A week ago, the league converged on Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine. Between sessions on the RCA Dome field it was a time for club executives to meet privately about other matters such as trades.
The true depth of the talent pool at each position in the draft has yet to be determined, but most club executives came away with a sense of which positions are going to be strong and which appear weak.
The early flurry of trades at the defensive tackle position might suggest that the coaches and front office executives didn't think there were too many answers in the draft at defensive tackle unless you got to select Sedrick Ellis (USC) or Glenn Dorsey (LSU). The rest of the draft class appears to lack depth, so teams have turned to the trade.
With all the salary cap room available this year around the league, trades are one of the most popular ways to change the talent pool on a roster.
For years the NFL just didn't use the trade mechanism like other professional sports. Many general managers were reluctant to surrender draft picks for veteran players, and contracts combined with either medical risks or an underachiever label caused trades to fall apart. That is not the case in 2008 and from what I hear the league isn't done moving tackles among other positions.
Scheme changes around the league have also been a driving force in the defensive tackle movement.
The Jets want their 3-4 scheme to work, so they acquired Kris Jenkins from the Panthers, even though he played in a 4-3 defense in Carolina. He has bulk and can force double teams on the nose and not get moved. He's stout, but does he have the temperament for the unselfish duties of a 3-4 nose tackle? A reported $20 million in guarantees says he does.
The ripple effect of that trade probably means Dwayne Robertson is on his way out of the Jet organization to a 4-3 defense where he belongs. I think he would be a very good fit in the Detroit system, since he was originally drafted by the Jets to play that scheme.
The Lions have already traded away defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, who wasn't the perfect fit for the Lions system and now heads to Cleveland to basically do what Kris Jenkins is being asked to do with the Jets. Come in and be an unselfish 3-4 nose tackle. Rogers has the size to do it but any 3-4 nose tackle will tell you it is a different world.
Cleveland didn't stop with Rogers as it also traded for former Packers defensive tackle Corey Williams. He was a very productive tackle in the Packers' 4-3 defense, but will become a defensive end in the Browns' 3-4 front. The more I think about how fast Cleveland got better up front on defense without ever having a first round pick the more I am impressed with their trade philosophy. Look for the Browns to move this front with slants and stunts, similar to the Chargers and Cowboys, by mixing the 3-4 with the ability to jump into some hybrid 4-3 looks.
The Jaguars won without Marcus Stroud when he missed time with injuries and a suspension this year and that made him expendable. So he's the next tackle traded as he heads to Buffalo. At least he is staying in a 4-3 package and there is no question about how he fits in the defense. His questions are more about how healthy he will be for a 16 game season.
Finally, tackles are hard to find but they are a little easier to locate if you have the cap space and willingness to give draft picks away in a trade. I wonder if the Dorsey injury was part of this aggressive behavior? I wonder if a team like the Bengals go after Dwayne Robertson? I know the Raiders don't have to now that they gave Tommy Kelly $18 million in guaranteed money to stay in Oakland.