Sometimes "BREAKING NEWS" is just repackaged conventional wisdom, a confirmation of something everybody knew. On Monday evening, ESPN poured a little jet fuel of their own, before the 2012 Daytona 500 made large fuel fires cool again, onto the NFL rumor mill, reporting that the St. Louis Rams "will" trade their second overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. After sweeping through the 140-character slums of the internet, Schefter's report got some clarification fixed to it: the Rams have "decided" to trade the pick.
All they need now is another team to trade the pick to, a trade partner.
Last night, one of our front page writers, RamHock, made the case to wait and let "frenzy machine run its course." It makes perfectly good sense. I am of another opinion. The Rams should trade the pick as soon as possible, before free agency begins on March 13.
Why? Allow me to explain.
The prize to be had with the second overall pick is Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. Everyone knew the Heisman Trophy winner was an athletic young man with a cannon for an arm, the accuracy of a well-maintained Predator drone and a heady on-field presence with a knack for finding his receivers. Griffin Is Good.
His performance at the 2012 Scouting Combine, from the weigh-in to the press conference to the love-to-hate-it 40-yard dash, lit the world on fire. Griffin wowed everyone. While the skills may still require some further refinement, he has everything needed to be the face of a franchise, just add uniform and reasonably priced rookie contract.
Emotions are running hot for Griffin. Like any half-assed Don Draper type knows, the key to sales is a direct appeal to the heart, not the head.
Emotion is running hot for Griffin right now. Time, and free agency, will dilute that feeling as well as lower the price the Rams will fetch in return for the second pick.
According to Adam Schefter's ESPN colleague John Clayton, the calming Yen to his raging Yang, only two teams are viable suitors for the Rams' pick. Only Cleveland and Washington, with picks at #4 and #6, have the power to strike a deal. I still would not rule out other potential teams, but Clayton's point is a good one.
Dealing before free agency starts on March 13 would also be in the Rams' interest because of two free agent quarterbacks, Matt Flynn and Peyton Manning. Right now, Manning is an unknown. Will he still be effective enough for a team to pay the kind of money he will expect on the market? Teams cannot be sure of that at this point, since all they have to rely on is second-hand news. Flynn will not come cheap either, especially if the Packers use the franchise tag and then trade him. Flynn also carries a big question mark. His college tape is not on the same level with Griffin's body of work. The former LSU product and Aaron Rodgers understudy may well be a fine quarterback, but he is not Robert Griffin III.
With Flynn and Manning waiting until later in March (Manning will likely be cut loose by March 8 when his monster bonus is due), there is perceived competition for RG3, more competition than when teams can sign Manning and Flynn.
It is well-known that the Rams have had preliminary talks with other teams about trading the pick. How far those talks have advanced depends on the report. In the case of the Redskins, we have heard actual prices mentioned: their three top picks and one or two in 2013.
Another advantage for the team trading for RG3, or the pick, is that they can enter free agency with some very clear goals, knowing they have a cost-controlled rookie quarterback.
The trade rumors floating out of Bristol and elsewhere only stoke the perceptions of inevitability, whether they were meant to or not. If a deal does not happen now, I doubt one happens until April 26, when the first round of the draft starts. No team will be as desperate to deal as they are now until the possibility of losing out on Griffin stares them in the face while the clock ticks away on their future. If the Rams wait that long, they may have to take whatever deal they can get, a smaller one than they might fetch between now and March 8.