Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports recently took a closer look at the failed trade that would have allowed the Bears to move from No. 29 in the draft to No. 26, with the Ravens sliding down. The Bears failed to call the trade in to the league, a development they characterize as a “mistake.”
The Ravens wanted the fourth-round pick that the Bears had agreed to send to Baltimore, especially since the Bears still got the guy they were supposedly targeting — offensive lineman Gabe Carimi. The league refused to force the Bears to do it, pointing out that there’s no rule for the situation. The Bears declined to do anything voluntarily, and the case was closed.
Bears G.M. Jerry Angelo remains defiant that he owes the Ravens nothing. “The only thing I am going to say is they have rules when you do something wrong,” Angelo said, per Cole. “Not when people make mistakes. A mistake was made. No rule was broken, OK, so let’s just make that clear here. As I said [last Thursday] night, we made the proper amends from our part and certainly there was no intent other than to do the best we could and it just didn’t work out.”
Angelo’s remarks don’t accurately explain the concept of following rules. Yes, in many cases intent is a key component of the violation. In plenty of other situations, however, a mistaken violation is still a violation. If Angelo wants clear proof of this, he should mistakenly forget to pay his taxes.
An unnamed NFC team exec agrees with that concept. “I like Jerry, but what he said is BS,” the executive told Cole. “If you gave me your word and didn’t even call the league or didn’t call me back in time to fix the situation, that’s wrong. Dead wrong. You should pay some penalty. I don’t know what it is, but something. I think Baltimore should have gotten the [fourth-round] pick.
“Again, this is a high-pressure situation. You can’t just say, ‘Oh, no harm, no foul.’ That could be my job on the line.”
The easy and obvious fix, as Cole points out and as Angelo’s remarks confirm, would be to change the rules. It’s the way the NFL typically operates whenever something happens for which there isn’t a rule. Though, ideally, the NFL would do a better job of anticipating potential problems, the best alternative would be to react to actual situations that arise and prevent them from happening in the future.
With the league slashing the available time to make a first-round pick from 15 minutes to 10, it should have been obvious that something like this could happen. There are a lot of moving parts when a trade is being made while a team is on the clock, which is the ideal time for doing a deal so that the team moving up has a clear shot at the player that team covets. At some point, the team on the clock needs to know with certainty whether or not a deal was done.
If the league isn’t willing to require a team to do the right thing when its obvious and admitted failure to call the trade in to the league prevented the trade from happening, the league needs to create a system for declaring definitively that a trade did or didn’t happen.
How about a one-minute warning, at which point the team on the clock is told that there’s no deal and that the team on the clock must use the pick or risk being leapfrogged? That way, the league would never have to punish a team for failing to call in the trade, and no team on the clock would ever have to assume that the call was made only to find out later that it wasn’t.