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: DeSean Jackson to the Jets for a fourth-round pick
Philadelphia's GM reacts (Doug Farrar): It's clear that our team is ready to move on from DeSean Jackson. The five-year, $47 million contract we signed DeSean to in March of 2012 precedes the Chip Kelly era, and Chip wants his own guys. DeSean had a career year, but it's tough to reconcile his potential $10.7 million salary in 2014 ($10.5 million plus a $200,00 roster bonus) with the fact that Chip sees his receivers as placeholders -- he wants guys who can beat man coverage on a consistent basis (which DeSean can do) because the Eagles face as much man coverage as any team in the league, but to spend that much on one player doesn't work for the new coach. What the Eagles need at this point is more draft picks, even third-day ones, and to take that onerous salary off our hands is worth the potential loss in production when the 2014 draft features such a deep receiver class. If we can get a speedster in the draft like LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. or Oregon State's Brandin Cooks, it could be a net gain over time. We might try to see if we can up that fourth to a third, but in the end, we'll take that.
New York's GM reacts (Chris Burke): The No. 1 goal now will be to get DeSean's contract extended, thereby lowering that cap hit for the upcoming season. If we can get that done, great. If not, well ... at least there is money in the bank here. Setting the finances aside for a moment, the price to actually acquire Jackson was negligible. This is the fourth-round pick that we received in the Darrelle Revis trade, but it's just one of three Jets fourth-rounders. Even in a receiver-deep draft, there is nothing at pick 104 that will resemble DeSean Jackson's skill set.
Making the move here also allows us to focus on other problem spots in the early rounds, like cornerback, tight end and the offensive line. Plus, we know that Michael Vick has a strong rapport with Jackson, which should only help the receiver position along whether Vick or Geno Smith is at QB.
Chopping down Jackson's cap hit is going to require some work. The challenge will be worth it to upgrade the offense in this dramatic a fashion.
Tennessee's GM reacts (Burke): This was pretty simple for us. The Titans were at a point where we were looking at cutting Johnson, with no return. He offered to take a pay cut to make a trade happen, so we were able to push forward this direction instead.
Sure, it's a little frustrating to get so little actual return for a player with six straight 1,000-yard (and one 2,000-yard) seasons. We're aware of how devalued running backs are at the moment, though, and despite a reworked contract, this is a healthy undertaking for Oakland. On our end, the good news is that we're able to move on -- with some extra money in our pockets and a bonus, late-round pick to play with in the draft.
Oakland's GM reacts (Farrar): At this point, our team is dealing with one serious issue: people don't want to play for our team in the primes of their careers. As a result, we've had to spackle our roster with older players in free agency, and try to do better in the draft. We lost Rashad Jennings to the Giants and re-signed Darren McFadden on a bridge deal, but we simply need more playmakers. Johnson is due $8 million in 2014, and that's a pretty penny especially since it's hard to imagine him living up to that after his 1,077-yard season in 2013 (and the fact that our offensive line has some major issues). However, Johnson still has some playmaking elements to his game, we still have a load of cap space, and whoever our quarterback is next season will need all the help he can get. As long as it's a very low pick for the salary we're taking on, we're willing to take a shot on Johnson resuscitating his career in Oakland.
Miami GM reacts (Burke): Sometimes, admitting your mistakes is as important as taking chances in the NFL. This is an admission of a mistake.
Wallace simply did not work out at all the way we hoped when we chased him in free agency. Rather than let both parties languish deeper into this contract, we're calling for a fresh start. Accepting the nearly $9 million dead-money cap hit to trade him stings, but not as much as the $17 million number he would have counted against the books for 2014 otherwise.
The obvious downside of sending away Wallace is that we're back to square one -- maybe even behind it -- at receiver. Brian Hartline is a known, reliable commodity out wide. Other than that, the depth chart is pretty wide open at the position. This draft may make that OK. Even if we spend an early pick or two on the offensive line, for example, there should be enough depth at WR to find bodies to come in and compete. There also are still a few usable veterans out there in free agency, like Sidney Rice or Miles Austin, who bring red flags with them but are seeking a spot to prove themselves. Cleveland's GM reacts (Farrar): Well, that Mike Wallace deal is why general managers get fired... and in Cleveland, we know a thing or two about firing our GMs. That said, we're a little jumpy about giving up a second-round pick for a player who may be on the downside of his career when he carries an enormous base salary. Bump it down to a fourth, and we'll see how much we want to re-structure a deal with Mike that allows us some breathing room on the back end. Mike didn't exactly tear it up in Miami, catching 73 passes for 930 yards and five touchdowns in a broken offense, but he has enough left in the tank to succeed in the right offense. We have made several signings in the last two years and still have more cap space than any other NFL team at this point, and we need to give Josh Gordon and our next quarterback a secondary target.