AROUND THE AFC
*Moments the Jaguars semi-surprised the league in May 2014 by drafting quarterback Blake Bortles third overall, Buffalo traded a future first-round pick to Cleveland to move up five spots to No. 4 for receiver Sammy Watkins. The Bills gave up on Watkins Friday, dealing him and a 2018 sixth-round pick to the Los Angeles Rams for cornerback E.J. Gaines and a 2018 second-round. Watkins’ final Bills statistics – 37 games, 153 catches, 2,459 yards and 17 touchdowns.
*New Bills general manager Brandon Beane, hired after the draft, is stockpiling future picks. Next year, Buffalo has two first- (its own and Kansas City’s from the Chiefs’ trade up to take quarterback Patrick Mahomes), two second- (its own and the Rams’) and two third-round (its own and Philadelphia’s) picks apiece. The Eagles’ pick was acquired Friday in the deal for cornerback Ronald Darby. “I believe in our scouting staff, I definitely do,” Beane told reporters. “You have to draft well in this league to win. That’s the financial model. Those players are the most affordable.”
*Beane’s wheeling and dealing with Buffalo reminded us of Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell in 2013. Caldwell traded his starting left tackle (Eugene Monroe, an impeding free agent) to Baltimore for fourth- and fifth-round picks that helped him draft center Brandon Linder. The difference is Beane may not be done dealing whereas Caldwell had no more assets to trade. A Buffalo News analysis listed several players who could be next to go, including Bills center Eric Wood, left guard Richie Incognito and linebacker Reggie Ragland.
*Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is headed to ACL surgery, which should have been the plan last year instead of a rest-and-rehab approach. So what now for Tannehill and the Dolphins after Jay Cutler starts this year? Cutler isn’t the long-term answer. Tannehill’s 2018 cap number, per Over The Cap, is $19.8 million, but Miami can create $15.2 million in space if they cut him. If Tannehill is available, he would be attractive to a team that may think is close to contending and feels a veteran quarterback is the answer.
*Steelers rookie linebacker/pass rusher T.J. Watt led Pittsburgh in snaps played Friday against the Giants (63, nine more than any other player). Watt had sacks on the Giants’ first two drop-backs, another quarterback hit and three more tackles. “It was a blast out there,” Watt said. “There is plenty of stuff I want to clean up, but at the same time, I wanted to go out there and rush the passer and make impact plays. As an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, you’re expected to make some plays in some moments.”
AROUND THE NFC
*The Rams are stocked with names at receiver after acquiring Sammy Watkins for Buffalo. But why deal a 2018 second-round pick, which is expected to be in the 33-40 range if the Rams are lousy, for a player who will be a free agent in March and missed half of 2016? Plus, the Rams already had Tavon Austin, Robert Woods and impressive rookie Cooper Kupp. But the Rams look at Watkins as the stretch-the-field threat they need for quarterback Jared Goff.
*In the wake of commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to suspend Dallas tailback Ezekiel Elliott for six games for violating the league’s Personal Conduct Policy, an important reminder: Goodell was awarded this power in the last collective bargaining agreement talks by the NFLPA and the league’s owners supported Goodell. Elliott will appeal and there will be hearings. But can his camp provide new evidence to warrant a reduction in the ban?
*Carolina visits the Jaguars on Aug. 24 and quarterback Cam Newton may not be ready to play. On Friday, Newton attempted live throws for the first time since July 30 and coach Ron Rivera said he would be, “OK with,” Newton not seeing action until Week 1 at San Francisco. Newton underwent surgery for a partially torn rotator cuff in March. He practiced five times in training camp before he was shut down.
*Green Bay quarterback Brett Hundley is a free agent after the 2018 season, but he could be a trade target after this year. He started Thursday against Philadelphia and was 8-of-15 passing for 90 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Four of his incompletions were dropped passes. It was important playing time for Hundley, who missed last year’s preseason with a sprained ankle.
*Detroit cornerback Darius Slay, who grew up in Brunswick, enters the season with six interceptions (two apiece in the last three years) and 50 total pass break-ups in 58 career games. Slay has his eyes on creating more takeaways. He had two interceptions in Thursday’s Lions-Indianapolis practice. “We’re practicing it more,” Slay said per the Detroit Free Press. “Last year, we didn’t practice turnover drills, but now we do, so we get accustomed to doing it because the more you rep it, the more you understand it, the more you get used to it.” Detroit had only 14 takeaways last year, fifth-fewest in the NFL.
*Watching receiver Brandin Cooks shine against the Jaguars last week in practice begged this question: Why did New Orleans trade him? The Saints acquired the No. 32 overall pick for Cooks and took Wisconsin left tackle Ryan Ramczyk. Top-flight receivers are tough to draft and even tougher to poach from another team.