Ahead of the 2018 NFL Draft, it was pretty apparent that the Bills would be drafting a quarterback. They had shown interest in almost every one of the five quarterbacks who were ultimately drafted in the first round. There was a problem, though: the team had lucked into a playoff spot in 2017, and were starting at the 21st overall pick as a result. Their 2017 trade with the Kansas City Chiefs had netted them another first-round pick—22nd overall. As a result, the team had their work cut out to climb the draft, and general manager Brandon Beane would ultimately end up managing two parallel tracks of trades to net Josh Allen and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.
It took two trades featuring the team’s longtime left tackle and two second-round picks to line the Bills up for drafting Allen with the seventh overall pick. How did the Bills and their trading partners fare, three years later? Let’s take a look.
Buffalo gets: 12th and 187th overall pick
Cincinnati gets: 21st and 185th overall pick and OT Cordy Glenn
Beane’s process began by orchestrating a trade with the Cincinnati Bengals. The centerpiece was Glenn, the team’s starting left tackle since 2012. He’d been a mainstay in the offense for years, but multiple injuries limited him to only starting 16 games from 2016 to 2017. This trade valued Glenn as, effectively, a second-round pick on the trade-value chart, in order for the Bills to climb to the 12th overall pick.
While the Bills were losing Glenn, they knew they already had Dion Dawkins on the roster. This trade put them one step closer to their franchise quarterback, without too much of a marginal loss.
Meanwhile, the Bengals drafted Ohio State center Billy Price with the 21st overall pick. This trade ended up being a major mistake for Cincinnati. Price started 19 of 42 games in his first three years, had lost his starting job entirely by 2020, and had his fifth-year option declined by the team this offseason. Glenn played in 19 games over the next two seasons, ran into arguments with the coaching staff, and was released after 2019. Making matters worse, the 20th overall pick was Arkansas center Frank Ragnow, who’s been outstanding since turning pro. In trying to set up a clever move to revamp their offensive line, the Bengals moved down too far and ended up with two poor fits.
Buffalo gets: 7th and 255th overall pick
Tampa Bay gets: 12th, 53rd, and 56th overall pick
Here it is, the trade that brought the Bills Josh Allen. This was Buffalo’s backup plan, as a planned trade with the Denver Broncos fell through when Bradley Chubb was still on the board at the fifth overall pick.
On the Buccaneers’ end, their draft class was headlined by nose tackle Vita Vea. Though a fractured leg limited him to five regular-season games in 2020, he was instrumental in their Super Bowl run, wrecking the line of scrimmage whenever he lined up on the field. Second-round pick M.J. Stewart, picked 53rd overall, was a bust. He started five games as a rookie, but lost his starting role while dealing with injuries. He failed to distinguish himself in year two, and the Bucs waived him in the 2020 preseason.
Tampa Bay wasn’t too bothered by Stewart’s outcome, though, because they found a better option further down the draft. Trading the 56th overall pick to the New England Patriots netted them Carlton Davis and Jordan Whitehead, who were defensive starters at cornerback and safety almost from the start of their careers.
The Bills landed Allen with this trade, but also received a token seventh-round pick as a throw-in. That pick resulted in wide receiver Austin Proehl, who never made it out of training camp.
All-in-all, this trade ended up as a success for each team. The Bills found a franchise quarterback and MVP finalist, and the Buccaneers landed three defensive starters who were instrumental to the team winning Super Bowl LV.
The Bills, by the way, had that 56th overall pick as a result of trading Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams a year prior. It’s fair to say both teams were happy with how that deal turned out. Buffalo had a decent starting cornerback in E.J. Gaines for a year and turned the pick into Allen; Watkins gave LA a team-leading eight touchdowns in an 11-5 season before becoming a free agent after the year ended.