The Buffalo Bills and general manager Brandon Beane have only been together for one NFL Draft, but it was a pivotal one in franchise history. Not only did they take a quarterback in the first round for only the fourth time, but they also moved up aggressively to do so, making multiple trades throughout the draft process.
The Bills initially were slated to pick 21 and 22 in the first round, with the extra pick coming thanks to a trade-down executed in 2017. Beane went to work, trading pick No. 21 to the Cincinnati Bengals for pick No. 12; then, he traded pick No. 12 (along with picks No. 53 and 56) to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, using the No. 7 overall selection to take quarterback Josh Allen.
There’s a huge piece missing from the paragraph above, and it’s that the Bills did not merely trade draft picks in order to move up the board. The deal Beane made with the Bengals also included left tackle Cordy Glenn, a premium player at a premium position who the team felt was replaceable due to injury and a strong performance by Glenn’s replacement—Dion Dawkins. With that deal, the Bills made it clear they were willing to be aggressive in securing their players through the draft, and they also made it clear they would not shy away from using veteran players to acquire those assets.
With the 2019 NFL Draft starting today, the Bills are rumored to be comfortable trading up and trading down. If the team does choose to trade up, they may look to use the same strategy in doing so as they did last year by trading a veteran position player along with a draft choice in order to secure the pick they want.
Which players might the team use as trade bait if given the opportunity? The team has a few options if they want to go that route.
DE Shaq Lawson
A former first-round draft choice, Lawson has improved steadily throughout his career, but his play has not risen to the level the team expected when they picked him No. 16 overall out of Clemson in 2016. Lawson has ten sacks in 35 career games, not exactly the pass-rush profile of a first-round edge defender. He is coming off a career-best year, however, as he notched four sacks and 12 quarterback hits in 2018, both career-highs. The Bills need to make a decision about the fifth-year option on his rookie contract by May, and if they do not want to pay the hefty price tag that comes with that option (which is in excess of $10 million, according to Spotrac), then the team could decide to trade him instead. At 24 years old, Lawson is still young enough to turn the corner and become the dominant defender he was drafted to be; however, the Bills may not have the patience or the stomach to commit $10 million to finding out whether or not it will happen.
RB LeSean McCoy
Most people fall into one of two camps regarding this suggestion: Why would the Bills trade one of their premier offensive players? Why would a team give up draft assets for a 31-year-old running back coming off the worst year of his career? Neither perspective is necessarily wrong, as it’s possible that no team will provide adequate compensation for McCoy and the veteran will bounce back from last year’s poor performance. The Bills clearly need youth at the position, and while they signed 25-year-old T.J. Yeldon to a two-year deal, they may still be in the market for a change in the offensive backfield. The Bills seem content to keep McCoy in the fold and hope for a better performance from the offensive line, which should allow for one last vintage performance from McCoy prior to the expiration of his contract at the end of the season. However, if the right deal becomes available, they may make a business decision and move on from the veteran.
C/G Spencer Long
Yes, the Bills just inked Long to a three-year deal this winter, but that doesn’t preclude them from trading him if the right deal comes available. Buffalo has completely transformed the offensive line, and they added stud center Mitch Morse to man the pivot. They have also signed Quinton Spain and Jon Feliciano at guard, and they still have Vladimir Ducasse on the roster (although I suspect he’ll be cut before long). Beane signed A.J. McCarron and Marshall Newhouse last year only to trade them for draft picks during late summer. If the team knows the direction it wants to go early enough, and a team needing interior line help is willing to give up a draft choice for Long, then Beane may pull the trigger on a deal.
T LaAdrian Waddle
See above. Though a deal like this one is much more likely to occur after the preseason than it is before it, circumstances change. The Bills might be able to package a recently-signed veteran with a draft choice to move up and select a young player they really like.
Which other Bills may see themselves traded during the NFL Draft?