Since the beginning of the NFL, there have been three ways to obtain players: Free agency, the draft and trades. However, only two on those methods were generally used. Those two being free agency and the draft.
The NFL wasn’t like the NBA, MLB, or even the NHL. It wasn’t often that a big player was moved. Of course, we can point to Herschel Walker, but those types of trades came once every few seasons where the other three major sports have those types of trades a few times each year.
Los Angeles Rams general manager Les Snead changed everything. Snead and the Rams have been making big-time trades since the offseason got underway. They’ve been taking the their shots, whether it was acquiring Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters or dealing away Robert Quinn and Alec Ogletree. That doesn’t even include last offseason when Snead traded for Sammy Watkins.
Those aren’t Cody Kessler for a conditional seventh round pick trades. Those are Pro Bowl players and All-Pro selections.
This is a new philosophy and one that we may start seeing more of in the NFL. The idea is to trade for proven players on their rookie deal when their stock is low in exchange for unproven draft picks, i.e. Watkins, Peters, and hopefully soon, Odell Beckham Jr.
From a fan perspective it’s certainly great and makes the league more exciting. At the end of the day the NFL Draft is a crapshoot. Nobody knows what these players are going to be.
A fourth round pick for Marcus Peters? Sure. Taking the last three years of picks out of the equation, the Rams’ picks in the fourth round since 2010 include Maurice Alexander, Barrett Jones, Chris Givens, Greg Salas, and Mardy Gilyard.
Sorry to stir up probably painful memories, but of those picks, none are still on the roster. Only Alexander and Givens, because of the talent on the roster, became starters.
There was also a second round pick? Why not? In that same time span, the Rams’ second round picks include Rodger Saffold, Lance Kendricks, Janoris Jenkins, Brian Quick, Isaiah Pead, and Lamarcus Joyner. All but Pead and Quick became serviceable starters, but which of those players wouldn’t you trade for the potential Peters or Watkins?
Worth the Gamble
While Talib will cost the Rams financially. The last fifth round pick to make an impact on the Rams may have been Zac Stacy and even he didn’t last more than one full season.
To trade draft picks that more times than not end up busts or provide just a 50% success rate or less is worth the gamble for players like Peters and Talib. Outside of the Suh signing, Snead basically used trades as his form of free agency, which is something that we may see more of in the NFL. This strategy makes sense with free agents demanding skyrocketing high-level contracts.
The philosophy is an interesting one. The only question is whether or not this strategy is sustainable. Building teams through the draft has always been the right way to do things. It’s why the Browns stockpiled six picks in the first 100 of the 2018 NFL Draft. Drafting is cheap, and yes, sometimes teams will miss on a player. However, free agency is expensive and even then, sometimes a player doesn’t pan out. If that happens a team will pay a much larger price.
The End Result
The Rams basically got a one-year rental out of Sammy Watkins for a second round pick. However, because he was on the last year of his rookie deal and not on a three-year, $16-million per season year contract, it doesn’t hurt as bad.
They will get just two years out of Talib, who will be 33 next season. The Rams will also get the same out of Marcus Peters if the Rams pick up his option on his rookie deal.
Using the trade for proven players is an interesting philosophy and one that we haven’t seen used much in the NFL to this point. It’s only a matter of time before we find out if this is the new direction of the NFL and general managing.