OAKLAND, CA – DECEMBER 04: Sammy Watkins #14 of the Buffalo Bills reacts after an incompletion during their NFL game against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on December 4, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

The Buffalo Bills were quite busy wheeling and dealing on Friday. You might say the Bills are looking to trust their own process by stocking up on draft picks over the next few years, and that may not be a terrible strategy for the long term. For now, it leaves the Bills in a bit of a rebuilding mode heading into the start of the 2017 season.

The Bills made a pair of trades with the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams. The Bills received wide receiver Jordan Matthews from the Eagles in exchange for cornerback Ronald Darby and a 3rd round draft pick from Philly in the 2018 NFL Draft. To make up for the loss of Darby, the Bills acquired E.J. Gaines and a 2018 second-round draft pick from the Rams in exchange for wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

Buffalo was fortunate to have a couple of teams that appeared to be good trade partners at this point in the preseason. In Los Angeles, the Rams drafted what they hope is a franchise quarterback last season in Jared Goff, so adding a possible weapon and target in Watkins made sense for the Rams. In Philadelphia, added depth at wide receiver and the reported emergence of Nelson Agholor as a slot receiver meant the Eagles could make a move to ship a wide receiver to help out another position on the team. The biggest position of need for Philly is at cornerback, and the addition of Darby instantly upgrades the position.

It is becoming clear the Bills are gearing up to build their team through the draft in 2018, and the timing of that move makes sense. Tom Brady is nearing his retirement with the New England Patriots, which likely means the Patriots could be at least a little bit more vulnerable than they have in years in the eyes of the Bills franchise. Preparing for a possible push back to the top of the AFC East begins now with a plan to rebuild the roster. Trading away Watkins, a player highly regarded by the team’s previous leadership, signals the official changing of the guard with how the team will be structured.

The Rams are still a long way from competing for the NFC West Division title, but the news in Philadelphia is suddenly more optimistic, just a day after losing a preseason opener to the Green Bay Packers. With news of Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott being suspended for six games, the outlook in the NFC East has changed dramatically. With the Eagles upgrading their biggest area of weakness, Eagles fans are now chirping with sudden optimism about the chances to play for a division title.

That may still be wishful thinking, but the Eagles could be on the right track, and the Bills are putting a plan in motion.

About Kevin McGuire

Contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Previously contributed to NBCSports.com. Host of the Locked On Nittany Lions Podcast. FWAA member and Philadelphia-area resident.