The timing of the announcement that the Washington Redskins were trading two first-round picks and a second rounder to the St. Louis Rams merely for the chance to move up four spots in April’s draft enabled us to take the weekend to digest such a stunning offseason development.
Still in shock.
It’s amazing, because the difference between the No. 2 spot and the No. 6 spot is so minuscule. Three wins separated the Rams and Redskins this past season, but both were 2-10 from Week 5 on. St. Louis was worse than Washington, but were they worse enough to merit a draft gap large enough to demand three significant picks just to drop back four spots?
It is, of course, circumstantial. In other years, the Rams might have gotten nothing for such a swap. But with two blue-chip quarterback prospects at the top of this draft, St. Louis was in the right spot at the right time. They got lucky, sure, but that’s the reality of the draft process.
All that said, we can now sit back and wonder whether the ‘Skins gave up too much for the right to draft Baylor’s Robert Griffin III. Now, hindsight will give us a chance to play Monday morning quarterback here for years to come, just as we have with that Giants-Chargers swap at the top of the 2004 draft. But that doesn’t mean we can’t judge now, because luck will also factor into the final reflection when the Rams have used their collection of newly discovered picks and Griffin has given us a pro-level sample size.
Naturally, I’m ready to rain on D.C.’s parade. Again, Griffin might become a freakin’ legend and make doubters swallow such words, but this is a risk/reward business, and with no hindsight to work with I don’t see the risk being worth the reward.
It’s just too easy for personnel people to fall in love and lose their peripheral vision, and I think that’s what happened here.
Take this bit of comedy from one anonymous general manager, cited on Saturday by Sports Illustrated’s Peter King: ”If you’re Washington, and you haven’t had a quarterback in so long, you can’t pay too much for Griffin.”
Yes, you can. Of course you can. Teams overpay for quarterbacks in the draft all the time, and this could be the new epitomizing example of such negligence. Unless you can say for certain that Griffin is going to deliver as a franchise quarterback for the next 10-plus years (and no one can say that, because the bust ratio is simply too high) then mortgaging the short- and long-term future of the franchise is simply reckless.
This is passion trumping calculated Machiavellian intelligence, which is romantic but lacking anything to stand on. It’s the sort of flawed, myopic approach befitting of a team like the Redskins.
What could Washington have gotten league wide for such a price? I mean, if the ‘Skins were to call up all 31 of their NFL peers and pitch three first-round picks (one sixth overall) and a second-round pick for (fill-in-the-blank), who could they land?
The answer: any player in the entire league not named Brady, Rodgers, Newton, Stafford or Manning.
Obviously I’m just speculating with this hypothetical. Maybe the Falcons wouldn’t surrender Matt Ryan for any price, and maybe Drew Brees is in that category, too. Maybe. But I seriously can’t think of another player who wouldn’t be acquirable for that kind of return.
The Redskins have over $30 million in cap space right now. They could have taken that No. 6 overall pick and packaged it with the same three “complementary” picks sent to St. Louis, traded those selections for a slew of Pro Bowl-caliber veterans and had the cap room to pay them whatever they’re on the hook for. Now, instead, they’ve invested all of that ammunition into one player who has never taken an NFL snap, and they’re left with that $30 million in cap space to spend on the overpriced and overrated free agents left on an open market that is watered down annually by the franchise tags and long-term extensions that dominate late February and early March.
Because teams are set in their ways, they rarely think this way. Draft picks are rarely packaged for proven NFL players, because it mustn’t feel right or something. But that mentality should change, because this is logic. If you’re willing to give up those kinds of picks for another pick, you should be more than willing to do so for a slew of quality players who have already proven to be, you know, quality players.
I understand that this move is buying Mike Shanahan and Co. some time, and I get that there’s been a resurgence in the ticket office and among the fan base, but an influx of big names via trade would likely produce the same result while helping the team win right now. Still a hole at quarterback? Even if you can’t get Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Vick or Jay Cutler for the aforementioned price (I’ll bet you could), you can use that cash to bring in vets like Matt Flynn, Jason Campbell and David Garrard. If you’re talented enough elsewhere, you certainly can win without a superstar under center. The key, as the Niners and Ravens proved in 2011, is depth and consistency.
It’s nice to see that the Redskins have finally come to the realization that free agency is overrated, but I wouldn’t exactly call this building through the draft, either. Plus, there’s still a chance Griffin simply doesn’t pan out, setting the franchise back half a decade.
It all makes you wonder if the Browns losing out in the sweepstakes for the No. 2 overall pick could wind up as a blessing in disguise.