The Rams' blockbuster trade with the Redskins, which rocked the NFL landscape on this Friday night in March, was driven by two huge factors:
The Redskins quickly realized they wouldn't be in the running for Manning. So they ponied up the picks to get up to No. 2 in order to draft Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. The Rams, by sliding back to No. 6, will still get a big-time prospect, plus, have two high second-round picks to add to a roster lean on impact players -- and let's not forget the two first-rounders the next two years.
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This blockbuster deal's domino effect will further invigorate the chase of Manning -- Denver, Arizona and Kansas City are front-runners, with Miami in the mix, according to a league source. The deal also will lead to the enhancement in draft status of Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill, as well as the allure of free agent Matt Flynn.
The impact of this huge deal goes even further. Let's take it bit by bit:
So they've mortgaged first-round picks the next three seasons? That's actually an overstatement because this season's forfeiture is actually just a swap in position with the Rams. This is what you have to do to get your franchise quarterback and draft choices can be re-acquired in other trades down the road. There's also free agency, of which Washington has shown it has no fear.
The Redskins' pending acquisition of Griffin gives Shanahan a young, big-armed, mobile quarterback to mold. Washington's ability to run the ball will ease some pressure off Griffin, and his evasiveness and penchant for extending plays will compensate for a suspect offensive line. You also can expect the Skins to add some receiving threats in free agency (Vincent Jackson or Marques Colston, anyone?).
First off, it means he can skip his March 21 pro day unless he simply has nothing better to do. Washington would not have made this deal if it wasn't going to draft Griffin.
If Griffin can provide any semblance of what Cam Newton did for Carolina or what Andy Dalton did for the Bengals, Washington can be a playoff team. Why? It has a playoff-caliber defense already.
The perpetual trap door in this situation is the hype, which will begin immediately. Griffin is going to be touted for six weeks before the draft as the savior in a city that has been searching for an answer at quarterback since Joe Theismann and Mark Rypien. D.C. has swallowed up countless athletes who have arrived with expectations. Griffin's humility, work ethic and focus will be tested.
The fact that St. Louis pulled this off now was a stroke of genius -- and luck. Had the Rams waited, Flynn and Manning could have pulled potential suitors out of the running and weakened the market.
Another reason this was a savvy move by the Rams: By acquiring the future No. 1 picks now, St. Louis has tools to use if it wants to make trades into this season's draft, though that's unlikely. But by having two No. 1s the next two drafts, St. Louis is in such a position of power with trade flexibility it will be in the driver's seat of the next few drafts.
Putting the Rams in even more a position of power was acquiring the Redskins' second-rounder this season. St. Louis has the 33rd and 39th overall picks, so it can get back into the latter half of the first round with those desired selections, especially with the Patriots always wanting to trade back.
The Rams are so bereft of talent, they can take the best player available when they choose sixth overall. That could be Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon or LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne. Also look for the Rams to be active in free agency, with the secondary, wide receiver and defensive interior possible spots they'll tackle in free agency -- and the draft.
St. Louis can get better quickly.
Cleveland isn't sold on Colt McCoy. Otherwise, it wouldn't have been in trade talks to get Griffin, which it was, according to sources. Now that he's off the market, the focus has to turn to Flynn. The Browns' dilemma is they might -- and likely will -- have to overpay to get Flynn because Miami could be in the mix if Manning heads elsewhere.
Flynn is a West Coast system quarterback and has played in the cold weather. He could be a good fit. Then again, he could be Kevin Kolb.
Cleveland can't wait if it wants Flynn, whereas Miami is in a holding pattern. The Dolphins are waiting on Manning. The Browns aren't. Time to get it moving for Mike Holmgren and crew if they want Flynn. Not landing RG3 is a buzzkill for Cleveland fans, but this is hardly the first time their hopes have been dashed.
The consolation is with the fourth and 22nd pick, the Browns can address some key needs. Running back Trent Richardson could be very appealing, but taking him at No. 4 might be a reach. Blackmon or Claiborne could be more realistic.
This could end up being Miami's worst-case scenario. While Miami is holding out hope for Manning, the quarterback carousel could develop in a way that the Dolphins miss out on their dream candidate again. The Dolphins won't get Griffin. They might not get Manning. If they don't risk alienating Manning by moving on Flynn, they could be left with drafting Tannehill -- something they could still do if they get Manning -- and going from there.
If Tannehill ends up being the answer, the already heated calls for GM Jeff Ireland's head will kick into an even higher gear. Miami would probably add Kyle Orton or Jason Campbell as the veteran QB to go with Matt Moore, but that won't appease an owner, Stephen Ross, who has swung and missed as many times as Dave Kingman or a fan base that's fed up.