The impending sale of the franchise had prevented Charley Casserly from re-signing quarterback Trent Green in January 1999, but the Redskins’ general manager not only saved that situation by trading for Brad Johnson, he snookered the Saints on draft day.
New Orleans coach Mike Ditka was one of the NFL’s greatest tight ends and he won a Super Bowl in Chicago (thanks almost totally to coordinator Buddy Ryan’s fearsome defense). But Ditka was no great judge of personnel. He fell in love with Texas running back Ricky Williams before the 1999 draft and made it clear he would do anything to get him.
So Casserly gave Ditka the No. 5 overall selection for all six of the Saints’ picks plus their first- and third-rounders in 2000 in the NFL’s biggest trade in 40 years.
Ditka chose Williams, two spots before Casserly took Georgia cornerback Champ Bailey.
While the eccentric Williams has had a couple of good years, he’s more famous/infamous for being suspended for drug use than for anything he has done on the field. Bailey has become a Pro Bowl perennial, mostly for Denver after his falling out with owner Dan Snyder led the Redskins to trade him in 2004.
Later deals from the plethora of picks acquired from the Saints brought three-time Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington and formidable offensive tackle Jon Jansen to the Redskins.
Casserly was fired by Snyder three months after the lopsided deal so that the impetuous, young owner could run the team through his own man (Vinny Cerrato), but there’s no arguing that acquiring Champ, LaVar and Jansen for Ricky Williams is one of the greatest trades in Redskins history.
To top off the deal’s success, the Redskins won the NFC East in 1999 for the first time since their 1991 Super Bowl season. The Saints finished 3-13 and so was Ditka. He hasn’t worked in the NFL since.
— David Elfin