Bills should have simply made a run at Jimmy Graham

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The Bills made a big splash on the first night of the draft, sending the ninth overall pick in the draft, a 2015 first-round selection, and a 2015 fourth-round pick to the Browns for the ability to secure the rights to receiver Sammy Watkins.

It was a bold move by G.M. Doug Whaley. Some would call it insanity to give up that much for an unproven receiver. If it’s insanity, it was calculated.

Whaley knows he’ll soon have a new owner. Whaley needs to make the team into a contender so that the new owner won’t be able to sell firing Whaley to the fan base. Otherwise, Whaley will be a former General Manager, and former General Managers in recent years have had a hard time becoming General Managers again.

But if Whaley was opting for calculated insanity, Whaley should have gone all in, taking the best available player with the ninth overall pick in 2014 and then promptly signing Saints tight end Jimmy Graham to an offer sheet.

By crafting an offer sheet that the Saints wouldn’t or couldn’t match, the Bills could have had him for first-round picks in 2015 and 2016. Which means that could have used their 2014 first-round pick while also giving up future picks that Whaley may not be there to use.

In the end, the Bills gave up more to get Watkins than they would have had to give up to get Graham. For Watkins, it was two first-round picks (one of which was a top-10 selection in 2014) and a fourth-round pick. For Graham, it would have been a first-round pick in 2015 and a first-round pick in 2016.

113 responses to “Bills should have simply made a run at Jimmy Graham

  1. Lets make it seem worse than it is they gave up a top ten pick plus a first and fourth for a top five pick. So essentially only gave up a first and a fourth for Watkins

  2. Except the Bills would also have to end up giving Graham a long-term contract at probably 8 figures a year. That “plan” of yours doesn’t sound as smart as you think it does.

  3. Graham disappears in big games. Watkins is an unknown with predicted game-changing potential. I’d rather gamble on the NFL unknown than the Wide End Graham.

  4. Playing devil’s advocate, Jimmy Graham has a chronic foot injury which will never heal, and is older. Watkins might be better, and might be worse. Only time will tell on this one. This is a fresh take, though.

  5. No way. Getting tired of all this Bills negativity. They will surprise everyone this season, wait & see..

  6. Jimmy doesn’t like the cold. Jimmy won’t sign that offer. Jimmy’s getting mad.

  7. Oh sure. He makes it sound so simple. Just sign Jimmy Graham! He would have to wanna come here in the first place.

  8. Love the site Mike, but this just seems lazy….

    1. How much would Buffalo have to pay Graham to sign an offer sheet that would actually get him out of NO?

    2. If the grades on Watkins are accurate, then he’s got a shot at being a better player than Graham. If we’re talking about him being in the Green/Jones ballpark, I’d take that over Graham.

    3. Even if the Bills were to sign Graham to an offer sheet, if NO matches, then it is all for naught.

    Agreed – Sammy hasn’t caught a pass in the league. With that said, I’m totally fine with this roll of the dice. I think most Bills fans are too.

  9. Been a Bills fan longer than ANY player or coach employed by Buffalo and I am in full support Doug Whaley. He’s the GM we have needed for 10+ years and finally have.

    I’m really hoping the new ownership is generally hands off.

  10. Really sick of hearing this crap about having given up 2 #1 picks for Watkins. They swapped 1st round picks! The Bills gave up ONE 1st in 2015 and a 4th in 2015.

    As for Graham, why pay a long term 8 figure salary AND 2 first round picks for an older receiver? Watkins is young, healthy and cost a boat load less in salary. And, IMO, will be every bit as good as Graham right out of the gate.

    Sorry, your theory is flawed.

  11. For those thinking his plan doesn’t make sense because of the contract that would have to be given to Graham, you’re forgetting the basic premise–a new owner may not keep the GM anyways. Probably won’t, without some dramatic progress on the field. So why would he care about said contract?

    Not saying it’s a great idea– it probably isn’t–but I would argue that it’s less crazy than going all in for any WR, much less one that’s totally unproven, at a position that’s arguably the most difficult to project in the NFL besides QB.

  12. Just for giggles I do like this. The bills could have gotten a game changer on offense and another top ten pick. That’s not bad. The only problem is they still don’t have a QB.

  13. Unreal the huge whole in this logic by the way. This is the kind of article I expect from someone on a message board. Every commenter here is right on.

  14. Graham’s 28, isn’t he? Little long in the tooth for a TE, certainly not worth 2 firsts. Would have been better to take Ebron with one first than Graham with two.

  15. No way they would get Graham to sign. Also your point that they would get to keep the pick and give up to future picks, doesn’t make sense. They got to use their pick this year, and gave up next years 1st and 4th.

    You want them to give up next years first AND the year after that’s first?! He needs to win now, and to win now you need to have the RIGHT players. The Bills have had good players come in free agency and they haven’t made the playoffs in 14 years. Sammy Watkins has huge potential and is a guy they wanted. It’s refreshing to see them make moves for guys they wanted.

    Let’s say the whole team is good and EJ looks alright, and the team does well enough for Whaley to keep his job. If he realizes that after next season EJ isn’t the guy, it would sure be great to have the 1st in 2016. OR lets say the whole thing blows up and he’s out with a new owner. You are then out your 1st round picks for the first 2 years with the new guys.

    Whaley spent future, but not too much future.

  16. Who writes these articles? The Bills didn’t “give up” this years pick, we swapped 9 for 4. They didn’t lose 9, they got 4 for 9. Is that really hard to figure out? I’ll say it again… Russell Wilson was a 3rd, Kaepernick was a 2nd, Dalton a 2nd, Brady a 6th on and on and on. You don’t need a 1st to draft a franchise QB anymore. When you miss the playoffs 15 years in a row, being conservative and drafting the 3rd best tackle isn’t putting you over the hump. Whaley understands this, the writer of this article does not.

  17. Saying the Bills gave up 2 firsts for Watkins is so misleading. They gave up a 2015 first and swapped 2014 firsts plus a 2015 fourth.

  18. This is an idea. But just because an idea is an idea, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. I’m not sure how you could type, proof read, and then still post a paragraph claiming two future first round picks is somehow less than future first and fourth round picks (I don’t buy into the argument about how they also gave up a first this year. It was a swap of picks, that’s not a lost pick). Add in how much Graham would cost, and it’s almost shameful you posted this click bait. The Bills made a move, and it remains to be seen if it works out, but this outlandish scenario you’ve crafted is pure fantasy.

  19. Plus they did not “GIVE” up a 2014 pick. They traded up to get a higher pick. So they gave up a 2015 first rounder a 4th rounder. They did not give up two first round pick. Not to mention if Watkins turns out to be as good, as many think he will. He come at a cheaper price overall.

  20. Most analysts are saying this was risky because if Manuel does not pan out this year then the Bills are without a 1st round pick for a QB next year. Signing Graham would put the Bills without a 1st in 2016 as well …

    Manuel is going to get this year and next to prove his worth … that 2016 1st rounder is crucial to hedging their bets.

    This is all getting overplayed! The Falcons gave up more to get Julio! The Bills paid Trade Chart Value and were also able to recoup value by trading back in a couple of rounds …

    Bold moves by Whaley? For sure … Insane moves? Far from it!

  21. I think you might want to re-think your logic GM Florio.

    1. Graham is not signing an offer sheet in Buffalo unless he’s real sure the Saints would match.

    2. Buffalo isn’t paying anyone $10 mill per year AND giving up two firsts – and nor should they.

  22. If you go for Graham, you better already have a franchise QB. At least with Watkins, he is shifty and elusive and can probably make big plays from short passes. Graham is fast for a TE and is overpowering to DBs but you cannot forget that Brees is getting the ball to him on the money. Who knows if Graham would be near as good with a lesser QB.

  23. Come on Florio, even a lawyer should be able to understand that the Bills SWAPPED first round picks this year. They did not give up two first round picks. But the “experts” keep saying it because it’s the Bills.

  24. That assumes a pass catching specialist TE in the Bills offense would be their most productive weapon. Nobody knows what Jimmy Graham would be catching passes from EJ Manuel and not Drew Brees, and not in Sean Payton’s offense.

  25. yes they only “Gave up” a 1st and 4th, but they still spent that pick on Watkins. acting like they didn’t spend a pick so it negates the fact that 2 firsts were involved is kind of ridiculous

  26. Fans are so stupid. You did give up 2 first round picks (and a 4th) for Watkins.

    Bill get Watkins:

    Bills give up: 2014 1st round pick, 2015 1st round pick, 4th round pick

    If Bills got Graham, they would have to give up: 2015 first round pick, 2016 first round pick. + more $$$

    But the draft pick cost is similar between the two cases

  27. They did spend, not give up, two first round picks for Watkins. So while the semantics were off, not wrong to think Graham would cost less in draft picks but a fourth rounder. But for cap hit, the trade was probably worth it.

  28. I get it the Bills haven’t made the playoffs in 14 years. It just really sucks that the media and others look and say.. Oh it’s the Bills it can’t be the right move they definitely overpaid..
    Well it was a a gutsy play. I’ll give Marrone and Whaley the benefit of the doubt they seem to actually have a plan for what they are building and sticking to it.
    They have made the defense respectable and even without Byrd and Pettine they have some play makers and some pretty good cover corners and a D line that will fit Schwartzs ‘ scheme. And some depth now. Not to mention a potential all pro in Alonso. And if Dareus can clean up he can be a force.
    The offense has some pretty good parts a good running game and some talented young receivers along with a massive offensive line. Mike Williams can be the big target that we have needed in the Redzone low risk high reward. Watkins and Spiller make defenses pick their poison with 2 players who can break it at anytime. It’s all basically up to Manuel.. If he can perform at a decent level with a strong running game and a good D the Bills may surprise a lot of people.
    Not only would this be great for Bills fans but maybe the media would stop whacking the Bills over the head every time they make a move . GO BILLS!

  29. The article fails to mention the money the Bills would have had to pay Graham. That money would be equal to one or more FAs. For that kind of money that could have signed a guy like Byrd. So for Graham it would cost the Bills 2 first round picks plus X number of players that they would be unable to resign or sign as FAs. Which arguably is subtantially more than Watkins. But Mike does make a valid point in that Graham is proven and Watkins is not. But then again how much worse will Graham be in the Bills offense than in the Saints offense?

  30. The problem with this idea is that Graham isn’t THAT good. He’s pretty easy to shutdown as evidenced by the Monday night fiasco against Seattle. It happened again in the playoffs after he tried to play the “I’m Jimmy card” on the 50 yard line before the kickoff.

    Seriously the guy told several members of the Seattle defense…and I quote….”Don’t you know who I am? I’m Jimmy Graham.”

    All he did was piss off the Seattle defense who promptly shut him down for a second time and laid a few licks on him doing it. He’s just not that good.

    He’s blessed to be on a team with a fine QB and very capable receivers around him, thus allowing him to play in the open middle of the field. But put him on a field with LB’s and Safeties that can cover and hit, he folds like a cheap tent.

    The Bills will be FAR better off with Watkins, although the price for him was high.

  31. Only thing I’ll knock the bills for is trading Stevie. That could have potentially been an awesome duo if Watkins is as good as everyone thinks.

  32. If you want to know why Western New York is in shambles, look no further than the Buffalo education on display in these comments.

    So here’s what the Bills had BEFORE they selected Sammy Watkins:

    2014 1st Rounder
    2015 1st Rounder

    Here’s what the Bills had AFTER they selected Sammy Watkins:

    If that’s not giving up two 1st Rounders, then I don’t know how else to explain it to you.

  33. Sorry. Graham wouldn’t put up the numbers he does with the QB-du jour that he would have in Buffalo. Top tier QBs like Brees, Brady, and P Manning elevate the receivers. Period.

    EJ Manual isn’t elevating anything anytime soon.

  34. The Bills swapped 1st round picks and gave up their 1st and 4th round picks in 2015 to get Watkins at #4.

    In 2011, Atlanta swapped 1st round picks and gave up their 2nd and 4th round picks in 2011, as well as their 1st and 4th round picks in 2012 to get Julio Jones at #6.

  35. Just better hope Watkins doesn’t go down the same road as Gordon. He was already busted once in College for weed, in which he was suspended two games.

  36. The Bills did fine. Where they set themselves back was trading Johnson. Watkins, Johnson & Spiller would have been sick. Seems like they traded away picks to break even on their roster.

  37. I don’t think Graham wants to leave NO, any offer he gets is just going to be used as leverage on his Saints contract.

    While I agree that Graham disappeared vs Seattle that’s because their secondary is built to cover tall receivers. It’s the speedy ones that give Seattle fits.

  38. billsfan says:
    May 11, 2014 7:40 PM
    Really sick of hearing this crap about having given up 2 #1 picks for Watkins. They swapped 1st round picks! The Bills gave up ONE 1st in 2015 and a 4th in 2015.


    Couldn’t agree more!

  39. I guarantee some of these Bills fans saying “We only gave up 1 first rounder!” I guarantee haven lol’d at the Redskins saying we have 3 first rounders, which we did. And guess what, you guys gave up two first rounders.

  40. Swapping picks isn’t the same thing as outright giving up a pick so this article is flat-out wrong to imply two first round picks were used on Watkins. On the other hand it WOULD have outright cost them two first round picks for Graham plus a huge contract.

  41. I don’t agree with the overall point, but on the question of what was given up to get Watkins – instead of Watkins they could have had the following:

    1. The player they would have chosen at 9
    2. The player they would have chosen with the 2015 first round pick
    3. The player they would have chosen with the 2015 fourth round pick.

    So you can argue with the “reasoning” of whether or not this was a good move, but the Bills did indeed give up 2 first rounders and a fourth rounder for Watkins. Because they could have had all of those players, but gave them all up to select Watkins instead.

  42. And who knows if graham would be any good without brees.. I’m sure no other qb could throw into his 15 ft catch radius.. graham is a freak and a top 15 player in the nfl. Period. Hate on

  43. I would rather take a chance on Watkins than sign a 10 million dollar a year Graham. Graham is proven and Watkins is not, but we know Grahams ceiling, we don’t know what Watkins can do yet… Who knows? Maybe Watkins is the next Reed, Irvin or Owens, or maybe he will be better… either way, I am excited and I know many, many Bills fans across the nation feel the exact same way.

  44. Stevie Johnson is a good possession receiver. Awesome route runner just overpaid. The trade had more to do with $ then anything else. Not to mention the Bills obviously feel pretty good about Woods, Williams, and Goodwin. He’s still 10+ mill against the cap but next year the extra $ will come in handy when it comes to sign or resign some guys.
    I won’t do what some people have done and knock Stevie now that he’s out of town.. the guy produced catching balls from Fitzpatrick. Sanfrancisco definitely got a good player and a good guy despite the rumors and antics on the field. But I definitely feel Woods has a similar skill set and could may be able to fill the same role

  45. The Bills DID give up two first round picks for Watkins. They SPENT a 2014 on him and traded a 2015 first PLUS a 2014 4th. Yes they swapped picks but they still SPENT their pick in choosing him. Also if the offer sheet was signed they would still get their ninth pick this year. The article is stating the case from Whaleys standpoint not knowing who his new boss will be. He can spend now and hope for the best and if it doesn’t work out he won’t be there to have to deal with large salary numbers.

  46. When the Texans selected Clowny, did they “give up” a pick for him or “use it”? I am going with “used it”.

  47. But you’re also without picks in the first round through 2016, not as of now just next year. If Watkins thrives, he’ll be painted as a genius. If he busts, he’ll be an idiot. Realistically, it’s a smart move. Promising receiver at a reasonable contract price vs. Jimmy Graham’s mega contract.

  48. The Bills have no QB. It doesn’t matter who plays receiver, running back and for that matter defense. No QB no playoffs. No playoffs no Super Bowl. New owner coming in and clearing house. 14 years and counting. Whaley and staff in panic mood.

  49. Leaving out the money in the deal is the obvious flaw in Florio’s position. It’s even more glaring when you realize in the past he has included the money in the deal to justify his position.

    Those that want to play semantics need to get it right. Those saying it is wrong to count the 2 first round draft picks being “given up” in the deal are wrong.
    They gave up the 9th this year, and their pick in 2015 in order to get Watkins. It took those picks plus the mid round pick to get him. If they stayed at 9 they would not have gotten Watkins. So they used 3 picks to get him.
    You can say they only gave up a 2015 first and a 2015 mid rounder to get this years 4th overall.
    People do this with the RGIII trade too.
    We all know the one team gives up those picks and get a pick in return. Even if we don’t explixitly say it. Those saying “whah, they gave up only one #1 not two end up counting both the pick and the player.
    You don’t count the pick and the player. Buffalo did not get both the #4 pick AND Watkins. They never had both at the same time.

    Meanwhile in the comparison to Graham. Yes the Bills gave up three picks for Watkins. They used two firsts and a mid rounder to get him. If they did get Graham as Florio proposed, they would give up two firsts for him. That is less. And they would also still have had this years #9 overall.
    In theory, Graham and the player taken at #9, SHOULD make the 2015 and 2016 #1’s of lesser value than 2014 #9 and where we all expect the 2015 #1 pick to be (not in the 20’s). So that too makes Graham the cheaper player when looking at only picks. But againt he 8 figure contract matters, as well as the challenge as to is he a WR or TE.

  50. It’s all futility.

    Been saying for years, if you’re a bad team for years you need to beef up both lines before you’re able to move forward.

    One flashy receiver isn’t going to vault you over the Patriots. Dominating line play will.

  51. Would have been better to trade down picking up a late 1st this year to draft a player that could help this year while picking up a 1st for next year and then signed The Giant Ginger.

    This way they’d still get Grahm and an impact player this draft as well as a likely late 1st next year while losing their 1st.

    Teams like the Pats, 49ers, Seahawks, and Broncos would have done the trade with the Bills.

  52. Bills fans: the Bills traded two firsts and a fourth for Watkins. That was the cost; as part of the deal, you lost the player you otherwise would have drafted at 9.You do realize that swap means trade, don’t you?

  53. The Bills swapped 1st round picks with Cleveland and then proceeded to USE that #4 pick on Watkins. If USING a pick is the same as “giving it up”, then you’re living in an alternate universe.

  54. ‘In the end, the Bills gave up more to get Watkins than they would have had to give up to get Graham. For Watkins, it was two first-round picks (one of which was a top-10 selection in 2014) and a fourth-round pick. For Graham, it would have been a first-round pick in 2015 and a first-round pick in 2016.’


    First of all Watkins is younger & much cheaper. Let’s see what kind of player Watkins becomes before you start analyzing this trade.

  55. Ok slow folks lets try it again:

    Imagine the BROWNS drafted Watkins.

    The Bills decide to get a receiver, they’re options are:

    1) 2 1st rnd picks + $$$ for top TE in League or

    2) 2 1st rnd picks + 4th rnd pick for maybe a good receiver in a few years.

    The Bills chose #2.

  56. This “2 first round pick” argument is ridiculous.
    They DID NOT give up 2 – 1st round picks. They gave up the 2015 1st rd and 4th rd picks.

    Did Buffalo have a 1st round selection this year ??
    Yes they did.
    Perhaps you could split hairs and say differently. Nuff said !

  57. No. Not remotely close to a bills fan, but this is just a bad idea. Financially And when thinking about the future. Graham is injury prone. And they only gave up one 1st, they still had one this year. Sammy Watkins looks like a beast to me. I hardly ever agree with you glorious, which is why I love this site.

  58. The Bills would have given up two first round picks if they traded for Josh Gordon and gave Cleveland this year’s 9th and the 2015 1st rd pick.

    Since the Bills were going to pick 1st in this year’s draft anyway, they bribed Cleveland by giving them next year’s 1st and 4th to move up 5 draft spaces to take Watkins and exchange draft spaces. It cost them one 1st round draft pick in one draft year. It is pretty clear they didn’t pay two 1st rd picks to get Watkins.

  59. I’m going to assume this has all been said already, but…

    1. They essentially gave up two picks for Watkins, not three.
    2. Graham has taken seasons of abuse. He plays hurt, like the end of last season. What’s the average career length of TEs?
    3. Rookie contract, maybe? To compete in this league, you can’t give up financially attractive rookies for expensive vets.
    4. A contract the Saints couldn’t match? That’d be pretty damn expensive.

  60. They didn’t “give up” a first round 2014 pick – they used the pick to take Watkins earlier in the round plus 2015 1st and 4th. Graham would have meant not drafting a player in ’14 or ’15 – which would be giving up the selection.

    Also, why do we care to speculate about this?

  61. OK all, Sammy Watkins cost the Bills 2-1st round picks and a 4th. Arguing over the schamantics is getting a little tired.

    That being said, with tbe comparisons to Julio Jones bring this thought to my head:

    Both Watkins and Julio were drafted with picks that originally owned by the Cleveland Browns.

    And with Josh Gordon getting suspended, the best WR on the Browns is Greg Little.

    Factory of sadness.

  62. > Playing devil’s advocate, Jimmy Graham has a chronic foot injury which will never heal, and is older.

    That’s news to us in New Orleans. BTW, he led the league in touchdowns.

  63. Simply put. Graham is older by 4-5 years, goes across the middle, and there might be a Belichick-
    “don’t take my current players” code with Marrone’s ex-boss Sean Payton.

    Plus, veterans aren’t always viewed attractive because they might not look like “system fits.”

  64. You should learn how to report accurately they didn’t give up a a top ten pick they traded a 9th pick for a 4th pick what they gave up was a 1st and a 4th pick in 2015 for Watkins, they would have had to give up two 1st round picks 1 in 2015 & 1 in 2016 for the pleasure to pay a least ten million a year for Graham Watkins is a better choice.

  65. I buy the argument that EJ Manual is terrible. But to say the Bill’s should of gone after Jimmy Graham is stupid. Graham is a great receiving TE, but the Bills can’t afford (cap wise) adding him on when they have other pressing needs. The most they give up with Watkins is one future 1st round draft pick vs two with Graham. All the draft expert said that he is far and away the best WR prospect to come out in the last 6 to 8 years.

  66. They still got Watkins as their first round pick. So yes, technically by signing Grahm instead they would have spent that pick elsewhere. But it’s incredibly misleading to say that they “Gave it up”. They still picked and got Watkins. It’s not like they just gave it away, which is what Florio’s anti-Bills agenda would want to make you think.

    Much better wording would be spent it on Watkins. But we all know how the media has turned to adoration in making the Bills look silly every chance they get.

  67. Watkins will be signed to rookie contract and Jimmy Graham is gonna be around 6 years and 70 million….what is this guy talking about – getting Graham for less?

  68. Remember, the Bills are a “Cash to the Cap” team.

    So Jimmy’s theoretical contract would be a much, much bigger hit than Sammy’s rookie contract will be.

    Does Graham get a say in this, or does he just automatically sign the contract with the bigger number?

  69. Can’t they still sign Jimmy Graham and only give up first round picks in 2016 and 2017???

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