With RB Christian McCaffrey getting dealt to the San Francisco 49ers last week, and the Buffalo Bills reportedly having had interest, should Buffalo turn their attention to other running backs on the trade block?
Even though the Bills were interested in McCaffrey, they were never serious contenders. By the sounds of it, GM Brandon Beane called his old friends in Carolina just to check in and see what they wanted in return for the former eighth overall pick in 2017 and the Panthers’ asking price was too high for the Bills. But the fact that they were at least somewhat interested makes you think… could the Bills target another running back at a lower cost?
If they do choose to go that route, I think Washington RB Antonio Gibson makes perfect sense. Though the Commanders have not said whether or not they are looking to shop Gibson, the way they’ve pushed him down their depth chart over the last few weeks shows that he may be expendable.
Antonio Gibson started the year as Washington’s starting running back, with RB J.D. McKissic complimenting him as the pass-catching back (or RB2), as we’ve grown accustomed to over the last three years. However, as soon as rookie RB Brian Robinson Jr. returned in Week 5 after being shot in the leg on August 28th, both Gibson and McKissic were demoted and have seen their snap counts decrease ever since.
During the Commanders’ Week 5 loss to the Titans, Robinson led Washington with nine rushes for 22 yards. Meanwhile, Gibson ran the ball just three times for six yards and McKissic did not get one rushing attempt. They did get looks in the passing game however, as McKissic caught five throws for 37 yards and Gibson caught three for 33.
Week 6 was arguably Gibson’s worst game of the season in terms of volume. He only ran the ball five times in Washington’s ugly 12-7 win over Chicago, with most of those rushing attempts coming later in the game. He did however run for 35 yards, averaging seven yards/attempt.
However, this past week was better for Gibson. He ran 10 times for 59 yards (5.9 yds/carry) and caught three passes for 18 yards and a TD. Robinson had 20 rushing attempts for 73 yards (3.7 yds/carry) while also catching two passes for 13 yards.
On the year, Gibson has 71 rushes for 273 yards (3.8 yds/carry) and 2 TDs in seven games. Robinson Jr. has 46 rushing attempts for 155 yards (3.4 yds/carry) and a TD in three games. And then McKissic has 89 yards on 20 attempts (4.4 yds/carry) in seven games. On the receiving side, Gibson leads the backfield with 22 receptions for 170 yards (7.7 yds/reception) and a TD. McKissic has 159 yards on 24 catches (6.6 yds/rec), while Robinson has just his two receptions for 13 yards.
Is Antonio Gibson on the Trade Block?
Based on those previous stats and snap counts, it seems as though Washington could listen to offers, and potentially trade, their former 2020 third-round pick ahead of next Tuesday’s 4 pm (EST) trade deadline. The fact that the Commanders decided to use another third round pick on a running back this year when they already had two very solid RBs tells a lot. Robinson seems to be in the team’s future plans. Meanwhile, Gibson and McKissic will play second and third fiddle as the team tries to carve out roles for each.
However, it is worth noting that Gibson played wide receiver in college before entering the draft as a running back. (He played it as a hybrid, lining up out wide as a WR and in the backfield as a RB, similar to what we’re seeing from Deebo Samuel now.) He played his first two years of college at East Central Community College before transferring to Memphis for his junior and senior seasons. As a senior, Gibson had 38 receptions for 735 yards (19.3 yds/rec) and 8 TDs while also adding 33 rushes for 369 yards (11.2 yds/carry) and 4 TDs.
Given his versatility and past experience as a WR, Washington may try to use Gibson more in the passing game by throwing to him out of the backfield and/or by lining him up out wide, forming a nice one-two punch with Robinson, making McKissic even more expendable. Using this logic, the Commanders could dismiss any trade offers for Gibson and, instead, try to move McKissic. However, the problem with that is they wouldn’t get as much in return for the 29-year old as they would for the 24-year old Gibson.
Why the Buffalo Bills Should Trade for Gibson
The first and biggest reason to acquire a running back like Antonio Gibson is he would instantly make this team better and would provide insurance for the playoff run. Gibson is pretty much a combination of all three of Buffalo’s RBs, as he can handle first and second downs like Devin Singletary, he can catch passes and provide a speed element to the offense like James Cook, and he can be used in short yardage situations and in pass protection like Zack Moss.
Gibson is coming off his first 1,000-yard season in 2021, rushing for 1,037 yards and 7 TDs on 258 attempts (4.0 yds/carry). He also caught 42 passes on 52 targets for 294 yards (7.0 yds/rec.) and 3 TDs. In 2020, Gibson ran for 795 yards and 11 TDs on 170 attempts (4.7 yds/carry) while splitting time with McKissic and Peyton Barber.
He’s Used to Committees
It’s not like Gibson has been a bell cow back his first three years in the league; he has always split time in the backfield as the Commanders have under-utilized him. If Buffalo were to acquire him, he would presumably take Cook’s role and form the one-two punch with Singletary, bumping both Cook and Moss down on the depth chart.
That would open an avenue to trade Moss, as the Bills could potentially send him and a draft pick (most likely a day three pick) back to Washington as part of the deal.
RB1 in 2023?
One of the sneakiest parts to this potential trade is the possibility of the Bills installing Antonio Gibson as the team’s starting running back next year. Gibson has one year left on his rookie deal and only has a $1.6 million cap hit in 2023. Meanwhile, Singletary will be a free agent after playing out the fourth year of his rookie contract this season. So, if the Bills want to save money to re-sign guys like S Jordan Poyer and LB Tremaine Edmunds, perhaps they acquire Gibson now and let Singletary walk in the offseason.
That would mean the backfield would consist of Gibson as RB1 and Cook as RB2 next year. So essentially, if the Bills don’t think Cook is ready to take that next step as RB2 this year, they could let him sit back and watch and learn while Singletary and Gibson handle duties for the 2022 playoff run, and then Cook will be older, stronger, and more mature to compliment Gibson next year.
Why the Buffalo Bills Should NOT Trade for Gibson
Don’t Need Him
The first and probably biggest reason why the Buffalo Bills should not make this trade is the fact that they aren’t a ground-and-pound team. The Bills offense goes through the arm (and legs) of Josh Allen. The days of building this team around running backs are over. And, for how and when the Bills run the ball, the guys they have now are just fine.
Singletary has 57 rushes for 256 yards (4.5 yds/carry) this season. After a slow start, he has 176 yards over the last three games and is averaging 5.2 yards/carry. The Bills are also using their running backs in short-yardage passing situations as an extension of their running game. Singletary leads that category as well, as he has 167 yards on 22 receptions (7.6 yds/rec). Cook and Moss don’t have any eye-popping stats, but they have both sprinkled in some nice plays here and there (specifically Cook) and are each averaging over five yards per carry. And of course, let’s not forget about Buffalo’s fourth running back, or should I say first running back, as Josh Allen currently leads the team with 257 rushing yards and 2 TDs.
Might Cost Too Much
Another big reason to not trade for Antonio Gibson (or any other starting RB for that matter) is the cost. Brandon Beane always says he doesn’t like to take away from the future and go all-in on one season; rather, he tries to win now and in the future. Acquiring Gibson would probably cost at least a decent draft pick, if not more. But then again, if they see him as an RB1 next year, that could move Beane’s needle a little bit since they would be taking care of the present and the future.
Speaking of Beane and the Washington RBs, let’s not forget the whole J.D. McKissic debacle this past March. (To recap: after he had agreed to terms with the Buffalo Bills and the details were reported, Washington contacted McKissic’s agent and offered to match the contract; a big “no no” in league circles. He then returned to Washington a day later before his deal with Buffalo became official.) Beane was very upset with how the whole situation went down, specifically with how the Commanders’ front office handled their business. So he may not want to dial GM Martin Mayhew’s phone number, or anyone from Washington for that matter, anytime soon.
One of the big things we always hear about the Buffalo Bills is the culture/team chemistry they have established. These guys have grown up, matured, learned, worked, and battled together, some since 2017. Not to sound clichéd, but they really have put in the blood, sweat, and tears together. This team has formed a special bond, not only on the field, but off it as well. Trading for a dynamic player like Gibson could upset the locker room, no matter how good that new player is.
Just listen to what Josh Allen had to say about Devin Singletary following their win over Baltimore:
Does Washington Even Want to Trade Him?
We still don’t know if the Commanders are even looking to trade Gibson. There are a lot of reasons why they would want to, but they could very well not even field calls for him and, rather, try to build their offense (at least their backfield) around him and Robinson Jr.
What Do YOU Think?
That being said, what do you think, Bills Mafia? Should the Buffalo Bills trade for Antonio Gibson?
Let me know what you think either in the comments on here or on Twitter (@ksiracuse5).
Feature Image: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images