With exactly one week before the start of the 2015 NFL draft, trade rumors are as hot as ever, and there are three prominent players who could be potential trading chips: Chargers QB Philip Rivers, Vikings RB Adrian Peterson and Oregon QB Marcus Mariota.
Rivers has one year left on his current contract, and there are a few complications regarding his future in San Diego. First, the Chargers may not have a future in San Diego—they're projected by many to move to Los Angeles as soon as the NFL can arrange it, and Rivers is said to want no part of the L.A. lifestyle. In addition, former teammate LaDainian Tomlinson recently told the NFL Network that there's some friction between quarterback and franchise.
"You never want to trade your franchise quarterback," Tomlinson said Monday. "However, in this situation, they might have no choice but to do so. Because I don't know if Philip [Rivers] wants to be there anymore. I think he has lost confidence in the organization. He's seen a lot of changes going on and the L.A. thing is valid."
Peterson, of course, played only one game in 2014 before he was indicted on charges of child abuse and placed on the Commissioner's Exempt List for the remainder of the season. While the Vikings have said that they want him on their roster for this upcoming year, Peterson's agent Ben Dogra has hinted at bad blood between player and organization, and it may very well be best for all involved to move along.
Mariota is regarded as one of the top two quarterback prospects in this draft class, and he'll likely be taken by some team in the first five overall picks. Currently, the Buccaneers have the top overall pick, with the Titans holding the second selection. Would it be possible for those two teams to go Winston/Mariota or Mariota/Winston? Entirely so, but for the purposes of our interests, let's assume the Titans don't want Mariota, and another NFL team wants the former Duck so much they're willing to move up in the draft no matter the cost.
That's where we'll begin in our list of draft trades that could or should happen.
San Diego trades Philip Rivers and the 17th overall pick to Tennessee for Tennessee's second overall pick. San Diego selects Marcus Mariota with the second pick.
I proposed this trade in my mock draft this week, and I think it makes a ton of sense. The parameters of the deal are contingent on a couple of factors, of course—how much the Titans would want Rivers, and the level of perception that Rivers won't stay with the Chargers past 2015. If Rivers is steadfast regarding his future plans, the Chargers are best off making this move and planning for the future. In addition, Rivers had current Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt as his offensive coordinator in 2013, and he credits Whisenhunt with helping him resuscitate his career. It's a good fit for the Chargers, as well—San Diego coach Mike McCoy gained fame for his ability to make things easy for Tim Tebow in 2011 back when McCoy was Denver's offensive coordinator, and to whatever degree Mariota needs a first-read-open passing game in the NFL, McCoy can provide it. This is probably the best win/win scenario for all involved.
Cleveland trades the 12th and 19th overall picks to Tennessee for the second overall pick and the 66th overall pick (Tennessee's third-rounder). Cleveland selects Marcus Mariota with the second pick.
Let's be clear about it: The Browns don't do well when they have two first-round picks in a draft. They had two top picks in 2012—they selected running back Trent Richardson and quarterback Brandon Weeden with the third and 22nd picks, and both players have proven to be career backups, at best. Last year, Cleveland had the eighth and 22nd overall picks, and they selected cornerback Justin Gilbert and quarterback Johnny Manziel. Gilbert was overwhelmed by NFL receivers, and from all accounts, wasn't exactly well-liked in the locker room. Manziel looked even worse on the field, and a recent stint in rehab underscores the character questions that dogged him coming out of college. At this point, it's unknown whether he'll ever put in the work required to be great at the NFL level.
The Browns can't wait for that to happen. They signed career journeyman Josh McCown to a three-year, $14 million contract with $6.25 million guaranteed, but McCown is a stopgap at best. Cleveland quarterbacks coach Kevin O'Connell spent a lot of the off-season working with Mariota on the aspects of the pro game he'll need to learn, which makes this an interesting possibility. Some might say that the Browns shouldn't double down after making a clear mistake on a first-round quarterback last year, but if Manziel is what he appears to be, moving to get the next franchise quarterback is even more important.
Washington trades the fifth overall pick and the 69th overall pick (their third-rounder) to Tennessee for the second overall pick. Washington selects Marcus Mariota with the second pick.
Robert Griffin III looked truly awful in head coach Jay Gruden's offense last season, and nobody else on Washington's current roster inspires franchise quarterback talk. If they make this deal, the Redskins would essentially be giving up on a quarterback they gave up multiple first-round picks to draft back in 2012, and this is a case where doubling down might have diminishing returns.
Dallas trades the 27th overall pick to Minnesota for Adrian Peterson.
From a pure talent perspective, the Vikings may ask for at least one first-round pick in exchange for Peterson, but the 2015 draft has an extremely deep running back class. Also, Peterson turned 30 (the age of delineation for running backs) on March 21, and he's carrying a $15.4 million cap charge in 2015 as a function of the seven-year, $96 million contract he signed with Minnesota in '11. There's no cap hit for cutting Peterson in '16 or '17, but the team trading for him would have to take all of this into account.
The talk about Peterson and the Cowboys goes back a way, obviously—Peterson is from Texas, Jerry Jones wouldn't have any problem acquiring a controversial and productive player (hello, Greg Hardy), and with DeMarco Murray moving to Philadelphia, there's a definite need for a franchise back in Big D—especially if Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon are off the board when the Cowboys pick. In that case, Dallas does ostensibly have the cap room to make this move—according to OverTheCap.com, Dallas has a bit more than $12 million in cap room, and if they adjust a few more things, they'd be able to pick up Peterson and still take care of the rookie pool. The question for Dallas—and any other potential trade partner—is the total cost of acquiring Peterson. Few owners have proven to be as risk-happy as Jones over the years.
Arizona trades the 24th overall pick to Minnesota for Adrian Peterson.
This one is a little tougher, though it's been rumored for a while. Right now, Arizona has a bit over $9 million in cap room, and when you erase around $3 million for the rookie pool, that puts them several million short—and this is a team that just re-structured Larry Fitzgerald's contract. Most of the team's highest-paid players would present severe cap penalties upon their release, so more re-structures would be the only way to make this deal work.
And that's the truth when it comes to draft-day trades—the bridge between fantasy and reality can be pretty severe at times.