Making Sense Of A Possible Sheldon Richardson Trade

The Broncos have addressed their needs on the offensive and defensive lines as they have seen fit save for one: A defensive end who can stop the run and be moved to defensive tackle on passing downs. The original intent was to sign Calais Campbell, but he chose to sign with the Jaguars instead.

There has been continued talk about the Broncos possibly trading for Jets defensive end/defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. One trade that was brought up in discussion was the idea of the Broncos sending quarterback Trevor Siemian to the Jets to acquire him.

We have no idea what the Broncos or Jets might be thinking in terms of players they want to deal or acquire, but the idea of sending Siemian for Richardon is a bad idea. That does not mean trading for Richardson isn’t possible. It just needs to be thought of in better terms, regarding what Siemian is really worth and what Richardson is really worth.

Let’s go over why trading Siemian for Richardson is a bad idea, but that a trade is still possible as long as you keep in mind certain considerations.

The asking price for Richardson should be low but the asking price for Siemian should be high

Sheldon Richardson is entering the fifth-year option on his rookie deal as a 2013 first-round pick. He will be due a fully-guaranteed salary of $8.069M. It is not possible to get that money restructured unless you sign Richardson to an extension. Therefore, if a team trades for Richardson, the team is agreeing to pay him $8M for a one-year tryout. That makes him an expensive acquistion, regardless of the cap space you have available. (And to be clear, the Broncos would have the cap space to accommodate the salary without having to restructure any other deals, so that isn’t the issue.)

Trevor Sieimian, however, is entering the third year of his seventh-round pick rookie deal at a mere cost of $615,000. Additionally, he has a year left on his contract at a mere $705,000, meaning any team who acquires him could keep him around for two seasons to see if he works out. Most of all, he plays quarterback, the top premium position in the NFL. Quarterbacks that are thought to have upside are considered to be worth a high-draft pick.

There’s no better example of a QB thought to be worth a high pick than Jimmy Garoppolo, for whom the Patriots were rumored to be seeking a first-round pick in a trade. Garoppolo has just three career starts, while Siemian has more than four times that many. If Garoppolo is worth a first-round pick, how is Siemian not worth at least a second-round pick? One might argue Siemian is unproven as a long-term starter, but doesn’t the same apply to Garoppolo?

And that brings me back to Richardson: If I told you that you had to give up a second-round pick to acquire him, knowing you would be on the hook for an $8M salary and no guarantee he would sign an extension, or no guarantee that he would pan out if you did give him an extension, would you make that trade? I think most of you would not, particularly because he is not a hands-down, top-five player at his position. Therefore, why give up a player who is worth the equivalent of a second-round pick for Richardson?

Thus, you need to throw out the idea of trading Siemian for Richardson and rethink what you should really offer in a trade.

What should you consider when you are trading for a player?

The things you need to keep in mind about trading for any player and how much you give up for him are:

* How many years remain on his contract.
* How much fully guaranteed money is left.
* How well you think he will fit into your system.
* How eager is the other team willing to trade him.

You can get an idea about those things by looking at what the Patriots sent in trade for players such as Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy and Dwayne Allen.

For Cooks, the Patriots sent their first-round pick and a third-round pick, getting a fourth-round pick back from the Saints. Cooks is entering the fourth year of his first-round rookie contract, at just $781,599, but does have the fifth-year option that the Patriots could exercise if they wish. It should be considered a one-year tryout to a certain degree. However, given that the Patriots gave up what amounted to a high second-round pick, it’s likely they will pick up the option and, if Cooks plays well this season, work on an extension.

For Ealy, the Patriots sent their second-round pick to the Panthers and got a third-round pick back. Ealy is due $900,000 in salary this year and will be a free agent after the season, as he was a second-round pick in 2014. But because his salary is cheap, it’s worth it to the Patriots to send a higher pick to the Panthers, especially because they got an early third-round pick as part of the deal, so what they really did was move down a few spots in the draft to acquire a cheap player.

For Allen, the Patriots sent a fourth-round pick to the Colts and got a sixth-round pick back. That effectively made what the Pats gave up a fifth-round pick. And that’s because Allen comes with the highest salary of any of the players they acquired. Allen is due a $2.5M roster bonus and a $2.5M base salary, both which will become fully guaranteed Monday. The Patriots could cut Allen after this season with no dead money, but could elect to keep him in 2018 at a $4.5M base salary. But because of the financial commitment this year, the Patriots ensured they didn’t send that high of a pick to the Colts. Also, the Colts front office appeared to want to move on from a contract the previous front office gave Allen, so they didn’t ask for that much in return.

In other words, draft pick compensation needs to be managed carefully to minimize risk and maximize reward. That’s why a second-round pick would be too much for Sheldon Richardson, because of his $8M, fully guaranteed salary. If Richardson was at a lower salary, he’d actually be worth a higher pick because there’s less risk involved in terms of the money you’d have to pay him. The Jets don’t appear to be eager to move on from him, so that tempers the salary issue a bit. Then again, the reports that Richardson has attitude issues means he carries some risk. Because of the risk involved, you should set what you offer for Richardson accordingly.

What would be a good trade for Richardson?

Because I think Richardson’s situation is roughly equivalent to Allen, that would make Richardson worth a fifth-round pick, with a conditional pick that could be added if the team acquiring him signed Richardson to an extension. That conditional pick would give the Jets some peace of mind if the team who gets him decided to keep him beyond 2017.

The Broncos do have a fifth-round pick, but it’s a compensatory pick, so the Jets might be hesitant to trade for that pick unless the Broncos agreed to throw in another pick. But they might be more willing to take the Broncos’ fourth-round pick and send their own sixth-round pick back, similar to how the Pats and Colts completed the Dwayne Allen trade. The Broncos could then offer a conditional pick in 2018 (I’d go no higher than a fourth) if the Broncos extend Richardson past the 2017 season.

Another option is for the Broncos to wait until the 2017 draft is underway and see how the board falls. If they aren’t able to find a defensive end who fits what they need, they could offer a 2018 pick to the Jets for Richardson. In that case, it would be OK to give up a fourth-round pick, with the condition that it becomes a third round if the Broncos extend him. The reason you go up a round is this: While you know what spots everybody has their selections in this year’s draft, you don’t know what next year’s draft order will be, so you would offer the Jets a little more to compensate for that fact. And if the Broncos didn’t extend Richardson, they might recoup the lost pick with a compensatory pick in 2019, as long as they don’t go wild in free agency in 2018.

So it’s fine to explore a trade for Richardson… you just need to be smart about it. Giving up a quarterback with 14 starts who has a cheap contract is too steep a price to pay. You are better off getting a trade in line with how the Patriots worked their trades.

UPDATE 7:35 P.M. MT: Nick mentioned in the comments below that making picks conditional upon the signing of an extension isn’t something that could be done, given that the Jets were burned on such a condition when they traded Jonathan Vilma to the Saints. Therefore, I would not put such a condition into a trade, but I would stand pat on not going higher than a fourth-round pick in any trade for Richardson, but could look at conditions such as number of games active or statistical marks that could come into play to make the pick higher or lower, or perhaps another pick getting sent to the Jets.

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Bob Morris

I'm a sports writer in real life, though I've always focused on smaller communities, but that hasn't stopped me from learning more about some of the ins and outs of the NFL. You can follow me on Twitter @BobMorrisSports if you can put up with updates on the high school sports teams I cover.