Well, that didn't take long. Less than 24 hours after moving up to take wide receiver Sammy Watkins in the first round of the draft, the Bills unloaded diva receiver Stevie Johnson to San Francisco for an undisclosed draft pick in 2015.
The instant the Bills made a huge investment in Watkins and made him their new No. 1 receiver, I wondered how he could possibly fit in the same locker room with Johnson, a polarizing presence and dubious leader. My concerns were magnified today when I heard Watkins address the media in person at One Bills Drive and I got a chance to talk with his parents, James and Nicole McMiller.
It occurred to me that at the tender age of 20, Watkins was already more mature than Johnson, who is 27 and has been in the league since 2008. Stevie was an engaging but immature athlete, a player who seemed more interested in being seen as a personality than a dedicated pro. His antics have been well-chronicled. Last year, he failed to develop any real chemistry with EJ Manuel and reacted badly on the field at times when the rookie QB didn't get him the ball.
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There was no way Johnson could defer to a rookie at this point in his career. He was no leader, that's for sure. I can't imagine Doug Marrone felt Johnson was any sort of mentor for the young receivers on the squad. He admitted he didn't follow the Bills' off-season training regimen. He always seemed to be hurt. He didn't take the blame after key drops late in the year. I was told privately that Marrone told some of the veteran leaders on the team to set Stevie straight.
Now he's gone. I wish him luck with the Niners. Johnson is a good receiver, though he wasn't nearly as good as his $7.5 million salary. He wasn't a true No. 1. So with Watkins coming aboard and second-year wideouts Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin looking to emerge -- not to mention Mike Williams -- there wasn't much room for Johnson this year. There was no room for him and his personal baggage.
This clears the way for Watkins to become a leader for the Bills at a very early age. Manuel, Woods and Goodwin are all second-year players. Williams is in no position to lead after his dubious behavior in Tampa. So as a rookie, Watkins can quickly become a force in this passing game, and a voice in the meeting rooms and locker room.
Watkins has earned raves for his stunning change of direction on a football field. Only one day after his arrival, he's a big reason that Stevie Johnson is heading West.