Bernie: Rams deal was smart one by Snead ..
BY BERNIE MIKLASZ
After making a historically significant trade in his first move as the Rams' general manager, we're not sure what Les Snead has planned for an encore.
Here's an obvious suggestion: Take all of the premium picks obtained from the Washington Redskins and use them to find pure gold in the NFL draft.
Snead and the Rams pulled off a stunning trade, collecting three No. 1 draft choices and a second-round pick from Washington for the simple consent to move down only four spots in next month's draft. Instead of drafting second overall, the Rams are now slotted at No. 6. That's all.
In NFL history, no team has ever received as much in return in a trade for a draft pick. And while Snead did a fantastic job of setting a sales price for that exclusive No. 2 property and sticking to it, the Rams were fortunate in several ways.
The Redskins obviously have gone mad for Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. The 'Skins believe Griffin is worth the price, and he absolutely will be if he develops into a great NFL quarterback. If Griffin joins the ranks of the elite, no one will remember what the Redskins gave to the Rams.
There could also be a twist on the other end of the transaction. What happens if Rams quarterback Sam Bradford fails to reach his potential? The Rams doubled down on Bradford, and made this deal to put more talent around him. But if Griffin takes off and Bradford tails off, no one will backslap the Rams for making a brilliant trade. No, the pundits will shred the Rams silly for sticking with Bradford and skipping the chance to take RG3. No question, this deal puts more pressure on Sam.
The dramatic change in the rookie pay scale was a substantial factor in this trade. In the old system, the Redskins wouldn't have given up as much for Griffin's rights. Making a huge financial commitment to one rookie would stress the salary cap and leave little room for signing free agents.
Rookies are paid significantly less in the new system, meaning that the Redskins can draft and sign Griffin and still have plenty of money available for their annual free-agent binge. Under owner Dan Snyder, the Redskins are among the league's most aggressive franchises in signing veteran free agents. The Redskins don't care about having draft picks the way most teams do. Accordingly, free agents will fill the roster spaces instead of the draft picks shipped to St. Louis.
Quarterback Peyton Manning's lack of interest in signing with the Redskins only intensified their yearning for Griffin. The Rams didn't necessarily need the Redskins to come through with an ambitious pitch; multiple teams tried to acquire the No. 2 overall pick. That includes Cleveland, which holds the No. 4 overall selection. But the Redskins clearly made the best offer and the Manning/Griffin dynamic obviously worked in the Rams' favor.
The conditions were favorable for the Rams to come away with an impressive return, but give Snead credit for maximizing the opportunity. That's terrific work for a first-time GM who's so new to St. Louis he's still living in a hotel. How could Snead possibly get off to a better start than this?
The beauty of the deal for the Rams is the way it addresses the present and the future while giving the team a chance to slide between the two initiatives.
The Rams own three of the first 39 picks in the 2012 draft, so they're in position to find immediate help. Over the next three drafts, 2012 through 2014, the Rams will have at least nine picks overall in the first two rounds and 12 in the first three rounds. After years of flimsy rosters, this is their chance to construct a robust, firm foundation.
With two No. 1 picks in their control for both the 2013 and 2014 drafts — as well as the pair of second-rounders in 2012 — the Rams have the luxury of flexibility.
They can move down in the draft and accumulate even more picks. Or they could use one of their extra picks to trade up to land a targeted prospect. There are a lot of ways for the Rams to go with this, and the options are valuable for a team with so many roster weaknesses.
More than anything, it's imperative for the Rams to draft wisely. A history of hideous drafts took this franchise down, leading to a three-year record of 15-65.
If Snead, and head coach Jeff Fisher, draft the right players, the Rams' can dig out of this mess. In the late 1980s, Jimmy Johnson transformed the Dallas Cowboys by trading star running back Herschel Walker to Minnesota for a cache of players and picks. That's how the Cowboys were able to draft Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith.
A previous Rams' football operation flunked the chance to build a power. In a three-team trade that transferred Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson to Indianapolis in 1987, the Los Angeles Rams received three No. 1 picks, three No. 2 picks, plus running backs Greg Bell and Owen Gill.
Bell was fine; he gave the Rams two 1,000-yard seasons. Gill never amounted to anything. The draft picks ultimately provided little overall impact. With the six premium picks gained in the Dickerson deal, the Rams drafted wide receiver Aaron Cox, running backs Gaston Green and Cleveland Gary, linebackers Fred Strickland and Frank Stams, and cornerback Darryl Henley.
Goodness. None of the six ever made it to a single Pro Bowl, but Henley was sentenced to 41 years in prison for drug trafficking and a subsequent plot to murder a federal judge and a witness that testified against him.
The hiring of Fisher and Snead, combined with this epic deal, truly gives the Rams a fresh start. They'll have a chance to add playmakers and create a stronger nucleus.
Snead did a magnificent job in getting an exciting return on this trade. But that was only the first part. What happens later will define him and this deal, and the hardest part comes next.
If Snead drafts winners, he'll raise the entire franchise. Heck, he may even help ensure the team's future in St. Louis.
If Snead strikes out in the draft, the sad and shameful story of the same old Rams will continue.
Hey, not that there's any pressure on you, Les.
Re: Bernie: Rams deal was smart one by Snead ..
One plus about the players that Snead chooses to draft is that they will be develoed under a much more experienced coaching staff as a whole
We shouldnt forget how important the coaches are in molding the prospects. It very well could be the difference between a good or bad pick in the draft.
I much more confident with Fisher and Co than previous regimes.