With as much change as there has been for the St Louis Rams this offseason - cleaning house top to bottom and dealing with constant speculation about leaving town - there are more questions than answers. But the biggest one of all right now centers on the bounty that Jeff Fisher and company might reap for the #2 pick, and the right to draft Robert Griffin III.
The Cleveland Browns have been the clear front-runner in the race up until now, with two first round picks to offer this year. Indeed, the deal has become so ingrained in the conventional wisdom that nearly every conversation about the draft among Rams fans includes questions about what to do with that #22 pick from the Browns. However, a new offer from the Redskins has been making the rumor mill, courtesy of Philadelphia news man Howard Eskin.
Washington's offer? This year's 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round picks, plus next year's first rounder. With maybe more picks thrown in. All told, a haul of that size would bring in just under 4,000 points of draft trade value, a staggering sum. By comparison, the package of picks the Atlanta Falcons gave up for Julio Jones (drafted #6 overall last year) totaled less than 2,000 draft value points.
On the surface, such a deal sounds too good to be true. But if true, it could provide a radical reshaping of the franchise's future, like the Herschel Walker trade did for a new coach in Dallas named Jimmy Johnson. If there's a downside to having such a high-value pick, their draft board will have to be in constant flux until terms of a deal are nailed down. Who will they target? That depends entirely on where they end up drafting from.
Parsing the rumor.
First of all, how likely is this rumor to come true? In the silly season of the draft, everything you hear has to be parsed through so many filters. Is Eskin guessing? Is he simply seeking to increase his own brand by acquiring bushels of retweets and citations? Or is his claim legit reporting?
And if this is properly sourced intel by Eskin, could the Redskins be deftly applying smokescreen to scare other teams out of the bidding for Griffin? The most marked immediate reaction to the news - other than utter jubilation among Rams fans - was utter dismay among Clevelanders. "You can have him at that price. Too much" tweets notable (and long-suffering) Browns fan Ryan Burns of FootballSickness.com.
Peter King piles on with his idea of a counter-offer in this rapidly escalating bidding war: "It's not only gonna be 4 & 22. It's gonna be 4 & 22, a 2 & maybe a 5. Everyone in Cleveland's gonna gag."
We also have to factor in the Redskins' desperation, with Mike Shanahan and Daniel Snyder desperate to regain relevancy. The team has plenty of cap room, and could be ready to buy their way back into contention with dollars, using draft picks as collateral for short-term gains instead of a long-term team-building strategy.
All this underscores the hype that Griffin has built for himself in a transcendent Combine. He has done everything right, from flying through the athletic drills to blowing away interviewers. By all appearances, he and Luck are "two-in-a-generation" talent, making it nearly impossible to imagine a draft scenario that doesn't involve the Rams trading out of the #2 spot.
Fisher's draft history
Making a deal all the more likely is that Jeff Fisher's teams are very fond of trading down in the draft. He pulled his first draft-day deal in 1996, his first year coaching the Houston Oilers, trading out of the #9 pick for three picks in return from Oakland, including their 1st rounder. They took Oakland's picks and traded up from #17 to #14 to select a franchise player, running back Eddie George.
Fisher's draft history is peppered with deals such as these, dealing down to acquire key players such as Jon Runyon, Kevin Carter, and Albert Haynesworth. Perhaps his only regret might be passing on Tony Gonzalez in 1997.
Moreover, his history with Shanahan provides an easy avenue for deal-making. If they pull it off, the Rams' future gets suddenly brighter, and their ability to build a winner around Sam Bradford gets stronger, even if they are trading away from a special player in Robert Griffin III.
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