On the move
Rams, Chiefs finish off long-rumored Green deal
By Don Banks, Sports Illustrated
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It is a deal that looked dead in the water at many times in the past seven weeks, amid media reports of blood feuds and hurt feelings between these two cross-state rivals.
After a long day of negotiations on Friday, the Rams shipped their backup quarterback and a fifth-round pick to the Chiefs in exchange for Kansas City's No. 12 pick in the first round. And in a surprising twist, the Rams agreed to not match the two-year $1.5 million offer sheet that the Chiefs made this week to return specialist Tony Horne. Earlier Friday, Vermeil told the media that St. Louis had matched the offer and retained Horne.
With no first-round pick, the Chiefs seemingly have no avenue in which to pursue their need of a lead running back. With that in mind, Vermeil said the club has reached a contract agreement with free-agent running back Priest Holmes.
The former Baltimore Raven inherits the role of Kansas City's primary rusher. Holmes' deal is believed to be for five years and $8 million.
While Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson was said to be opposed to trading his first-rounder almost even up for Green, Kansas City head coach Dick Vermeil favored the deal and was successful in bringing Peterson around to his point of view.
"Trent Green, when healthy, will make more contributions to the success of this organization than any first-round pick that's out there right now," Vermeil said.
The thinking within the Chiefs organization was that Vermeil allowed Peterson to talk him out of retirement in order to take over the Kansas City job in January, and now it was Vermeil's turn to ask Peterson to re-pay the favor and deal for the quarterback he wants.
Talks between the Rams and Chiefs intensified Friday as Vermeil acknowledged the two sides have been in contact since Wednesday. Vermeil said both teams gave ground towards reaching an agreement.
"I've never been for trading a first, and I never have traded a first-round pick," Vermeil said. "But if that's what it takes to get the job done, then that has to be a part of it."
If there was a late sticking point in the trade negotiations it was that the Chiefs still have some concerns about the health of Green's left knee, which underwent some clean-up arthroscopic surgery in late February, after being surgically reconstructed in August 1999.
Vermeil said for the first time Friday that according to Chiefs doctors, under the best case scenario Green won't be ready to play until the opening of training camp. The worst case scenario, Vermeil said, has Green out until midway through training camp.
"He's behind where we thought he would be when we brought him in here the first time [on March 12]," Vermeil said. "Our concern with him now is not that he can play well, it's the condition of his knee. So that makes us more hesitant than we would be if he had a clean bill of health."
Vermeil said the Chiefs are somewhat uneasy because their information regarding Green's knee is coming second-hand, via communication between the team's doctors and Birmingham-based orthopedic specialist Dr. James Andrews, who performed the surgery.
"It's hard to get it defined when you can't talk with the kid and your doctors can't examine the kid," Vermeil said.
After the deal was announced, Vermeil downplayed the risk the Chiefs are taking with Green."It's a risk, but it's not reckless," Vermeil said. "If I didn't know Trent Green like I know him we probably would not have done it. But we know this kid and we know the doctors who worked on him and we feel sooner or later we are going to have a sound, healthy football player."
The Rams have said all along that they were satisfied to retain Green as their backup behind Kurt Warner if the Chiefs couldn't pay at least two draft picks for him: a first and a third. But St. Louis at this point felt it would not do much better than the No. 12 pick in exchange for Green, after not being able to build up any significant interest in him around the league due to his balky knee.
Now that they've landed the Chiefs' No. 12 selection, the Rams will be the only team in the NFL with three first-round picks: No. 12, 20 and 29.
Rams head coach Mike Martz is believed to be very comfortable with the idea of elevating third-year veteran Joe Germaine to the backup role, providing the team signs a vagabond veteran type for the No. 3 position.
"I don't want Trent to leave this organization," Martz said. "It is hard to speak about this and not get very emotional. I do know that this is the best thing for the organization and ultimately it gives Trent a chance to start, and nobody deserves that opportunity more than Trent."
Peterson was said to be opposed to giving up the first-rounder in part because he still feels the Chiefs were unfairly forced by the league to surrender their second-round selection to the Rams as compensation for signing Vermeil -- the former St. Louis head coach -- in January. Peterson, who is highly protective of draft picks, does not like the idea that Kansas City will be relegated to taking just its two third-round selections (No. 75 and No. 77) late on the opening day of the draft.
Green has been the subject of trade talks with the Chiefs since late February. Green's agent, Jim Steiner, said negotiations escalated Friday.
"To be a good football team, as we all know you need a fine quarterback," Vermeil said. "I don't know if Trent Green is slated for the Pro Bowl, but I know he can play well."
The acquisition of Horne will help the Chiefs' special teams immensely. Horne has 3,577 kickoff return yards in his three NFL seasons, and an average return of 25 yards. He produced 1,379 yards in kickoff returns last season, with a long of 103 yards for a touchdown.
"I had heard [Thursday] that they were going to match our offer and keep him, but evidently today they just decided to use Tony as a tool to make the deal more palatable to us," Vermeil said. "They knew we wanted him."
Vermeil acknowledged late Friday that the Chiefs got more from the Rams than they expected. When asked if he would have accepted the terms of the deal even without Horne's inclusion, Vermeil said, "That's probably true. I would have."
St. Louis tendered Horne at the $512,000 minimum level for restricted free agents, but he will now receive $250,000 to sign with the Rams, plus base salaries of $500,000 in 2001 and $750,000 in 2002. Horne was undrafted out of college, meaning the Rams would not have received any compensation from Kansas City if they decided not to match.