Monday, March 5, 2012

Why the Rams Shouldn't Waver

Written By:  Anthony Bafaro

Jim Thomas caused a bit of quaking in the Rams’ community Sunday when he wrote an article suggesting that the Rams’ trade leverage for the 2nd overall pick may not be as strong as was once perceived.  I disagree. 

Any time you’re engaged in negotiations, you set your price and then vaunt the power of your position.  The goal is to convince your counterpart that they need the deal more than you do. The Rams got some early ammunition from the combine.  RG3 settled speculation about his height when he measured out at 6’2” and 3/8” (no quarterback under 6’2” has been drafted in the first round since Michael Vick in 2001).  He posted an impressive time of 4.41 seconds in the 40-yard dash and showed off his camera-savvy-smile and charisma in a series of interviews.  The Rams used that ammo to announce that they wanted a package similar to what the Chargers got for the rights to Eli Manning in 2004 (two 1st round  picks, a 3rd round pick, and a 5th round pick).  

The question now is whether the Rams have the leverage to hold their ground.  The Rams would certainly prefer to deal with the Browns or ‘Skins, as either trade would keep them in the top-six, where most experts believe the list of elite prospects ends (Luck, Griffin, Kalil, Blackmon, Claiborne, Richardson).  A deal with the Browns would be especially alluring, because it would almost certainly leave them in position to nab Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon.  However, the Browns and ‘Skins are not the only potential trade partners.  Thomas suggests that the Dolphins are reluctant, feeling scorned after losing Jeff Fisher to the Rams, but if they’re unable to land Matt Flynn or Peyton Manning, they would certainly swallow their pride and make a play for a potential game-changer of Griffin’s caliber.  Additionally, the Bills, Chiefs, Seahawks, Cardinals, Broncos, and even Eagles are all potential trade partners.  Each team has varying degrees of question-marks at the quarterback position, and the Bills, Chiefs, and Eagles all used one of their limited number of interviews on Griffin (okay, so each team is allowed a plentiful sixty interviews, but why waste one on someone you’re not interested in).

The Browns are more likely to maintain a meager offer than the Redskins.  I’ve questioned from the beginning whether the Browns had any real interest at all in Griffin.  It would be very un-Holmgren-like to give up a significant package to move up two spots in the draft, and with the departure of Peyton Hillis, it seems likely that the Browns would look to draft Trent Richardson with the fourth pick.  If they were seeking a quarterback in the draft, it makes more sense for them to move down from four, or up from twenty-two (at a much cheaper rate) to select Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill, a player many experts believe could have success in a West Coast Offense.  Lastly, don’t underestimate the Browns’ stubborn willingness to stay mediocre by investing another year of development in 2010 third-round-pick Colt Mccoy and/or taking a cap-conservative chance on free-agents Jason Campbell or Kyle Orton.

The Redskins, on the other hand, have nowhere to run.  If Peyton Manning is healthy—and that’s a big “if”—he’ll be able to play anywhere he wants.  No one is going to convince me that he would choose the circus-act Redskins over the Dolphins, Jets, Broncos, Cardinals, etc., and beyond that, I don’t see Shanahan betting his head-coaching tenure on shoving a statue of a quarterback into his bootleg offense.  That leaves them with Rex Grossman, Matt Flynn (two career starts), or Kyle Orton--I don’t see Jason Campbell coming back.  Any of those decisions would result in the Washington fan-base setting fire to FedEx Field (assuming they beat owner Dan Snyder to the arsonist-punch).  Shanahan loves mobile quarterbacks and Dan Snyder loves star power.  RG3 is the only available option that gives them both.

All signs point to a trade with the Redskins.  It’s now a bluffing contest, each team pretending that they’d rather walk away than back down, and I believe the Rams are in a better position to walk away.  The Redskins are betting that the Rams won’t trade out of the “elite-six,” but if a better package surfaces from below--which could include players, not just picks--St. Louis could certainly use one of the many offensive lineman or defensive tackles projected to go in the mid to late first.  If the Redskins yield to a better offer, they’re left with nothing but the floor scraps of free agency. 

There’s no reason for the Rams to blink here, even through free agency.  There are not enough quality quarterbacks to fill all of the vacancies.  Whether it happens tomorrow or on draft-day, the Redskins will pay the asking price.  They have what we want, but we have what they need.

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