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A look at the Buffalo Bills’ player trade history

Many Buffalo Bills fans are in “wait and see” mode after the Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby trades. The Bills will need to make good use of the second- and third-round picks in order to make up for the disparity in talent levels between the players who were traded away and the players who were acquired. How have the Bills come out on player trades in the past? Glad you asked. Here are the last 15 years of Bills player trades.

In 2002, the Bills traded away a first-round pick for quarterback Drew Bledsoe. After a very impressive season, Bledsoe didn’t throw for more than 3000 yards his two remaining years on the team. He did allow the Bills to move on from Rob Johnson but also kept the Bills from drafting and developing a QB. The team also traded Jay Foreman to Houston for Charlie Rogers. Do you remember either of them?

In 2003, the Bills cut ties with tight end Jay Riemersma and replaced him by trading for Mark Campbell, sending Cleveland a sixth rounder. Campbell played in 42 games for the Bills and generated about 700 yards and six touchdowns over three seasons. That seems a good use of a sixth-round pick. Cleveland used that pick on Kirk Chambers, who went on to play for Buffalo so it is kind of a double-dipping type situation.

Also in 2003, the Bills flat out stole a first-round pick from Atlanta. Peerless Price, who was supposed to give quarterback Michael Vick a reliable deep threat, put up a fairly pedestrian 1400 yards and six touchdowns over two seasons. Price eventually made his way back to Buffalo, even sharing the field with the player the Bills took with that pick from Atlanta. Willis McGahee was never beloved by Bills fans but put up about 3400 yards and 24 TDs in the three seasons after rehabbing his shredded knee. This trade worked out well for Buffalo.

The Bills made no trades in 2004 or 2005.

In 2006, the Bills acquired DE Anthony Hargrove from the St. Louis Rams for a fifth round pick in the 2007 draft and sent tight end Tim Euhus to New Orleans for linebacker Courtney Watson. Hargrove spent 2 seasons in Buffalo and had 47 tackles and 2.5 sacks. That seems marginally acceptable for a fifth-round pick.

In 2007, the second of Marv Levy’s years as general manager, the Bills shipped linebacker Takeo Spikes and quarterback Kelly Holcomb to Philadelphia for defensive tackle Darwin Walker and a conditional pick. The Bills used that pick on Stevie Johnson. Spikes played a year in Philly before spending three in San Francisco and two in San Diego. He averaged about 95 tackles, one sack, four passes broken up, and one interception per year. Those are good numbers over a long period of time. Holcomb ended up in Minnesota in 2007, appearing in three games before the end of his career. For his part, Walker didn’t stick around after the trade either, playing in a total of 21 games for Chicago and Carolina before his career ended. The trade really comes down to Takeo Spikes vs Stevie Johnson. While Spikes was good, Johnson arguably had the bigger impact as he put up about 2800 yards and 34 touchdowns. He gave Bills fans hope, though to be fair he also dashed it with idiotic penalties and an embarrassing drop that would have lifted the Bills over the very good Pittsburgh Steelers. This trade looks good for Buffalo in hindsight.

The Bills acquired DE Marcus Stroud from the Jags in 2008 for picks in the third and fifth rounds of the draft later that year. Stoud played his last three years for Buffalo and amassed about 150 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and broke up an astounding 17 passes. The picks wound up being LB Tavares Gooden (taken by Baltimore) and CB Orlando Scandrick, who has played 114 games for Dallas since being drafted by the Cowboys. Given the longevity of Scandrick, this trade doesn’t look great in hindsight for the Bills.

In 2009, new general manager Buddy Nix shipped unhappy tackle Jason Peters to Philadelphia (see a pattern?) for a 2009 first-round pick, 2009 fourth, and 2010 sixth. The Bills used that first-round pick on center Eric Wood, who has been a fixture on Buffalo’s line for the past eight seasons. The 2009 fourth-round pick was squandered on tight end Shawn Nelson. The 2010 sixth-round pick was wasted on LB Danny Batten. The trade was basically Jason Peters for Eric Wood. Wood has been a good center for Buffalo but left tackles are considered considerably more valuable. The Bills didn’t want to pay Peters (only two years after giving him a new contract) and made the deal. This trade doesn’t look very good for Buffalo in hindsight.

In 2010, the Bills unloaded Marshawn Lynch on the Seattle Seahawks. Buffalo received a fourth-round pick in 2011 and a sixth-round pick in 2012. The 2011 pick was used on Chris Hairston, a serviceable backup OT who has started 31 games (15 for the Bills) and played in 72 total. The sixth-round pick was spent on linebacker Tank Carder who couldn’t make the roster and has been with Cleveland since. Lynch went on to rush for about 6000 yards and 60 TDs in Seattle. There’s no question that Seattle got the better end of the bargain.

In 2011, receiver Lee Evans was shipped to Baltimore in exchange for a fourth-round pick. This was the continuation of Nix’s conversion of first-round picks into mid-round picks. Evans had a pitiful stat line in his one season in Baltimore and is perhaps best remembered for not making a touchdown catch. The Bills used that fourth-round pick on cornerback Ron Brooks. Brooks played 46 games for Buffalo before moving on to – wait for it – Philadelphia. He wasn’t a top-shelf corner but the Bills got quite a bit more mileage from him than the Ravens got out of Evans. Could Evans have generated 500ish yards had he remained in Buffalo? Maybe. But in hindsight it looks like Buffalo came out ahead in this trade due to how Evans actually did in Baltimore.

In 2012, the Bills sent a seventh rounder to Seattle to borrow QB Tarvaris Jackson for a season. This is really the dumbest trade on the list, irrespective of value. Jackson, we were told, was unable to climb out of the #3 position on the depth chart due to getting zero reps in practice. Coach Chan Gailey clearly knew this was going to be the case before doing the deal and yet the deal went ahead anyway. Surely if Jackson ever had been given any sort of opportunity to unseat Tyler Thigpen, Tarvaris would at least have clawed his way to the #2 QB slot.

In 2013, Buffalo shipped linebacker Chris White to Detroit for quarterback Thad Lewis, who wouldn’t find his way to Philadelphia until 2015. White is a special teamer who wasn’t special enough for Detroit to hold onto. The Lions shipped him off to New England, where White closed out his career in 2014. Lewis got on the field for the Bills in 6 games, completing 59.2% of his passes for 1092 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions, which led to a rating of 81.0. Bills fans didn’t bemoan the trade since White was a special teamer and also didn’t worry overly much when Lewis left after one season. This one is pretty much a wash.

2013 was a busy year for Nix as it pertained to trade. There was the non-factor trade of White for Lewis but there was also the prank trade talk of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to Tampa Bay. A month after that, Nix shipped an underperforming Kelvin Sheppard for confirmed bust Jerry Hughes. Sheppard spent a year in Indy, two in Miami and is now in New Jersey. He’s averaged about 60 tackles and one pass broken up in his six seasons, a contributor but one that few football fans really know about. Jerry Hughes, on the other hand, turned into a very good 4-3 defensive end. This trade was a hands down winner for the Bills.

In 2015 Matt Cassel briefly visited the Bills. Many were mortified when it looked like he was set to be the team’s starting quarterback, even though he came with a 2015 sixth round selection at the cost of a 2015 fifth and 2016 seventh. The 2016 sixth turned into linebacker Tony Steward, whose NFL career includes only seven games in 2015 with one tackle and one assist. The Vikings ended up trading the 2015 fifth to Atlanta, who used it on DT Grady Jarrett. Jarrett has appeared in 31 games and has 72 tackles and four sacks, not bad for a fifth round pick. The 2016 seventh eventually wound up with Philadelphia (all roads lead back to Philly when discussing player trades for the Bills) who used it on DE Alex McCalister, who has no stats whatsoever. Jarrett alone means the Bills came up on the short end of the stick in this deal.

Of course, the big move in 2015 was the deal between Buffalo and Philly (shocker), that sent linebacker Kiko Alonso to the Eagles and brought LeSean McCoy to Buffalo. Alonso was coming off an injury and after a short stint in Philly found his way to Miami. McCoy put up 2000 yards and 16 touchdowns in 27 games for the Bills over the past two seasons, production that no linebacker is going to match. This deal worked out very well for Buffalo.

While that end of the equation didn’t work out very well for Buffalo, Whaley fleeced the Cowboys for a 2017 fifth-round pick when they suddenly found themselves in QB purgatory due to an injury to Tony Romo. Why a 2017 pick instead of a 2016? Who can say? What matters is the Bills used that 2017 pick on quarterback Nathan Peterman. With Cardale Jones soaking up the sun in California, Peterman is a lock to make Buffalo’s opening day roster. Time will tell if he amounts to anything but Buffalo got him for Matt Cassel. At the worst, the Cassel trade to Dallas was a wash and it could be in Buffalo’s favor if Peterman even becomes a reasonable quality backup.

Last season, Whaley sent Green Bay a 2018 draft pick for LB Lerentee McCray. He was primarily a special teams contributor who was gone after the season ended and has yet to resurface. Hopefully that conditional pick was based on McCray doing more than he did for the Bills.

Does Buffalo’s history of player trades during the streak of futility leave you feeling hopeful or a sense of dread? Whichever way you go, there are some trade examples that comport with your view.