I was away from my computer for the vast majority of Friday (which probably worked in my favor from a big-picture mental health standpoint.) As such, I didn't get to opine on the Buffalo Bills' trade of receiver Lee Evans to the Baltimore Ravens as much as I could have.
After reflecting on things a bit, I need to get my final thoughts down on paper (or on the Internet, as it were) before moving onto the team's first pre-season game of the season.
- No, I'm not particularly enthused about the fourth-round pick that the Bills got from Baltimore for Evans. I get the idea of getting what you can for a player that you've been thinking about dumping anyway, and from that standpoint, I suppose a fourth-round pick could seem like gold. But the odds of that fourth-round pick - whoever he is next year - being a franchise cornerstone are small. That's without mentioning the short-term ramifications, which we'll get into after the jump.
- I remain concerned with the idea of putting the onus of the passing game on Stevie Johnson. (Well, yes, the onus of the passing game is on Ryan Fitzpatrick, which isn't new, but passing is a two-way street, and Johnson's the guy now.) Specifically, I'm concerned that Johnson will be as effective as he was last season; it's a lot to ask of a guy with only one good year under his belt to suddenly get Larry Fitzgerald-level attention from opposing defenses. That's exactly what Stevie will get, too, until one of Buffalo's younger receivers steps up and starts producing statistically.
- I don't buy into the idea that trading Evans means that the team is giving up on the season. NFL teams prepare to win, and the Bills haven't done a lot of winning with Evans. The team was facing an uphill battle as it was, and I don't think much has changed. The team's biggest problems still have nothing to do with the receiver position.
- Chris Mortensen mentioned yesterday that the Bills were getting Evans' salary off the books by accepting just one draft pick as trade compensation. I understand why Bills fans would equate that with the old "Ralph is cheap" line, but even at a fairly moderate salary, Evans was overpaid. He's made an awful lot of money from the Buffalo Bills over the last seven seasons, and he'll make a lot more in Baltimore. The Bills need to be fiscally wise - it's the nature of their existence in Western New York - and I'm not for one second put off by the idea that the Bills saved some money in this deal.
- I'm not worried about the long-term impact of this trade in the locker room, despite Drayton Florence's best efforts to prove to NFL fans that Twitter is something people who need to be careful of what they say in public probably shouldn't have. The true core of this team is very youthful, and Evans - while obviously liked and respected by his teammates - was on the fringe of the current culture of that room, in my estimation. That group will stay tight.
- It's very difficult to get a read on the receiving corps at this point, but listening to Fitzpatrick talk up Donald Jones yesterday, I've got to believe that the second-year receiver from Youngstown State has a very legitimate shot to be a starter opposite Johnson on opening day. Roscoe Parrish and David Nelson, as we discussed yesterday, are better players in the slot. Jones has the ability to play on the outside, and his physical style of play makes him very unique amongst his receiver peers. I won't claim that he'll gain the most statistically - that'll be either Nelson or Parrish - but I get the feeling we're going to be seeing an awful lot of Jones this year.
- I don't buy the argument that the Bills are better off because Evans didn't fit Chan Gailey's vision for the offense. Friends: Chan Gailey's vision for the offense is to find good football players and let them do what they do best. I've no doubt that Evans would've had a very good year in Buffalo. Gailey gets players to produce one way or another eventually. Yes: this hurts the team in the short term.
- GM Buddy Nix said that the team moved Evans to let their young, talented receivers develop, and quite frankly, there's nothing wrong with that line of thought. At the end of the 2010 season, when Evans and Parrish were on IR and all of those undrafted rookies were on the field, they proved in live NFL action that they deserved this opportunity. Now they're getting it, and as Nix himself said, we'll see if they can turn this into a wise decision when hindsight becomes 20/20.
Lee Evans was drafted by the Bills while I was still in high school (barely), so much like when Paul Posluszny departed via free agency, I definitely get an ephemeral feeling that I've reached the end of an era. Au revoir, Lee. A new era of Bills football begins this very evening, and I'm rather jazzed.