With a few days to reflect on the NFL draft, it's time to examine one of the stranger things to happen in recent memory.
In my 20-plus years of being in NFL draft rooms, I have never heard of a trade not being finalized because one of the teams never called Joel Bussert, the NFL senior director of player personnel, to formally execute the deal with the league office. As we all know by now, the Ravens thought they had a deal with the Bears to move down from the 26th overall pick to 29 to allow the Bears to select Gabe Carimi. The Ravens would add a fourth-round pick and hope to get their man in corner Jimmy Smith.
The protocol of making a trade during the draft is really simple, so simple that most teams function in the same manner. The person in charge for the respective teams is on the phone. Once both sides agree to a deal, they then instruct their designated (one person) point man to call Bussert and have him execute the trade verbally, thus allowing the team moving up to make its pick in the allotted time.
The paperwork is not done until after the draft because time does not allow for such a formality. The only requirement is that each team expresses the same trade terms to Bussert. It is easy to do, especially since each team has its entire staff in the same room (thus the name draft room), so it would be hard to imagine there would be any confusion. It isn't like you have to run down the hall and tell someone. Normally, the person who calls Bussert is sitting next to the person who handles the trades. Yet, this is where the tale of the Bears-Ravens non-trade gets fuzzy.
Here is how Angelo recounted the details.
"We had a disconnect, and there might be something said about it because of not communicating with the league and proper protocol and that was my fault," Angelo told reporters last Thursday. "I called Baltimore, and I did apologize to Baltimore and told them that it was our fault. They did everything according to the rules, and we thought we were following everything, and we just ran out of time. No more than that. It was a glitch on our part, and that glitch obviously was under my reign."
But how could there be a glitch? Once you agree to a deal, which clearly Angelo did with Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, then all glitches are gone. Unless Angelo and the Bears learned the Chiefs, the team they feared shared a mutual admiration for Carimi and wanted to upgrade their offensive line heading into the draft, did not take Carimi. Once the Bears knew the Chiefs were going wide receiver, all that stood between them and landing Carimi was the Ravens and Saints -- both teams not likely to go offensive line early.
"We had a trade, I mean with about two-and-a-half minutes left we had a deal," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Saturday. "For two-and-a-half minutes Ozzie was on the phone, and the Bears were telling Ozzie they had called the deal in. I mean, we all know you have to call the deal in for it to be official. But the Bears had insisted for over two minutes they had called it in. Then all of a sudden we're not on the clock anymore.
In reality, there is only one conclusion with what really happen -- the Bears backed out of the trade after agreeing to a deal.
Angelo claimed after the draft, "No harm, no foul, everyone got their man." However, there was harm, there was a foul. Harm in the sense that the Ravens thought they had a deal, they could have lost their man, and they were left in limbo -- the worst place to be on draft day. A foul in the sense that the Bears kept a pick they agreed to trade just minutes before. Chicago ended up using that fourth-round selection in a different deal to move up and take defensive tackle Stephen Paea, someone they considered drafting in the first round had all the offensive linemen been off the board.
One thing is for sure, the phone lines between Baltimore and Chicago won't work during next year's draft.