The St. Louis Rams are open to offers for the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft — and the chance to abscond with Robert Griffin III, the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor. Stand back, everybody. This could get crazy (in a ‘Black Friday’ sale kind of way).
We’re talking, after all, about a potential franchise quarterback, pro football’s most prized commodity. As history has shown, almost no price is too high for one of those. Heck, in recent years, QBs of almost any description have come at a heavy cost. Witness the first- and (probably) second-round selections the Oakland Raiders gave up last year for past-his-prime Carson Palmer. There’s a lot of desperation out there, folks, especially with the game increasingly revolving around the pass.
As is their wont, the Washington Redskins are remaining tight-lipped on the subject, but they could very well become involved in the bidding for Griffin. They’re sitting, thanks to a 5-11 season, with the sixth overall pick, and they’ll likely have to move up to the second spot to be sure of getting RG3 (after Indianapolis siphons off Stanford’s Andrew Luck). Other teams (e.g. Cleveland at No. 4 and Miami at No. 8), of course, are thinking along the same lines, which should make the Griffin auction the league’s top offseason spectacle.
The Redskins — and Mike Shanahan — have been in this situation fairly often in the past decade or so … on both sides of the equation. A brief review:
• 1999: Stuck for a quarterback after Trent Green left in free agency, the Redskins traded a No. 1, a No. 2 and a No. 3 to Minnesota for veteran Brad Johnson. Johnson made the Pro Bowl that year and led the club to its last division title but played only one more season in Washington.
• 2005: Having doubts about Mark Brunell and Patrick Ramsey, Joe Gibbs sent first-, third- and fourth-round picks to Denver (then coached by Shanahan) for the 25th pick and took Jason Campbell. We all know how that turned out.
• 2006: Having the same concerns about Jake Plummer, Shanahan moved up from 15 to 11, gave the Rams a third-rounder for their trouble and grabbed Jay Cutler.
• 2011: Shanny and the Redskins traded down from 10 to 16 to accommodate Jacksonville, which lusted after Blaine Gabbert. The Jaguars also gave up a No. 2 in the deal.
That’s four trades in a dozen years involving quarterbacks. And only one of the QBs, I’ll just point out, took the team that traded for him to the playoffs (though, admittedly, Gabbert is just getting started in Jacksonville). So it’s more than a bit risky to swap high picks — often over multiple drafts — for a passer, especially an unproven one.
But that’s the way of the NFL world. I mean, the New York Jets did it to get Mark Sanchez (for better or worse). The Browns did it to get Brady Quinn. The Giants did it to get Eli Manning. The Baltimore Ravens did it to get Kyle Boller. I could go on, but you get the idea. With 32 franchises, there aren’t nearly enough Pro Bowl-caliber quarterbacks to go around. Thus, clubs will bend over backward to acquire one, sometimes successfully (Manning), sometimes not (where have you gone, Ryan Leaf?)
Actually, let’s talk about Manning and Leaf for a moment, because Griffin’s price tag could well be as hefty as theirs. For Eli, the first pick in 2004, the Giants essentially gave up two No. 1s (the fourth and 12th selections), a No. 3 and a No. 5. They couldn’t be happier about it, though, because it produced two Lombardi trophies.
The San Diego Chargers weren’t nearly as lucky six years earlier. For Ryan, the second pick, they handed over two even higher No. 1s (third and eighth overall), plus a No. 2 and two players (wide receiver Eric Metcalf and linebacker Patrick Sapp). Alas, the kid proved to be one of the biggest busts in league history, thoroughly clueless on and off the field.
Stylistically, Griffin doesn’t remind anybody of Manning, nor does he summon memories of Leaf. (In fact, the quarterback he most closely resembles — for athleticism, throwing accuracy, smarts and size — is Hall of Famer Steve Young, who Shanahan coached in San Francisco.) But Eli and Ryan are kind of the best-case/worst-case scenarios for the Redskins — or for any other team that makes a play for RG3. And let’s face it, other clubs will be in the running for Griffin’s services, which will just drive up his cost, perhaps beyond Shanahan’s reach.
Remember, Shanny doesn’t have a second first-rounder this year to throw into the deal the way the Browns do (24th, from the Julio Jones trade). He also doesn’t have a surplus of talent on his roster if the Rams are looking for a few warm bodies in addition to picks. And he clearly has other needs to address besides QB (offensive line, receiver), some of which might have to be put on hold if the bidding gets ridiculous.
But you can’t pay too much for a great quarterback — right? That maxim figures to be put to the test in the months ahead, as the draft draws near and Griffin’s stock continues to rise. It shapes up as the most fascinating Redskins offseason since the dawn of free agency, what with Peyton Manning, RG3 and Matt Flynn on the list of possibilities.
Peyton, if healthy, makes the most short-term sense, and Flynn, who has started only two games, is intriguingly mysterious. (Or is it “mysteriously intriguing”? I can’t decide.) But the more I see of Griffin, the more I’m convinced: This is the guy who could change everything for the Redskins. This is the guy who could put the “party” in the party decks. He isn’t going to come cheap, though. And how much of the future do you dare mortgage to get your quarterback of tomorrow?