The trade heard 'round the league; thoughts on all 32 first-round picks
The Falcons-Browns trade had been one week in the making
Truth behind the mixup on the Ravens' selection late in the round
32 draft thoughts, including the odd pick of the first round and more
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Before I get to the story of the night, the mega-trade between Cleveland and Atlanta that I'm sure made Sean Payton cringe, an explanation of the weirdness that happened with Baltimore on the clock at pick 26, weirdness that is not over:
Chicago, picking 29th, and Baltimore, at 26, finalized a trade that would have had them switch slots, with the Ravens getting the Bears' fourth-round pick in return. Chicago would take Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi, and the Ravens, if Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith was still on the board, would take Smith at 29. With two minutes left in the Ravens' period, the deal was done.
Under NFL rules, each team has to report the trade to NFL draft headquarters at Radio City Music Hall. The Ravens called it in. They assumed Chicago called it in, but due to a miscommunication in the Bears' draft room, no one from Chicago ever called the league. As the clock ticked down to zero, and with Chicago on the phone with Carimi to tell him he was going to be their pick, Baltimore noticed no one at the league had announced the trade and Chicago's pick of Carimi. Meanwhile, Kansas City, with the 27th pick, rushed its card to the desk at Radio City, taking Pittsburgh wideout Jonathan Baldwin.
Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, on an open line to New York, demanded to know why the trade hadn't gone through. Chicago never called to confirm it, Newsome was told. Baltimore was infuriated. The league didn't allow the trade. The Ravens picked Smith at 27 (not 26; Kansas City was awarded the 26th pick and took Baldwin, because the Chiefs got the pick in before the Ravens did), and the Bears got lucky, getting Carimi at 29.
"Whatever you hear, Baltimore did everything the right way," Bears GM Jerry Angelo told Chicago media. "There were a lot of things happening in the draft room. We were getting a lot of calls, we just ... dropped the ball. I dropped the ball. I can't say anything more than that."
All's well that ends well, you say? Not so fast. Angelo called Baltimore owner Steve Bisciotti to apologize, but Bisciotti wanted the fourth-round pick anyway, claiming it was part of the deal they'd agreed to. In fact, I'm told Bisciotti today will push to get the fourth-round pick, or to make the situation right in some way.
The league is under no obligation to do so, because the trade was never official. And maybe all's fair in love and draft-night trades, but as far as Baltimore's concerned, I don't think this one's over. I think the Ravens will ask the league to award them some compensation from Chicago before the draft resumes at 6 p.m. Eastern today. Stay tuned.
Everything in the NFL is cyclical.
The Julio Jones trade was a perfect storm of two bold, young general managers trying to do something that made inordinate sense for each team ... with a bizarre historical precedent.
"When we started talking about a trade this size about a week ago,'' Cleveland GM Tom Heckert told me last night, "we looked for a trade we might be able to pattern it after, and we found one back in 1995. Cleveland and the 49ers made a deal where the 49ers moved way up to take J.J. Stokes.''
Uh-oh. Harbinger of doom right there.
Cleveland owned the 10th pick in 1995, San Francisco the 30th. With John Taylor and Jerry Rice getting old, the 49ers sent first-, third- and fourth-round picks in 1995 and a first-rounder in 1996 to move up to take Stokes, the receiver they thought would be a great successor to Rice. He flopped, of course, averaging 38 catches a year in a starless nine-year career. In the 1995 draft, Cleveland coach Bill Belichick, running his last draft before getting fired by Art Modell, didn't have his best day. He chose linebacker Craig Powell and linebacker Mike Frederick with the first two 1995 picks.
But the 1996 first-round pick, after the franchise moved to Baltimore? Linebacker Ray Lewis.
Cleveland got zilch out of the deal. The 49ers got the same.
"I don't think history's going to repeat itself,'' said Heckert.
These two teams hope not. This time, Cleveland traded the sixth pick in the draft to Atlanta for the Falcons' first- (27th overall), second- (59th) and fourth- (124th), and next year's first- and fourth-rounders. So in 1995, San Francisco moved up 20 spots in the first round and paid a 1, 1, 3 and 4; in 2011, Atlanta moved up 21 spots in the first round and paid a 1, 1, 3, 4 and 4. An extra four, as it turns out. A ransom, some called it. A Ditka/Ricky Williams deal, others said.
I love it for both teams. Cleveland has six or eight major holes all over the field and acquired three top-60 picks and two in the fourth round to address them. In Matt Ryan's career, Atlanta may never be in position to draft a 6-foot-4, 223-pound wideout who runs a 4.38-second 40 and blocks like a poor man's Hines Ward. The Falcons were desperate for an explosive offensive player to take pressure off Roddy White -- who turns 30 this season. Seems like a good deal for both teams, though I realize the Falcons slightly overpaid for a player who has B-minus hands.
"It will be lauded by some, scrutinized by others,'' Dimitroff said over the phone just before midnight. "It's a substantial price to pay, but we spread it over two years, and we're still left with a three, a five, a six and three sevens this year. I want to emphasize this: I know the impression out there will be that we must think we're one player away to have paid so much for one player. But that isn't the case at all. We need more explosive playmaking, and this will help not only Matt but Roddy White and Michael Jenkins and Tony Gonzalez. We just decided to make an aggressive, bold move that we think will pay off for our team.''
Dimitroff first called Heckert last week, and they actually reached the parameters of a deal early this week. Cleveland would have gotten cold feet had the best player on their board, A.J. Green, slipped down to their pick at six, but he was taken at four. When Jones was there at six, both teams eagerly pulled the trigger.
This is the kind of trade a timid GM can't make. Wouldn't make. I'm reminded of the 2008 draft, when I spent the weekend in Atlanta for Dimitroff's first draft. He turned down a treasure trove from Baltimore to stay at number three and pick Mike Vick's replacement, Ryan. Then he dealt two second-round picks in a deal for tackle Sam Baker, the 21st pick in the first round. Baker wasn't worthy of the 21st pick in terms of talent, but Dimitroff saw the tackles flying off the board and said, "It can't always be about the value. Sometimes it has to be about the player.'' Baker's a passable left tackle now, and without him, Ryan might have been abused significantly more in his first three years.
But give credit to Heckert too. The Browns desperately wanted a wideout threat; they have none for young quarterback Colt McCoy. And now the pressure's on Heckert to make sure that, like Dimitroff, he can turn one of these prominent picks into an explosive offensive weapon.
This is the deal that made the 2011 draft so much fun. A good friend of mine, a Falcons fan from Augusta, Ga., texted late last night to say, "ATL has a Christmas feel to it tonight.'' Thanks to Dimitroff.
(Click team name for picks.)
1. Carolina: We all know it's a great, great risk, drafting a guy with one year's experience at a high level to be the cornerstone of the franchise at the toughest position to play in sports. But I'd have done it. Had the Panthers not done it, who knows what happens in 2012 when Andrew Luck comes out? What if Carolina picks second next year and misses Luck by one pick?
2. Denver: The need at defensive tackle was far greater, especially with Elvis Dumervil coming back as an outside pass-rusher. But John Fox simply isn't going to pass on a pass-rusher, and he didn't in picking up Von Miller. Pass-rushers are rarer than defensive tackles ... unless we're talking Ndamukong Suh-quality at defensive tackle. And Marcell Dareus is not Suh.
3. Buffalo: Marcell Dareus is the only pick they could have made. Best front-seven player available. I'm sure they longed for Von Miller, but they never had that choice.
4. Cincinnati: No one can criticize the pick of A.J. Green, the number one player on several teams' draft board -- including division rival Cleveland. The Bengals might get very, very fortunate if they can steal Andy Dalton early in the second round today.
5. Arizona: Best corner in the draft by far in Patrick Peterson, a superb pick. You know how much Arizona liked him? So much so that even though Blaine Gabbert was the number one quarterback on the Cards' board, they never seriously considered him here because they loved Peterson so much.
6. Atlanta: Thomas Dimitroff got this text from a friend in the league last night: "Ballsy move.'' Couldn't have said it better, trading five picks in the top four rounds for one difference-maker (he'd better be), Julio Jones.
7. San Francisco: Everyone's surprised about Aldon Smith at 7, but clearly the Niners thought Smith was the second-best pass-rusher in the draft, behind Miller -- and ahead of UNC's Robert Quinn. "The pick speaks for how they were rated on our board. Aldon was just rated higher,'' GM Trent Baalke said late last night. But the fans in the Bay Area are still waiting for a quarterback -- rightfully. "There are situations out there that will allow us to address the position. You have to let them play out,'' Baalke said. Sounds like a Kevin Kolb or Matt Hasselbeck might be coming to town.
8. Tennessee: Jake Locker at 8. Stunning. Just stunning. Started for parts of four seasons in college, and completed 54 percent of his throws in his college career. Great leader, great kid, great locker-room guy. But if he's Kyle Boller as a thrower, how can he make it in the NFL?
9. Dallas: Much discussion in the organization about this pick, with some favoring Anthony Castonzo here, and I think the BC kid would have been better for a team that might need a guard as much as a tackle in the next year or two. But the 'Boys judged Smith the best tackle on the board, and he's only 20, so they think he's got room to grow as a player. We'll see.
10. Jacksonville: Hand it to GM Gene Smith. He's a bold drafter. After picking Tyson Alualu at 10 last year, he took Blaine Gabbert at 10 this year. Not that Gabbert at 10 is gutsy, but it cost the Jags their second-rounder to move up. Seat's getting hot for David Garrard, who may have one season left in Florida.
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