ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills shook up their roster with two separate blockbuster trades Friday, dealing starting receiver Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams and acquiring receiver Jordan Matthews from Philadelphia in exchange for cornerback Ronald Darby.
The Bills acquired cornerback E.J. Gaines from the Rams.
Buffalo also continued stockpiling 2018 draft picks by getting a second-round selection from Los Angeles and a third-rounder from the Eagles. The Bills dealt a sixth-round pick to the Rams as part of the Watkins trade.
The moves were made day after Buffalo opened its preseason with a 17-10 loss to Minnesota. The shakeup continues an offseason overhaul under new coach Sean McDermott and GM Brandon Beane.
Watkins’ future in Buffalo was already in question after the Bills in May declined to pick up his fifth-year option. He is entering the final year of his deal. Matthews is also entering the final season of his contract, so the Eagles also faced the possibility of losing him in free agency.
Gaines was valuable defensive back in the Rams’ rotation. He won a starting job in 2015 but then got hurt before the season started. He became expendable after the Rams acquired Kayvon Webster this offseason, who is pegged to start opposite Trumaine Johnson.
The Rams need playmakers for an offense that finished last in the NFL over the past two seasons. Watkins can be that type of dynamic threat when healthy.
Watkins had been the Bills starter since Buffalo traded up five spots in the 2014 draft to select him with the No. 4 pick. He has 153 catches for 2,459 yards and 17 touchdowns in three seasons, but topped 1,000 yards just once, in 2015.
He’s been hampered by an assortment of injuries and limited to playing just eight games last year after having surgery to repair a broken left foot. Watkins required a second operation in January after aggravating the injury last season.
In Los Angeles, Watkins is reunited with former Bills starter Robert Woods, who signed with the Rams in free agency after four seasons in Buffalo.
The Bills continue revamping their receiver group, with Matthews’ acquisition coming four days after Buffalo signed veteran free agent Anquan Boldin.
Matthews had been Philadelphia’s most productive receiver, averaging 75 catches, 891 receiving yards and six touchdowns in his first three seasons. But the Eagles signed free-agent receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in the offseason, drafted Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson and have been pleased with 2015 first-round pick Nelson Agholor’s improvement.
Darby started 29 games in his first two seasons in Buffalo. He was a second-round pick (50th overall) in the 2015 draft.