When the Buffalo Bills traded two of their most talented players -- wide receiver Sammy Watkins and cornerback Ronald Darby -- for draft picks and lower-upside compensation, most read the moves as the new team brass flushing the 2017 season and eyeing a full rebuild with the draft capital.
New general manager Brandon Beane took issue with the notion that the Bills are tanking.
"I was very annoyed," Beane told Pro Football Talk on Tuesday. "We would not have tried to get Anquan Boldin on our team if we were tanking. We would not have tried to get Jordan Matthews -- who, if you look at his numbers in his first three years, they're pretty good. We would not have tried to get E.J. Gaines. We would have just tried to get more draft capital if we weren't worried about 2017. We're going to compete our tails off for 2017."
As NFL Network's Gregg Rosenthal noted in the immediate aftermath of the trades, the Matthews and Gaines acquisitions allow the Buffalo brass to sell to the fan base that they aren't completely cashing in the 2017 season. Football fans, however, aren't teetering droolers. Bills fans, who have stuck by the team through a playoff-less streak that dates to pre-Y2K, know the score. They understand their team just shipped out two talented players for inferior replacements to get quality draft stock in return.
The Bills aren't "tanking" the 2017 season, but the trades certainly didn't make them any closer to competing with the New England Patriots this year. The hope is those draft selections will help close the gap down the road. That's not tanking. It's team building.