The Deal That Keeps On Giving
By David Seigerman
In retrospect, March 9, 2012 turned out to be a pretty dark day for blockbusters.
One introduced that day featured a superhuman athlete with ties to the Friday Night Lights of Texas football and the heroic potential to save the world. And the other was the release of John Carter.
The latter was a flop. The jury remains out on the former. At least in the eyes of those fans who had hoped that their team's acquisition that day of the second pick of the 2012 NFL Draft would land them Robert Griffin III, the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor, and give them a renewed reason to hail the Redskins.
There's another fan base whose take on that Black Friday deal is a little different. Fans of the Rams have given that trade nothing but positive reviews. And it's about to get even better.
As it stands today, two weeks from the end of the regular season, St. Louis would be the proud owners of the second pick in the 2014 draft -- the last bit of the bounty extracted from the Skins in exchange for the rights to draft Griffin, the quarterback Washington just shut down for the season.
The Rams are a team on the come, and could use that and their own first-round pick to build upon the reconstruction project that began when they moved that pick. Here's what that deal set in motion:
* The Rams received from the Redskins the sixth overall pick in 2012, which they traded to Dallas. In return, they got No. 14, which they used to draft Michael Brockers, one of their starting defensive tackles. Brockers has 5.5 sacks on the year and had a huge game against San Francisco in Week 13 (7 tackles, 2 sacks).
* The deal with the Cowboys also netted them Pick No. 45 in 2012, which they sent to Chicago. The Bears spent No. 45 on Alshon Jeffery, while St. Louis turned its two picks into Isaiah Pead (No. 50), a non-contributor, and Rokevious Watkins (No. 150), who they cut in July. This is far and away the lone black mark on the legacy of the Griffin deal.
* They also received the Redskins' second-round pick in 2012, No. 39 overall, which the Rams used on cornerback Janoris Jenkins. While Jenkins hasn't put up the historic numbers he posted as a rookie (when he returned three interceptions and a fumble recovery for touchdowns), he's a reliable starter and a developing corner.
* St. Louis also received Washington's first-rounder in 2013 (No. 22). Having the flexibility of two first-round picks emboldened the Rams to include their own pick (No. 16) in a package they used to get the eighth pick of the first round from Buffalo. The Rams spent that pick on Tavon Austin, considered the most explosive offensive playmaker in the draft, whom they are just starting to find ways to utilize. And they moved up in the third round, where they landed T.J. McDonald with pick No. 71. McDonald is now the starting strong safety and has 42 tackles in the eight games he's been healthy enough to play in.
* The Rams also moved No. 22 to Atlanta, in exchange for three draft picks: a first (No. 30), which they used to take Alec Ogletree (their starting Sam linebacker who has more than 100 tackles as a rookie); a third (No. 92), which they used to take Stedman Bailey (a wide receiver who is starting to contribute over the past four games); and a sixth (No. 198), which they sent to Houston in a package for the Texans' fifth-round pick (No. 160). St. Louis drafted Zac Stacy with that pick; Stacy has three 100-yard rushing performances in the last seven games and has scored six touchdowns over his last six games.
For those of you keeping score at home, the Rams essentially traded one pick -- the second pick of the 2012 draft -- for a windfall of critical pieces: a starting defensive tackle, cornerback, strong safety, outside linebacker and running back, plus two slot receivers with tremendous upside.
But wait, there's more.
Washington's loss on Sunday kept the Skins (well, the Rams) in the running for the first overall pick in 2014. Right now, No. 1 belongs to Houston. Washington is slotted second. With two loseable games remaining, the Redskins could still wind up winning the lottery . . . for St. Louis.
And here's where things get interesting.
What will St. Louis do with that pick? Keep in mind, the Rams also have their own first-round pick, which is likely to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 15th.
Clearly, Les Snead is not shy about dealing with those picks. It would surprise no one if he moved one or both of them for multiple picks that would continue to add to the foundation.
Should they hold onto No. 2, it'd be really interesting to see how they spend it. At the moment, it seems they would be chosing from among the following options:
* Though they run a 4-3 defense, they'd probably be disclined to take Jadeveon Clowney, as they already have two first-round picks lined up at defensive end (Chris Long, Robert Quinn). So, perhaps they take Anthony Barr and put him in a linebacker corps that already features Ogletree and James Laurinaitis.
* They are set for the short term at left tackle with Jake Long, but there's no reason not to take his eventual heir. They could grab Jake Matthews, put him at right tackle for a season or two, and slide him over as soon as he surpasses Long. It might be considered too early to take a right tackle at No. 2, but Matthews is the safest pick in the draft. Then again, there will be top-flight tackles available in the middle of the first round.
* Regardless of how quickly Austin develops, the Rams lack a true No. 1 receiver. Tight end Jared Cook (44 catches, 614 yards) is their leading receiver this season. Chris Givens (32-545) is next, but he doesn't have a touchdown catch. Wide receiver might be the top-heaviest position in the 2014 draft, and it wouldn't be too dramatic a reach for Sammy Watkins, the best of the bunch, to go as early as No. 2.
* They could use help in the secondary. Opponents are completing 69% of their pass attempts against St. Louis -- the highest percentage in the league. There isn't a cornerback or safety worth a top-5 pick, let alone No. 2. It's unlikely they'd go in that direction here.
* That leaves perhaps the key question about St. Louis moving forward: Are they ready to give up on Sam Bradford? Before he got hurt, Bradford, the former No. 1 overall pick, was playing the best football of his career. His completion percentage was up, his interception percentage was down. His yards per game, yard per attempt and touchdown percentage were all at career-best levels. But can they do better? If the Texans don't take Teddy Bridgewater, might the Rams grab him to back up Bradford, at least next season. Bradford is under contract through 2015, and it's unlikely St. Louis would extend his deal until they see how he recovers from his ACL injury. If Bridgewater goes No. 1, might the Rams look at Derek Carr as a long-term option?
The ultimate irony of this would be if the Rams used a second-overall draft pick on a supposed can't-miss quarterback, whose early career turns into a disappointing sequence of scrambling, struggling and sitting. Surely, they won't ignore the cautionary tale staring them in the face.
Even if that were to happen, St. Louis has already won that 2012 trade, going away.
As for the Redskins, it appears not even John Carter could save them.