Chris Burke and Doug Farrar take on the roles of NFL general managers in Mock GM, as they work on speculative wheeling and dealing …
TRADE 1: Hakeem Nicks to the Atlanta Falcons for a 2014 third-round pick.
New York's GM reacts (Chris Burke): The goal heading into this season was not to unload Nicks before the trade deadline -- ideally, we could have signed him long-term, along with Victor Cruz. Circumstances have changed, though, with our disappointing start to the season and (on a more positive note) Rueben Randle's emergence.
We'd feel comfortable going into 2014 with Cruz and Randle as our 1-2, and adding another pick on Day 2 of the draft would allow us to address our obvious deficiencies elsewhere. Waiting until the end of the season to resolve the Nicks situation was an option, particularly because we might have been able to secure at least a compensatory pick if he left. This trade, though, clears the way for Randle right now and guarantees that extra selection.
Atlanta's GM reacts (Doug Farrar): The injury that ended Julio Jones' season, and the injuries that have limited Roddy White's productivity leave us with some interesting options to consider over the long term. Both White and Jones have just 2014 remaining on their current contracts, and Tony Gonzalez is a goner after this disappointing season . We're not ready to blow the "rebuilding" horn just yet, but it's clear that the Falcons team you see in 2014 and '15 will have to look very different than the one you see now. White, in particular, will be 32 next month, and while we're obviously comfortable with Jones as our franchise 1-A receiver, things behind him look a bit odd in the long term.
With Nicks, 25, on board, we get younger, stronger and more explosive. The fact that we'll have to engage in contract negotiations right off the bat is not a deterrent, because we could offload the heavy cap hits into later years. We'll accept the offer, happily integrate Nicks into our offense and get a sneak preview of what could be.
TRADE 2: Maurice Jones-Drew to the Miami Dolphins for a conditional 2014 fifth-round pick.
Jacksonville's GM reacts (Burke): It is more obvious than ever that we're in for a multi-year, long-term rebuild here. So we had to ask ourselves: Is it in our best interest to offer huge money to a soon-to-be 29-year-old running back? We decided that it was not.
Somewhere along the line, we probably will have to look to the college ranks if we're going to bolster the backfield properly. We tried to do that some in 2013 by taking Denard Robinson, but our vision for him never was of a 25-carry, No. 1 back. The fact of the matter is that getting the quarterback position settled is the top priority right now, with RB somewhere lower on the totem pole. Breaking the bank to keep MJD would not have fit with that plan, even if that's what we (and the fans) might have wanted to do.
Miami's GM reacts (Farrar): Ranking 31st in carries and 29th in rushing yards through five games is no way to live for a team that desires balance. Nor does it work for a young quarterback in Ryan Tannehill who excels when he has play-action as a threat. Jones-Drew doesn't have the burst he used to, but we'll accept the fact that it's tough to evaluate any running back with the dumpster fire the Jags have at quarterback. The one thing he still can do is block well, and we certainly need all the help we can get in that department.
However, we think the price is a bit too high for a back whose expiration date could be just around the corner -- especially since he's got a base salary of $4.95 million this year, and we'll have to carry a lot of that load. Make it a sixth-rounder with a conditional fifth if he meets certain numbers, and a salary dump with no draft picks in return if he doesn't, and you've got a deal.
Trade 3: Jairus Byrd to the Green Bay Packers for a second-round pick.
Buffalo's GM reacts (Farrar): Look -- we know that the relationship between us and Jairus will most likely come to an end when the 2013 season concludes. He's on a one-year franchise tag at $6.916 million, and though he's coming off plantar fasciitis, he's still one of the better deep safeties in the league. That deep coverage is something that the Packers will need, especially with both Clay Matthews and Nick Perry out with injuries for the next month. A dip in pass rush productivity leads to more deep passes to face, and M.D, Jennings has given up three touchdowns on just nine targets, per Pro Football Focus' metrics.
While the Pack would be able to move its defense forward in time for the playoff push, we could continue our building process with another chip in the 2014 draft. We're cool with Jim Leonhard, Da'Norris Searcy and Aaron Williams in the meantime. Williams has been especially effective in coverage when healthy.
If the Packers balk at a second-round offer, let's make it a third with a possible conditional second.
Green Bay's GM reacts (Burke): This is not really our style, honestly -- dealing high picks during the season for a player, particularly one who could come with contract issues. But whether anyone realizes it or not, we've put together a pretty stingy defense this season. A player like Byrd calling the shots in the secondary might help put it over the top.
Adding Byrd also would give us far more flexibility at safety, what with Morgan Burnett just back from a hamstring injury. We're plenty comfortable with Burnett and M.D. Jennings paired there; Byrd would be a much-welcome bonus. At the price of a conditional third-rounder, we'd pull the trigger.