Every Monday during the regular season, I stay up late and/or get up early and bang out a 2,000-or-so-word item that offers up 10 takes on the Sunday that was.
It’s been more than two months since I’ve had one of those late nights/early mornings, and with the free agency frenzy ramping up and the Rams-Redskins deal going down late Friday night, it makes sense to take a long look at the surprising deal before it quickly fades into the rear-view mirror.
And so here are 10 different things that (eventually) came to mind while pondering the trade that sent the No. 2 overall pick to the Redskins in exchange for the sixth overall pick in 2012, a second-round pick in 2012, a first-round pick in 2013, and a first-round pick in 2014.
1. Tomato, tomahto as to the terms.
More than a few Redskins fans have insisted, some vehemently, that the team gave up two first-round picks, not three.
It’s largely a matter of semantics, until considering what the Redskins actually have done. In order to get Robert Griffin III (or, possibly, Andrew Luck . . . more on that later), the Redskins gave up three first-round picks and one second-round pick. And one of the first-round picks was the sixth overall selection.
How many Pro Bowl players who have proven consistently that they can perform at a high level in the NFL could be secured for that kind of haul? They say every player in the league could be traded for the right price. The Redskins could have targeted nearly any player in the league by offering the sixth overall pick in 2012, a second-round pick this year, and two more first-round picks.
2. Redskins mortgage their future, and Griffin’s.
When Robert Griffin III visited PFT Live last week, I addressed with him the possibility that the team that moves up to get him will give up too much.
“It does cross your mind,” Griffin said, before adroitly tiptoeing around the reality that a team could make it harder for Griffin to be as successful as he can be by sacrificing too much to add him to the roster.
It definitely should cross the mind of every Redskins fan, especially if those future first-round picks are in the top 10, too.
Of course, if they are, it won’t be coach Mike Shanahan’s problem any longer.
3. Free agency can fill some of the gaps, but not cheaply.
In 1989, when the Vikings sent a package of players and picks headlined by three first-rounders to the Cowboys for running back Herschel Walker, the Vikings couldn’t resort to free agency to fill the gaps.
Now, the Redskins can rely on the acquisition of veteran talent, especially with more than $30 million in 2012 cap room.
The problem is that excess reliance on free agency undermines the all-important nucleus of young players that any consistently successful team needs. Likewise, with the rookie wage scale, first-round picks create far less of a financial burden. And so by swapping three relatively low-cost first-round picks and a second-round pick for Robert Griffin III, the Redskins will now have to resort to spending more money for more seasoned (i.e., older) talent.
4. Could a Luck power play be more likely?
Before Friday, any effort by Andrew Luck to pull a John Elway/Eli Manning would have been complicated. If Luck had said he didn’t want to try to fill Peyton Manning’s shoes on a team that has jettisoned many of its quality players in recent days, the Colts would have had find a way to work something out with another team.
Now, the Colts need only to work out a one-spot flip-flop with the Redskins.
One one hand, the price could be too high for Washington to finish the climb to No. 1, given what the Redskins gave up to move from No. 6 to No. 2. On the other hand, if Luck tells the Colts he doesn’t want to play in Indy and Griffin has made it clear he’ll go anywhere, would the Colts bring to town a guy who doesn’t want to be there — or a guy who does?
5. Rams could see Griffin, a lot.
The team that opted not to pick Griffin and to trade his rights within the conference will now have to play him at least once every three years, and quite possibly more often.
Moreover, the Rams will potentially be competing with the Redskins for playoff positioning and, more directly, in the playoffs.
And when these two teams square off, there will be extra pressure on the Rams to justify passing on Griffin.
The only thing we know with certainty at this point is that Rams defensive coordinator (for now) Gregg Williams most likely won’t be putting out a bounty on Griffin.
6. The NFL needs a draft lottery.
Though the “Suck of Luck” drama never gave rise to any specific complaints that teams were tanking for the top spot in the draft, this trade demonstrates that bad teams in meaningless late-season games have no incentive to try to win. In fact, they have a very real incentive to lose.
That doesn’t mean the players or coaches will take a dive. But it means that some owners will be even more tempted, once considering the dramatic difference between the value of the second pick and the sixth, to instruct the coach to give the backups a chance to get some game reps in order to give the front office some film that can be used to help make roster and depth chart decisions in the future.
The only way to minimize that temptation is to determine the first 10 picks based on a weighted lottery. It would be a great offseason event, with plenty of anticipation and a significant TV audience.
7. Shanahan has bounty insurance.
To the extent that the NFL determines former Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams used bounties and if the precedent for punishment becomes a first-round draft pick, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan should be concerned.
Unless they have no first-round draft picks. For the next three years.
And so, no matter how bad it gets, Shanahan already has protected his next three first-round picks by parlaying them into the second pick in 2012.
8. Timing of deal favors the Redskins.
In the days after the Scouting Combine, the buzz generated by Robert Griffin III seemed to suggest that it would make sense for the Rams to hold an auction now. But then, as the Peyton Manning sweepstakes and free agency approached, the idea of letting the teams that don’t get Manning or Matt Flynn or anyone else who may be available become more desperate — and thus more willing to cough up a dramatic offer — made more sense.
The Dolphins likely were the wild card in this equation. If (when) owner Stephen Ross fails for the third time in 15 months to land a big fish (Jim Harbaugh, Jeff Fisher, Peyton Manning), Ross quite likely would have called Fisher and said, “Name your price.”
The Redskins wisely opted to eliminate the risk of Ross blowing the lid off the market by forcing the issue now. The fact that G.M. Bruce Allen and company ironed out the deal the night before Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon drew rave reviews at his Pro Day workout prevented the Rams from getting cold feet about moving all the way down to No. 6.
Put simply, the Redskins knew that they weren’t getting Peyton Manning, and they knew it would get harder to get Robert Griffin III by waiting until after other teams didn’t get Peyton Manning. So the Redskins offered a significant package now — fully aware that it may have taken even more later to get the deal done.
9. Rams need to use the picks wisely.
It’s not enough to parlay the second pick in the draft into a trio of first-round picks. The Rams now have to use the first-round picks, and use them well.
Coupled with their own picks, the Rams will select five times in the first round over the next three years. If they don’t emerge with key contributors who become the nucleus of the team, the trade will be regarded as a failure.
Especially if Griffin ends up being every bit as good as advertised.
10. Rams get more stadium leverage.
Well before the Rams use that fifth first-round pick over the next three years, the Rams will know whether they’ll be playing their homes games as of 2015 in Los Angeles or elsewhere.
And having those picks will serve only to give the Rams a little more leverage as they try to work out a deal to renovate the Edward Jones Dome — or to build a new stadium in Los Angeles.
Though the picks don’t have to pan out before the issue of franchise location is resolved, the promise of having a group of young, talented, marketable star players could make the Rams the most attractive possibility for placement in Los Angeles. Which could make St. Louis try even harder to keep them around.