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Catch of a Lifetime? (cont.)

Posted: Tuesday May 1, 2007 9:38AM; Updated: Wednesday May 9, 2007 1:53PM
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Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson toured the NFL offices last Friday before being selected No. 2 in the draft by Detroit.
Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson toured the NFL offices last Friday before being selected No. 2 in the draft by Detroit.
David Bergman/SI
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With six minutes remaining, Millen clapped his hands. Why delay the inevitable? "Get [Johnson] on the phone," he barked. An aide handed Millen the phone.

"Remember what I told you when you visited here, that you wouldn't get past the Number 2 pick?" Millen asked Johnson.

"I remember," Johnson, at the draft in New York City's Radio City Music Hall, replied.

"Well, you're not getting past the Number 2 pick. Congratulations. You're a Lion."

If Johnson's as good as advertised -- a physical 6'5", 239-pound receiver with sprinter's speed who loves to play the game -- Millen did the right thing by setting the trade bar high. But he shouldn't have been surprised that no offer materialized. A team picking in the top 10 used to be able to trade down for a package of picks and/or players, but this was the third straight year no such deal was made. Why? The disparity in payouts to rookies at the top of the draft has grown more pronounced as the NFL salary cap has risen from $85.5 million to $109 million since 2005. A mere two-slot move up by Tampa Bay, from fourth to second, would have cost the Bucs an additional $3 million per year, minimum, in player compensation, plus at least two second-round selections. The fact that no one moved up for a such a highly touted player as Johnson is a sign that the days of top-of-the draft trades may be over.

Which helps explain all the deals that came later. For Millen the action started in the second round. He held the 34th pick and had his eyes on Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton, whom the Lions had graded very close to Notre Dame's Brady Quinn. The Bills, eager for Penn State linebacker Paul Posluszny, offered second- and third-round picks for the 34th. Millen made the trade and got Stanton at No. 43. He'll be groomed to be Detroit's 2008 starter.

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