As we all know, the lead story today in the NFL is the Tennesee Titans trading the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft to the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams acquired a couple of picks in return but are giving up quite a few picks in return. The full rundown of picks swapped:
Rams receive the No. 1 overall picks from the Titans, along with the Titans’ fourth (No. 113) and sixth (No. 177) round picks.
Titans received the No. 15 overall picks from the Rams, along with the Rams’ second-round picks, No. 43 (which the Rams originally acquired from the Eagles) and No. 45, the Rams’ third-round (No. 76) pick, and the Rams’ 2017 first- and third-round picks.
For the Titans, this is an excellent trade. They entered the draft with six total picks and now have nine, so they have more opportunities to address needs. They may not get what some people consider an impact player, but there’s no consensus that such a player exists in this draft. Of course, the Titans need to do a good job finding players that will fit the system they want to run, but from the initial standpoint, things have worked out well for them.
For the Rams, I’m not a fan of the trade. This strikes me as a move made by a regime that has been told “your jobs are on the line this season.” The Rams entered the draft with just six picks and are now down to five. After they make the first overall pick, they will not pick again until the third day of the draft. While they may be able to find a few depth players, they miss out on the chance to improve at other positions at which they will need some help if they really want to “win now.”
While I do think Carson Wentz and Jared Goff have potential, neither one strikes me as the type of QB who is going to transform an offense right away. But this seems to be what the Rams are thinking and I have a feeling it’s going to backfire on them. They might get a QB who will be a good QB capable of great games, but that’s not the type of player you want to make such a bold move up the draft board to obtain.
As for what it means for other teams, anyone who says the Broncos will be affected are correct. But let’s get to other teams who have been considering quarterbacks and what they are likely to do now.
Cleveland: The assumption may be that the Browns will take whichever quarterback the Rams don’t take. Right now, it appears that Carson Wentz is the QB the Rams covet. But I’ve read reports that Browns HC Hue Jackson prefers Wentz over Jared Goff. If that is the case, the Browns may now be prompted to trade down as well. Now that the Browns have seen how much the Rams gave up to move from the No. 15 overall pick to No. 1, they could demand any team that wants to move up to select Jared Goff needs to give them a fair amount of compensation. How much they get depends on which team wants to move up, of course.
But the Browns now gain some leverage that they did not previously have. Before the Titans-Rams deal, the Browns would have to deal with teams who would take the approach that they would just wait to see which QB the Browns take and hope that the other slid down the board to them. That is no longer the case. The Browns can now argue to other teams that, once the Rams take the QB of their choice, the Browns can take the other, so how badly do teams want the other QB?
If I’m the Browns, I set my asking price high, then sit back and wait. They may not get an offer from another team, but they can definitely make other teams sweat it out. And while the Browns won’t get the first price they ask for, if somebody does approach the Browns and wants the No. 2 overall pick, the Browns should be able to get a deal that allows them to gain multiple picks. Of course, they would have to do a good job of drafting, but gaining draft capital could really benefit the Browns, who have 10 selections and, if they gain more, would have a lot of flexibility to either fill multiple needs or move around the board without risking much.
Dallas: I say there is zero chance of the Cowboys drafting a QB at No. 4 overall unless one of the top two prospects (Wentz or Goff) falls to them. I also doubt the Cowboys will want to trade up to No. 2 overall. I’m not certain they would trade back into the first round, either. While they have nine total picks, four of them are compensatory picks and cannot be traded. The Cowboys would have to be creative with any trades back into the first round and might have to give up a pick in 2017 to make it work. While I wouldn’t rule it out, I don’t think it’s likely to happen. Dallas is more likely to wait it out and look for value in a QB who could back up Tony Romo or perhaps replace him down the road.
San Francisco: The 49ers now enter an interesting situation. On one hand, it would appear they may be more willing to stick it out with Colin Kaepernick for another year. On the other hand, the Niners have 12 total picks, eight that can be traded, and could definitely consider moving up to No. 2 overall if the Browns truly aren’t interested in drafting the QB the Rams don’t take. The Niners have the draft capital to move up five spots and, if they are able to complete a trade with the Broncos for Kaepernick, they may be more tempted to make such a deal with Cleveland.
So I would not be surprised to see Cleveland and San Francisco make such a trade. I would imagine the Niners would have to give up their second-round pick as part of the deal and may have to include at least one day three pick (say, pick No. 142, which the Niners acquired from the Chargers). But that would still leave the Niners 10 total picks and they would gain at least one in return from a Kaepernick trade. If they get a third-round pick from the Broncos, they would still have two picks on day two and would be in a position to move back into the second round by sending a day three pick to another team.
With all that said, I do think the Niners trading up is contingent upon having a finalized offer in place for Kaepernick. Otherwise, the Niners may not prefer to move up.
As for trading back into the first round if they don’t trade for the No. 2 overall pick, the Niners are definitely in a position to do so. Again, though, it all depends on what they do with Kaepernick. If they make any such moves up the board, or even just take Paxton Lynch at No. 7 overall, they will force their hands regarding Kaepernick. I believe that, no matter what moves the Niners making regarding QBs early in the draft, they will have to trade Kaepernick or they may have no choice but to cut him and eat the money that he is due.
Philadelphia: The Eagles have shown some interest in the top QB draft prospects, but now they have to ask themselves if it’s worth pursuing one of them. They could, in theory, trade back up into the first round with a team who drafts late, but they have no second round pick this year and teams may be hesitant to move down the board without gaining a second-round pick this year. That would likely prompt those teams to insist on the Eagles’ 2017 first-round pick and that’s something the Eagles may not be prepared to do. At this point, I think it’s best for the Eagles to accept that they probably won’t get one of the top QB prospects, but see Ezekiel Elliott as likely available at No. 8 and be content with a player who can help immediately.
New York Jets: With each passing day, the Jets appear more likely to want to draft a quarterback early. I suspect they are hoping that Paxton Lynch falls to them at No. 20 overall. They could move up the board a few spots, though, if they think other teams might be making a play for Lynch. But the Jets have just six picks in this year’s draft and would have to be careful making any move up the board. They need to improve their depth and find players who can be groomed behind current starters at other positions. Trading away draft capital may not be a wise move for the Jets to make at this time.
On the other hand, if Lynch does fall down to No. 20 overall and the Jets get an offer they can’t refuse, they could be prepared to trade down and settle for taking a QB much later. That may depend, though, on how confident the Jets are that Ryan Fitzpatrick will re-sign with them.
Arizona: Like the Jets, the Cardinals might be a team who was thinking that Paxton Lynch could fall down the board. But like the Jets, the Cardinals have just six draft picks to work with. I seriously doubt the Cardinals will trade up the board for Lynch.
Denver: The only thing that has really changed with the Broncos’ situation is that they can’t necessarily count on Paxton Lynch falling to them at No. 31 overall. Again, though, what happens with Lynch depends a lot on what other teams do, particularly regarding the Niners.
On one hand, it would certainly be frustrating if the Niners were to trade back into the first round and take Paxton Lynch. On the other hand, if the Niners did that, John Elway can force the Niners’ hand even more with regards to Kaepernick. He could start insisting that the Niners have to pay a portion of Kaepernick’s salary, thus reducing the need for Elway to ask Kaepernick to take a pay cut this year. He might even be able to work out the trade so he sends just one draft pick to the Niners and no more than that. Obviously, the second year of Kaepernick’s current deal would remain an issue, but Elway might be more willing to let Kaepernick void the deal after 2016 if he only has to fork over one draft pick and the Niners are paying a portion of Kaepernick’s salary this season.
As for trading up the board, the Broncos have the draft capital to do this, but need to carefully consider their options. If Lynch falls down the draft board Buffalo looks like a logical trading partner. The Broncos could send their first- and third-round selections, plus the fifth-round pick they got from the Ravens, to move up to No. 19 overall. That would still leave the Broncos with nine picks after moving up and making the selection.
And then there’s Nick Foles. Per ohiobronco, the Rams have already paid Foles his $6M roster bonus, so any team who trades for Foles is only on the hook for his $1.75M base salary. That makes him an attractive option for the Broncos, who could send one of their fifth-round picks to the Rams and ask for a sixth-round pick in return, then throw in a conditional pick in 2017. The Broncos wouldn’t have to do any contract negotiations with Foles, because the rest of his money would only be gained through incentives. I imagine Elway would be OK with allowing the void clause to stay in Foles’ deal and, if things didn’t work out, the Broncos could still cut Foles after 2016 and not incur any dead money against the cap.
Foles, though, could be considered by other teams as well. While I’m not a fan of the Jets giving up draft capital to move up the board, trading a pick for Foles is a different story. The Jets would have to be creative in such a trade, though, because they have no picks in the fifth or sixth round. I think the Cowboys would definitely come into play here as well, as they have a sixth-round pick they could send to the Rams, while still having three compensatory picks in that round.
Teams I don’t see coming into play for Foles are the Browns and Eagles, who are both more likely to want to draft a QB than acquire another veteran. I also don’t believe the Niners or Cardinals will be candidates, given that they are division rivals of the Rams, along with the Niners being a team that would rather draft a QB than seek out a veteran.
But as far as the Broncos are concerned, they remain in a good position and haven’t lost as much as people might think. We’ve watched Elway remain patient and, so far, it’s paid off for him. He gave up very little to obtain Mark Sanchez and he found a trading partner for Ryan Clady, so I believe that, in the end, he’ll still get the other QB he wants. All that remains to be seen is which QB that happens to be.