Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Draft Day Trade Rumors Galore!
Well, I'm like a kid on Christmas morning today. Considering everything that's gone on this offseason in the NFL - the lockout, federal mediation, litigation, and now the lockout being "enjoined" - it's almost kind of a relief just to get the Draft here. I expect a pretty interesting one as most GMs try to fill the major needs (holes in the roster) via free agency and trades, and add the smaller pieces through draft, generally by taking the best player available (BPA) approach.
However, Judge Susan Richard Nelson denied the NFL's request to freeze the lockout via a stay, so the NFL will now file an appeal to the US 8th Circuit Court in St. Louis. This ruling calls for the "league year" to be open - which typically means free agents and trades of players to be allowed. To comply, NFL teams are now opening their facility doors for players to workout and receive medical treatment. The NFL had not prepared for this possibility, so it's widely assumed that the league will not allow player trades or free agents to occur until after the Draft. The NFL would go back to the 2010 league rules (i.e. no salary cap in place) and those hundreds of free agents would be tendered as restricted free agents - meaning any team wishing to sign one of those players would have to give compensation in the form of draft picks.
My guess is that the teams won't sign free agents yet, as this could subject them to fines and forfeiture of future draft picks if they make any moves before the league gives teams official word on the "league year" rules. Al Davis, I'm talking to you. Don't do anything. All signs point to the NFL waiting until the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals processes the NFL's appeal, which according to ESPN's Andrew Brandt could take 1 to 5 days. Something could change in the next 12 hours before the draft, but as I type this on 9:07am Thursday, all transactions - trades and free agent signings - are forbidden until the league gives its own ruling on how to proceed. So, all anyone can really do is stay tuned. I'll try to give an update today if something does happen.
With no free agency or trades as of yet - I'm assuming they'll get here sooner rather than later with the way things have been going - GMs must try to fill their respective needs through the draft. And while everyone's been bantering about Cam Newton's iconic statement(s), Ryan Mallett's character (non-)issues, and fawning over Andy Dalton out of nowhere, people seem to forget that no QB is the best player in this draft, and none would even be top 10 picks had Stanford's Andrew Luck entered the draft. In fact, Blaine Gabbert left Missouri early this year only because Luck stayed in Palo Alto for another year.
With that in mind, the top of the draft looks pretty set, assuming the Panthers don't pull a massive shocker and select someone other than Cam Newton. They could try and trade out of the 1st overall spot - which they're still open to doing. Despite not being allowed to complete other transactions involving players, teams are allowed to trade current and future draft picks during the draft. With that in mind, there should be plenty of draft picks flying as many teams are rumored to want to move up (towards the first pick) or down (further from the first pick) to get a player they specifically target. Right now teams are not allowed to start signing those undrafted college free agents either as they normally do immediately after the Draft concludes. So I'm guessing the NFL, if it makes a ruling today, will include all information on signing free agents, tendering restricted free agents, trading players, and signing college free agents.
Since teams still possess the ability to trade draft picks, here's a look at some of the rumors that have been floated in the past 36 hours that have a lot of "weight" behind them. These have been coming in in no particular order, so I'll work from the juiciest ones at the top of round one on down to the end. Here we go:
1) The biggest one of all, and probably one that is most likely to have some truth behind it, is the Houston Texans wanting to move into the top 5 of the Draft to select either LSU's Patrick Peterson or Texas A&M's Von Miller. Houston doesn't stand a chance to get either of them at the 11th overall spot, and I think they'd rather have a surer bet than getting Aldon Smith.
2) To couple with that story, the Bengals - who hardly ever trade - are rumored to want Auburn DT Nick Fairley. Bengals D-line coach Jay Hayes paid him a visit Wednesday. However, Cincinnati will need more ammo to make a deal, presumably getting another 2nd round pick to move back up to take a QB if there's a run on them early, which is very possible. These two scenarios seem to marry themselves together pretty nicely. However, it's hard for me to see the Bengals moving, so Denver and Cleveland, both teams who have been known to wheel and deal, could be other possible targets for Houston - especially if Houston wants Von Miller who's projected to go to Buffalo with the 3rd overall pick.
3) Atlanta wants to move up. This one is a hot one from Wednesday afternoon. Presumably, they don't like their spot in round one or the projected players that are going to be there. The rumor is that they really want local product A.J. Green or Alabama's Julio Jones (another weapon for QB Matt Ryan would be nice). That'd require a move into the top 5, but I think they may really be targeting one of the defensive ends at the top of the draft - Robert Quinn, Aldon Smith, or even Da'Quan Bowers. Nothing solid for you in the way of a potential trade partner though.
4) Allegedly, Miami and Dallas have an agreement to swap picks in the first round if a certain player drops past the Tennessee Titans at the eighth spot. The player in question here is Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert, who had a private workout with the Miami brass despite Miami not being anywhere in contention to select him. Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland came over with Bill Parcells from Dallas in 1998 and the teams have a history of signing each other's players. They also made a trade in 2008 that sent TE Anthony Fasano and NT Jason Ferguson to Miami for a 4th round selection. There's history here, but Gabbert would have to fall past QB hungry Arizona, San Francisco, and Tennesse for this deal to go off. I'm betting it doesn't because...
5) ...Washington really likes Blaine Gabbert and is willing to move up to get him. Again, no real potential suitor here. If the rumor about Cincinnati is true, I could see the Bengals getting their man in Nick Fairley at 10 and Washington getting Gabbert at 4, but as I mentioned, the Bengals hardly ever move draft picks.
6) Philadelphia's been rumored to want to move into the range of 10-20 for some reason, though there's really not a specific target linked to that rumor. They've been hot on the trail of CB Jimmy Smith, but after the AP report citing that he's failed 3 drug tests (one for codiene - did he buy it from the Packers Johnny Jolly?), paid for 2 separate women to have abortions, and had 2 separate alcohol incidents, I think it's pretty safe to say Philly could land him with their 23rd overall selection despite Smith having top 15 talent. But as they say, where there's smoke, there's fire. Stay tuned on this one as Philly is often one of the major movers come draft day.
7) Miami and San Diego may be in the works for a draft day trade again this year. Miami wants to somehow recoup a 2nd round pick they gave up to get Brandon Marshall (which was a win-win deal assuming Marshall avoids all sharp kitchen objects in the near future). San Diego, a 3-4 team, needs to upgrade it's talent on the D-line. In a D-line heavy draft, the Chargers sit after Washington, Houston, Miami, Jacksonville and New England. It's doubtful Miami would have interest in a 3-4 DE at this juncture, so the rumor is that Miami may swap their first rounder (15th overall) in exchange for San Diego's 1st rounder (18th overall) and San Diego's 2nd or 3rd round selections to allow the Chargers to leapfrog the Jaguars and Patriots. The rumored target for San Diego is either Cal's Cameron Jordan or Wisconsin's J.J. Watt. This one carries a decent amount of weight, though I could see San Diego not wanting to part with a late 2nd rounder to move up just three spots.
8) Tampa Bay wants to move up for one of the DE propsects, presumably Robert Quinn of North Carolina. No real trade partner has been established, so I'm guessing they'll try and trade with just about anyone from the Browns at six to New England's at 17 to try and get a better DE than they could at the 20th spot. My guess is they'll have to at least jump over the St. Louis Rams to have an outside shot at Quinn, or whomever their primary target might be.
9) New Orleans moving up for...anybody really. It's been not so secretly mentioned that the Saints want to move up in the first round. For who? For what? No one seems to know, but that's the rumor. I'd have to think they might want to leapfrog the Chiefs to potentially select one of the following D-linemen: Phil Taylor, Adrian Clayborn, Da'Quan Bowers, or even Cameron Jordan or J.J. Watt if they fell there.
10) New England's looking to shop picks. I guess this is more fact than rumor, but with two first round picks and a total of five in the first three round, they've got an absolute ton of trade ammo. I've seen rumors that they want to move up, I've seen rumors that they want to move down, and I've seen rumors that the 28th and 33rd picks could be hot zones for teams that pass on a QB in the early part of round one. Teams want to move up for someone like Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, or even Andy Dalton and snag them before Buffalo and Cincinnati, who are lurking at picks 34 and 35. Maybe the Pats shock us and just hold their ground to get 3 really solid players. I doubt it, but who really knows when it comes to the man underneath the hoodie.
11) Seattle wants to move down from the 25th pick. The Seahawks have a bottom heavy draft with a 1st, 2nd, 4th, two 5ths, a 6th, and two 7ths. My guess is they want to gain a 2nd and a 3rd round pick - there's a lot of "meat and potatoes" in that area, if you will - as opposed to just getting two guys in the top 64 picks. I'm sure a QB-hungry team would be willing to make a move here and give the Seahawks some more ammo. Pete Carroll's first draft was pretty solid, and I think he'd like the opportunity to continue to upgrade his roster in the 2011 Draft.
12) The final one, though I'm not sure how believable this one is, is that Pittsburgh Steelers' Coach Mike Tomlin issued an edict for the Steelers to move up and select Florida G/C Mike Pouncey - brother of current Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey - if Mike makes it past the Dolphins pick at 15. This would reunite the Pouncey twins, and the Steelers could plug Mike in at his natural RG position, or even shift over Chris Kemoeatu and put Pouncey at LG where his adept pulling skills would be put to great use. Either way, this one sounds more like soap-opera drama than substance to me, but you never know. The Patriots 17th pick would be a prime landing spots, as the Giants at 19 are rumored to be heavily interested in Pouncey as well.
Kkeep in mind that these are just rumors, and that NFL teams spread misinformation like they're handing out candy as the draft approaches. Some blatantly lie, so please, take these rumors with a few grains of salt. The only truth I can give you about tonight is that I'll be on my couch with some wings from BW's, some cold beer, and Jack 'n Coke throughout the night with several of my football buddies. I don't imagine going into a fit of rage on par with the meltdown I had when Miami drafted Ted Ginn and passed on Patrick Willis (okay, I'll admit, I wanted Brady Quinn). But if Jason LaCanfora's bold prediction of Miami taking Nevada's Colin Kaepernick or Peter King's pick of Andy Dalton at 15 come true, I'll probably be in the market of a new HD TV soon. I hope you enjoy the draft and that your team doesn't get Belichecked tonight.