Fearing mistake, teams leery of trading at top of draft
Posted: Monday April 9, 2007 7:59AM; Updated: Monday April 9, 2007 11:16AM
KANSAS CITY -- Myth of the Month: If a team near the top of the first round of the NFL Draft wants to trade down, it can get a ransom for the pick.
Reality of the Month: In the last two NFL Drafts, no team with a top-10 pick in the first round has traded down for said ransom. In fact, the last two drafts have yielded only one trade with a team in the top 10, but it wasn't a trade-down. It was the Raiders trading the seventh overall pick plus linebacker Napoleon Harris for Randy Moss in 2005; Minnesota chose wideout Troy Williamson with that pick. (Talk about a trade that hurt both teams.)
Is it just me, or does everyone at this time of year have the same knee-jerk thought: If you're Detroit sitting on the No. 2 pick, no matter what happens, you're going to be able to either pick a great prospect, or trade it for a bunch of high picks. But if form holds, we're not going to see many, or any, deals made in the first couple hours of the April 28 draft.
"It's too difficult,'' Chiefs president Carl Peterson said in his office the other day. "You've got a lot of teams that want to get rich by trading down, but nobody wants to trade up.''
Here's why teams are reluctant to make a trade at the top of the draft this year:
1. Making an error by trading up can hurt a team's salary-cap situation and future drafts more than ever. Say a team trades up to the third pick in the draft this year, nabs Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn and guarantees him $20 million -- which is about the amount of guaranteed money the No. 3 overall pick will get. And imagine if Quinn is awful. Contracts can be written with different cap impacts, but suffice it to say, the big guarantee is going to be a Ryan Leaf-type weight on your franchise if Quinn has to be cut after three years at the cost of a $10 million cap hit. Never mind losing the picks it took to get Quinn in the first place. It used to be, when the guarantees were one-third of what they are now, that teams wouldn't fear the cap hit so much. "The cash mistake is bad enough when you blow a high pick,'' Peterson said. "But the cap mistake is worse. And then missing out on the future picks just compounds it.'' Which brings us to ...
2. The fear of the mega-mistake. The last one -- unless Eli Manning shows significantly more than he's shown in three shaky seasons, and fast -- came in 2004. Manning was picked by San Diego at No. 1 overall and Philip Rivers was chosen fourth by the Giants, and then New York traded Rivers for Manning and threw in future first-, third- and fifth-round picks. The first- and third-rounders became Pro Bowlers Shawne Merriman and Nate Kaeding, while the fifth-rounder was dealt to Tampa Bay for temporary starting left tackle Roman Oben.
The trade looks bad now, and all it does is scare off teams thinking of trading future high picks to move up a few spots. You don't think Cleveland GM Phil Savage (I think the odds are tall that he'd trade up anyway, from what he tells me) will be very hesitant to trade a second-rounder, or next year's first to move up for JaMarcus Russell? All that's at stake is his job.
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