Putting the Redskins-Rams Trade in Perspective

Story posted March 10, 2012 in NFL Draft by Dan Smith.


News broke late Friday that the Washington Redskins and St. Louis Rams had a deal in place that would allow the Redskins to move up four spots in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. This would enable them to draft Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, largely thought to be a future franchise quarterback.

However, the price was not cheap. Despite only moving four spots from sixth to second, the Redskins were forced to give up that sixth pick, a 2012 second round pick, and their first round picks in 2013 and 2014. Washington owner Daniel Snyder is already receiving criticism for paying such a steep price for one player, on a team largely thought to have a number of problems.

To put this trade into perspective, it should be compared to a few other trades for supposed franchise quarterbacks that involved trading significant draft picks.

2001: Atlanta-San Diego Trade

Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick was the consensus first overall pick in 2001, with San Diego sitting in the first spot. It was only a couple years before that the Chargers had been burned by Ryan Leaf, who was a disastrous second overall pick. Despite needing a quarterback, the Chargers elected to deal the pick to Atlanta, who gave up their fifth overall pick as well as a third round pick in 2001, as well as a 2002 second round pick and kick returner Tim Dwight.
For Atlanta, the deal landed them a quarterback who would become one of the most exciting players in football, though not the most successful. Vick would be at the helm for the Falcons for six seasons, making one NFC Championship Game appearance in 2004. Things would fall apart in 2007, however, when he was indicted on federal dog fighting charges and sent to prison for two years.

On San Diego's end, they used the fifth overall pick to select running back LaDanian Tomlinson and the third round pick to take cornerback Tay Cody. Cody would not pan out, but Tomlinson would be one of the premiere running backs in the NFL. They also took wide receiver Reche Caldwell in the second round in 2002, but his Chargers career ended after an ACL tear cost him the 2004 season.

The Chargers' patience on picking a quarterback paid off in that draft, as they took quarterback Drew Brees with their 2001 second round pick. While he had an up-and-down first couple of seasons competing with veteran Doug Flutie, Brees would play very well for San Diego in 2004 and 2005, despite having first round pick Philip Rivers behind him. After 2005, Brees became dissatisfied with San Diego's contract offers and signed with the New Orleans Saints, with whom he would win a Super Bowl in 2009.

Oddly enough, it was Rivers who was involved in the other first round quarterback blockbuster trade in 2004.

2004: New York-San Diego Trade

With Brees playing poorly in 2003 and losing the starting job to Flutie, San Diego decided it was time to use their first round pick in 2004 to take a new quarterback. With the first pick, they intended to take Mississippi quarterback Eli Manning. But Manning publicly stated that he would refuse to sign with San Diego, forcing the Chargers to look for a suitor for Manning without much leverage.

The New York Giants were the most interested. Sitting in the four spot, they would only need to move up three spots to lock up Manning. The trade would involve their fourth pick, a 2004 third round pick, and a 2005 second round pick.

The Giants would have ups and downs with Eli Manning at the beginning of his career, but he eventually won Super Bowls in 2007 and 2011, cementing himself as one of the most clutch quarterbacks in the league and making the trade a huge success for New York.

The Chargers would end up with NC State quarterback Philip Rivers, who would replace Drew Brees in 2006 when Brees signed with the Saints. Rivers would go on to have great statistical success and receive numerous awards and praise, but has struggled in the clutch while his team has fallen short in the playoffs numerous times.

The third round pick in 2004 would be used on kicker Nate Kaeding, who like Rivers is still on the Chargers. Kaeding is the most accurate kicker in NFL history based on his field goal percentage, but like Rivers, he has struggled in playoff games. The first round pick in 2005 would be used on linebacker Shawne Merriman. Merriman would be one of the best linebackers in the league during his first three seasons, but injuries would eventually derail his career.

2009: Chicago-Denver Trade

The trade that sent quarterback Jay Cutler to the Chicago Bears is not quite the same as the other trades on this list, in the sense that Cutler was not an unproven draft pick. But the significance of the draft picks involved, combined with the seemingly low risk on Griffin's stock as a pro quarterback, make it an apt comparison.

With new head coach Josh McDaniels arriving in Denver, the Broncos began listening to trade offers for Cutler, which upset the quarterback. By March of 2009, he demanded a trade because of trust issues with his new coach, and the team obliged him in April, dealing him to the Bears.
This deal would have a steeper price tag than the Vick or Manning deal, as Cutler's three years with the Broncos proved him to be a competent pro quarterback, even earning a Pro Bowl selection in 2008. This required the Bears to give up a 2009 first round pick, a 2009 third and a 2010 first round pick, as well as quarterback Kyle Orton.

Cutler has been something of an enigma since arriving in Chicago. He has at times been one of the league's best quarterbacks, with a strong arm and a fearlessness that leads to big plays for his team. However, he has thrown a lot of interceptions in his time with the Bears, and has also dealt with several injury problems, including a season ending thumb injury that cost the Bears a playoff spot in 2011. The team did make an appearance in the 2010 NFC Championship Game against Green Bay, but Cutler injured his knee in the game and missed the second half.

For Denver, the trade yielded Orton, who was eventually released in 2011 after Tim Tebow took his starting job. The Broncos drafted defensive end Robert Ayers with the pick they received from the Bears in 2009, and flipped the third round pick with their own third round pick to Pittsburgh for a second round pick that they would use on tight end Richard Quinn (the Steelers would use the Broncos' third to select wide receiver Mike Wallace). Quinn had little impact in Denver, while Ayers has quietly contributed to the Broncos' front seven.

The Broncos would trade several of their picks in 2010, including the pick they received from Chicago, and eventually ended up with wide receiver Demaryius Thomas in the first round. They also ended up with a third round pick through the deals, and with that pick they selected wide receiver Eric Decker. Thomas and Decker are two of Tebow's main targets now in Denver.

2012: Washington-St. Louis Trade

The Redskins are giving up a much steeper price in draft picks than Atlanta or New York did in the two trades, which is an immediate cause for concern. Washington is far from being a team that is simply "a quarterback away from contending." They are thin on the interior offensive line and at wide receiver, two key positions for Griffin's offense. They will not have the ability to add top talent at any position other than quarterback in any of the next three drafts after this trade, and will have to hope that their later picks and free agent signings can pan out.
This also presents a problem, because Washington's free agent signings in the Snyder era have been extremely erratic and often major failures. Recently, it was a huge contract for defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who would display poor work ethic before quickly being run out of town. Other failed acquisitions included wide receiver Brandon Lloyd and strong safety Adam Archuleta.

The Redskins will at least have the ability to try once again: experts estimate that Washington is nearly $50 million under the salary cap going into the 2012 offseason, which means that even with Griffin's rookie contract, they will have plenty of space to make some moves to build around him.

It can be argued that the price may be worth it: Griffin (like Andrew Luck) seems like as sure of a thing as any quarterback in recent memory. He will certainly not end up being like former second overall pick Ryan Leaf, as Griffin lacks the attitude and character concerns that Leaf brought. Griffin has a good head on his shoulders and a tremendous skill set that will most certainly energize the Redskins fan base.

But for this move to be successful, it will require a more consistent eye for talent from the Redskins front office. They have forced themselves to build the team through free agency, which is a dangerous proposition for any team, especially the Redskins. Three first round picks is the steepest price for a quarterback yet, and represents maybe the biggest risk a team has taken for one player in the draft. The weight of expectations on Robert Griffin III will be huge, and he can only hope there will be some talent to help him bear the burden.

Dan Smith is a junior majoring in Broadcast Journalism and is the Executive Editor of ComRadio. To contact him, email des5249@psu.edu.