else currently employed by the football side of the operation — and a lot of people on the non-football side of the operation — instantly saw their prospects become incredibly cloudy once Ralph Wilson passed.

New owners want to hire their own people.  Jimmy Haslam has cleaned house in Cleveland — twice in less than two years.  So the folks currently in the house in Western New York need to show they deserve to stay.  And if they can get the fans on their side by quickly becoming a true contender, the new owner will need to show patience, especially in light of the broader dynamics relating to the future geographic location of the team.

So, yes, they’re trying to enhance their chances of sticking around.  And, no, they’re not worried about giving up 2015 draft picks that they may not be there to use.  And, yes, they’ll only be there to not use them if the Bills do so well that the fan base would never accept a flurry of pink slips in January that would be nearly as intense as the lake-effect snow.

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32 Responses to “Bills deny Watkins trade was made with eye toward future”
  1. corkspop says: May 27, 2014 9:22 AM

    Who would most GM’s and coaches rather have two, three or even five years from now…. Watkins or Graham? It was a good trade for the Bills and the Browns.

  2. wnbasuperfan says: May 27, 2014 9:23 AM

    Drop the Jimmy Graham scenario. No one is going to pay 2 first round picks and a ten-million plus salary to a player midway through his career.

  3. iloveagoodnap says: May 27, 2014 9:27 AM

    Also, you’re the only person who thinks trading for Grahm would have been a “good move” for the Bills. You said it yourself, Whaley likes to build from the draft. So why would he trade picks for a veteran that will cost him 60 million over 5 years than for a rookie that will cost him 15 million in that time? He wouldn’t, because it wouldn’t make sense. Jarius Byrd would be on the team if they were willing to shell out that much for one guy.

  4. jmblosser82 says: May 27, 2014 9:33 AM

    Graham is proven and would’ve took pressure off of Johnson. Watkins is a beast but being a beast in college doesn’t always transfer over to the NFL. The lack of a QB makes the Graham or Watkins debate a side note tho, EJ has potential but what are the chances he becomes a franchise QB?

  5. jjrs89 says: May 27, 2014 9:39 AM

    You’re really going overboard saying that should traded for Graham.

  6. jpaq68 says: May 27, 2014 9:40 AM

    The Bills will not contend again until they totally clean house and eliminate the culture of losing that has hung over that organization for the past fifteen years.

    Brandon, Whaley and Marrone’s days are numbered and they know it.

  7. nflcrimerankingscom says: May 27, 2014 9:42 AM

    Are using two high 1st round draft picks on an unknown receiver (Watkins) vs. two lower 1sts for an elite known receiver (Graham).

    Bills clowned by Browns.

  8. burgundyskins says: May 27, 2014 9:46 AM

    Watkins over Graham and it’s not even close because of the money and age. Watkins is *20* years old and will sign a deal roughly around 4 years/20-22Million while Graham is *27* years old, would’ve warranted a deal at 10-12mil+ Annually (Let’s say 5years/58Mil) AND on top of that would’ve costed two first rounders essentially the same.

    Graham is more dynamic as of now but the age difference and the cap ramifications make it a no brainer.

  9. clevelandrocksyourface says: May 27, 2014 9:56 AM

    I really, REALLY wanted the Browns to take Watkins. That being said, it’s hard to complain about having an extra top ten pick in next years draft. Thanks Buffalo!

  10. politicallyincorrect says: May 27, 2014 10:02 AM

    are some here really comparing Watkins to “a TE”…. wow

    Watkins looks like the next “real” elite WR….

  11. nupe3 says: May 27, 2014 10:11 AM

    This whole mortgaging the future thing is so bogus, if they were so worried why would they trust their future to a second year player like EJ. Why not do what Andy Reid did and give up a ton of picks for a above average QB ? Overpay for Vick or another journeyman QB. Why not go for broke in free agency ? They traded a future first round pick for an impact player. Teams do it every year and if a team is not for sale you don’t give it two thoughts. By the way to the people knocking Buffalo pull up our drafts since 2011 and then pull up your teams. Not a lot of teams hitting on the draft the way the Bills are 1-7. When we start winning you guys will celebrate getting our front office guys, the way you do our free agents

  12. johnnyjagfan says: May 27, 2014 10:14 AM

    This isn’t a rebuild move. Reminds me of how the Falcons are building. Get your QB, then go get a super-sized #1 WR to compliment your B+ WR corps.

  13. laboni64 says: May 27, 2014 10:16 AM

    Remind me again, what has Cleveland done with their array of top ten picks over the past decade?

  14. officialgame says: May 27, 2014 10:24 AM

    Why worry about a future when there may be no future?

  15. kgun80 says: May 27, 2014 10:27 AM

    They believe Watkins can help Manuel. The draft was basically to help EJ succeed. Big O-linemen and good depth Lots of speed at WR, a reliable TE and a good running game. If Manuel doesn’t play well a new owner may just get get rid of Whaley and Marrone. As a Bills fan this would just be another whitewash.. So I’m hoping they succeed, I’m sick of starting over.

    This was definitely a pick made to have impact NOW! And provide job assurance for management and the coaches

  16. thestrategyexpert says: May 27, 2014 10:30 AM

    This team would be one possible choice to consider in lieu of the Cardinals if the new owner emerges soon. I’d love to see if the new owner would be willing to have some detailed conversations with the coaches and managers of this team regarding the present and the future. It could be some interesting insight to see the thoughts of what could be perhaps the beginning of a new dynasty, or an interesting way for the new owner to showcase how he didn’t just automatically clean house from Day 1 and gave these guys a chance before axing everybody prior to Season 2.

    To me it’s a win-win from the owner’s perspective:

    If things work out then who cares what people hear because you can’t beat our team anyhow, and if we suck then we can say now here’s why I’m a great owner, because I quickly identified why these football people needed to be replaced and watch how fast we improve when we go from what we had to what I assemble. How much do you appreciate me as the new owner after you see this transition instead of being stuck in a never-ending loop of futility? Thank me by buying some tickets at higher prices than ever before and get some jerseys too, plus check out all the other neat stuff we have to sell that other teams don’t have to offer. The Bills football experience is unlike anything else in sports, it is pure awesomeness, with or without the previous staff.

  17. deadlevelbest says: May 27, 2014 10:50 AM

    As a Bills fan, I would have paid more to get a once in a generation talent like Watkins.

  18. rabidbillsfan says: May 27, 2014 10:58 AM

    Funny how Cleveland fans are here talking smack, what do you think 2 1st round picks are going to do for you? You had 2 in 2012 and neither are with the team, and on top of that, you still picked top-10 the following season! If anybody should be giving up 2 first round picks for proven talent, it’s the Browns. Factory of Sadness lives on.

  19. tomcous says: May 27, 2014 10:59 AM

    Good Deal for Browns … Good Deal for Bills!

    Win-Win for both parties!

    The Bills did not give up more picks than it would take to get Jimmy Graham nor are they paying $10 million a year for a TE/WR hybrid …

    Watkins runs circles around Jimmy in every scenario imaginable !!!

  20. sharp1128 says: May 27, 2014 11:03 AM

    I do not understand why people outside of Buffalo keep saying we gave up TWO (2) 1st rounders for Watkins.

    We simply swapped this years 1st round pick and gave up a 4th rounder and next years 1st. We then traded SJ13 and picked up an additional pick next year which wiped out the lost 4th rounder.

    With that being said, when it is all said and done we picked up perhaps the best player in the draft (at least the best offensive player) and only lost ONE first rounder next year, not TWO.

    Total Net Loss = Steve Johnson and 1 first round pick 2015

    Swapping 1st round picks at #4 & #9 does not mean we lost a first round pick, we still picked this year in the 1st round!!!!! Therefore we only gave up ONE (1) first round pick for Sammy Watkins!!!!

    When Atlanta traded away the farm for Julio Jones (Which is essentially the same player as Watkins, as a matter of fact, Watkins had better production), the Falcons were praised for this move. Buffalo makes the same move, giving up MUCH less, and we are the seen as a team in desperation.

    Fact is we the Bills will be seen as a bad team until we prove otherwise. Hope this year we shut everyone up! GO BILLS!!!!!

  21. nupe3 says: May 27, 2014 11:05 AM

    What Owner would fire Whaley look at Buffalo’s drafts since he’s arrived ? The only logical reason to get rid of him would be to bring in a Crony. Aquiring talent hasn’t been the issue since 2011 it has been more about keeping the talent and getting in a good QB

  22. goldrush36 says: May 27, 2014 11:18 AM

    ok here is the reality….. They saved at least 16 mil a year doing what they did. There is ZERO logic in doing it the opposite way.

  23. kipersdaddy says: May 27, 2014 11:23 AM

    the Cleveland browns are now on the clock. thx buffalo

  24. joetoronto says: May 27, 2014 11:31 AM

    Future, what future?

  25. rrhess1529 says: May 27, 2014 11:41 AM

    If It was a move to try and secure their own future, then hats off to them I wouldn’t want to lose a job like that…Go Bills

  26. urbusted2 says: May 27, 2014 11:42 AM

    True Browns fans aren’t talking smack. The deal was good for both teams, but I would have preferred to get Watkins. Most Browns fans wanted the same. Our hits in the first round must improve or we lose. Period.

  27. pftstory says: May 27, 2014 1:32 PM

    New coaches bring in a new QB because 90% of the time the one he is replacing wasn’t any good and helped get the prior coach fired.
    New GM’s bring in a new HC because 90% of the time the one he is replacing wasn’t any good and got the prior GM fired.
    Did Haslam in Cleveland clean house of a great GM/Prez/Coach combination that had built a history of winning in Cleveland?
    Even Jerry Jones when he fired Landry, he did it in a classless way, but Landry was no longer collecting division titles.

    New managements replace those under them not to have “their own guy” in place, they do it because they typically are the new management because the old management had people under them who were failing.

  28. jpaq68 says: May 27, 2014 4:30 PM

    And the Decade(s) of Fail continue …….

  29. kwickett85 says: May 27, 2014 4:40 PM

    Why or you so obsessed with them not trading for Jimmy Graham? Graham would have cost over twice as much and is 7 years older.

    The Bills have a great group of young WR’s and now they actually have a TRUE #1 WR in Watkins. Watkins, Woods (more potential than Stevie), Williams, Goodwin, Graham.

  30. coseybedaman says: May 27, 2014 8:33 PM

    The Graham comment is idiotic. We could pay 3 Sammy Watkins caliber guys for the price it would cost for Graham. Furthermore, whether EJ Manuel is the guy or not, Graham sure as hell wasnt going to produce “Saint like numbers” for the Bills. We dont run that type of offense. Jimmy is a phenomenal player, but would be no more than a “slightly above average” tight end in the Bills system. Sammy has the chance to be a top 5 WR in the NFL

  31. kvt7280 says: May 28, 2014 2:47 AM

    The only other player I would give similar compensation for is AJ Green or Julio Jones but you would have to pay them at least $10-$20 million a year and most of it must be guaranteed as well. Watkins is under a rookie contract for about 4 years before you get a chance to extend him or not extend him. So as long as Watkins has the same impact as AJ Green and Julio Jones as a rookie, and makes the playoffs it was a steal, but if the Bills end up back at the top 10, they got ripped off just like the Rams ripped off the Redskins when they traded for RG3.

  32. kennyjames21 says: May 28, 2014 4:06 AM

    The writer of the article nailed one thing – this is the bills front office reacting to the fact ownership is about to change because they are afraid of losing their jobs, and based on their performance, rightfully so.
    Last year, they reached on manuel – and I have no problem with that, they needed to try a QB and he was worth a shot as much as most QBs in last years draft. But he was pretty lousy last year, yet the bills have done absolutely nothing for a plan B in the event of manuel being lousy (or getting injured again) this year. They should have drafted a QB and started teaching him their system. Missing on a reach at QB is one thing, doing nothing to prepare for the possibility of said QB flaming out is unacceptable.
    Then on top of that, they spend 2 first rounders to get a wide receiver. (And yes, they used TWO FIRST ROUND PICKS – one this year, and one next year, TWO – that’s for the clowns who apparently can’t handle simple math and/or accept reality) First of all, very few WR’s justify using two first rounders on. Secondly, this draft had several good WRs and most experts agree there wasn’t a huge gap between them. Secondly, WR isn’t very usefull if you don’t have a good QB, and the bills don’t have a good QB, and when they finally realize that this year, they won’t have a first rounder next year to deal with the problem.
    Finally, I guess it will be ironic that this move may simply further ensure this group running the bills will be ejected when the new owner shows up – and as a bills fan, I’ll be happy about that.

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