Saints still looking to trade out of No. 2 spot
The plot is thickening at the top of the 2006 NFL draft, but with nothing set in stone it's still a challenge to sort through the reports and rumors and figure out which ones are smoke and which ones are fire.
While it has been nearly a foregone conclusion since the end of the 2005 season that the Houston Texans will draft USC running back Reggie Bush, the Texans nevertheless brought in North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams recently for a private workout. Still, there's little doubt Bush will be their choice with the first overall pick. After that, things start to get dicey, and separating fact from fiction becomes difficult.
USC quarterback Matt Leinart will visit the New Orleans Saints on Wednesday, and there has been speculation the Saints are considering using the No. 2 pick on Leinart because of long-term durability concerns regarding newly acquired QB Drew Brees (shoulder). However, I talked to someone close to the situation this weekend who offered another theory.
The Saints have been shopping their first-round pick since signing Brees, but they have not received the type of interest they had hoped for. With just two weeks left before the draft, they could be trying to drum up trade interest by courting Leinart. That would make Leinart's workout for the Saints this week nothing more than a gigantic smokescreen to scare the Titans and Jets into trading up to get him.
Is either team interested? Well, for weeks now there have been reports of a difference of opinion between Titans' general manager Floyd Reese and his coaching staff over which quarterback the team should draft. The reports suggest Reese favors Vince Young of Texas, while head coach Jeff Fisher and offensive coordinator Norm Chow prefer Leinart.
What I'm hearing now, though, is that those reports also might be nothing more than a smokescreen. If that's true, Reese has shown impressive vision. Knowing all along that conventional wisdom would favor the Titans drafting Leinart because of his ties with Chow -- USC's offensive coordinator from 2001-04 -- Reese could have expressed a preference for Young in order to throw off the Jets and keep them from cutting a deal with New Orleans to move up.
The Jets have been tight-lipped regarding their draft intentions to this point. Over the course of a six-day span this week, they will hold private workouts for Vanderbilt QB Jay Cutler (Sunday), Leinart (Tuesday) and Young (Thursday). If they wind up with Leinart at the top of their list, things will get extremely interesting. For a while it looked as if the Jets would be able to stay at No. 4 and still get Leinart, as the Saints were showing no interest in Leinart and the Titans seemingly were leaning towards Young, even if Leinart was still on the board. However, if this latest scenario plays out, the Jets will need to leap-frog Tennessee in order to get in position to draft the USC left-hander, which is precisely the Saints' wish.
Ultimately, the Saints would prefer to trade out of the second pick. By moving down just one or two spots, they still could get Williams or Virginia offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, while acquiring an extra pick or two in the process. Another prospect very much on their radar is Ohio State outside linebacker A.J. Hawk, who would fill a far bigger position of need than Williams (DE) or Ferguson (OT). The Saints know it would be a reach to draft Hawk at No. 2, but he would be a more reasonable value if they can move down slightly.
If the Saints are able to make a deal to trade out, it is unlikely to occur until draft day. The Saints will want to hold out as long as possible to drive the price up on the Titans and Jets -- or any other interested party.
Possibilities are endless
Saints: If New Orleans isn't able to orchestrate a deal, the team seems to be leaning toward selecting Ferguson over Williams. While Williams has freakish natural talent, there are some concerns about his below-average football instincts and inconsistent motor. Ferguson is the safer pick, and he could team with last year's first-round pick, Jammal Brown, to form the league's best young offensive tackle tandem. Considering the money the team has invested in Brees, that's probably the smart play. Furthermore, the Saints already boast two former first-round picks at defensive end -- Charles Grant (2001) and Will Smith (2004).
Titans: Reading more into the Titans scenario, the falling out with QB Steve McNair makes more sense if the team's preference has been Leinart over Young all along.
First, no matter which quarterback you prefer, there's no question Leinart will be ready to take over as a starter sooner than Young. If the Titans really coveted Young, there would be a much bigger need for McNair to return and serve as a bridge-the-gap starter.
Second, Young and McNair have a great relationship, stemming back to last offseason, when the two worked out together. It certainly wouldn't be a primary reason to bring McNair back, but it would be natural for McNair to return for one or two more seasons to help mentor Young.
Condon could add to the intrigue
I've been told that one of the reasons Leinart fired agent Leigh Steinberg was because Leinart didn't feel Steinberg was giving his situation enough attention. The mounting rumors that Leinart could slip to the fourth pick and be selected after Young could have provided enough motivation for Leinart to look elsewhere.
Chuck Price is currently representing Leinart, but there have been several reports that Leinart's ultimate plan is to hire Tom Condon, who recently left IMG for CAA, the firm that landed Leinart's marketing rights. Hiring Condon would put all of Leinart's business matters under one representation umbrella.
What is also interesting is that Leinart's private workout with the Saints on Wednesday was scheduled last Thursday, three days after the news broke of Leinart's split with Steinberg. If Leinart does wind up hiring Condon, one factor could be Condon's history of orchestrating trades at the top of the draft and Leinart's desire to be the No. 2 overall pick. Remember, Condon pieced together the 2004 draft-day blockbuster between the Chargers and Giants for quarterbacks Eli Manning and Philip Rivers.
If Leinart does hire Condon, we could see a different kind of intrigue. Condon represents Jets QB Chad Pennington, which could create a bit of a conflict if the Jets become interested in trading up for Leinart. However, Condon also represents Brees, which would put him in position to reassure Brees that Leinart's private workout for the Saints on Wednesday really is nothing more than a smokescreen.
Who will pay the price?
Most NFL teams use a Trade Value Chart to make sure they're getting enough in return -- or not overpaying -- when trading draft picks. The chart assigns a point value to every pick in the seven-round draft. New Orleans' No. 2 overall pick, for example, is worth 2,600 points. In order to be a fair trade, whatever package of picks the team received in return should add up to 2,600.
For the Titans to move up to the second pick, they would need to surrender their first-round pick, No. 3 overall and worth 2,200 points, as well as their second-round pick, No. 39 overall and worth 510 points, to match the value of the Saints' pick. That would leave Tennessee with only one selection in the first three rounds, since the Titans already traded their third-round pick to Buffalo.
For the Jets to move up to No. 2, they would need to give up both of their first-round picks, No. 4 overall (worth 1,800 points) and No. 29 overall (acquired from Denver via Atlanta and worth 640 points), as well as their original third round pick No. 71 (worth 235 points). New York would retain its second-round pick, No. 35 overall, and a compensatory pick at the end of the third round, No. 97 overall.
-- Todd McShay
RE: Saints still looking to trade out of No. 2 spot
I definitely like the idea of trading down with the Jets. We'd get more bang for the buck. Two first rounders and the third round pick that we don't have. Pull the trigger on this one.
great post. thanks for the info, pak
I know it seems like a stretch just b/c both teams are kinda bare after trading away picks, but I think one way to make it palatable to the Jets is to defer the 3rd rounder to next year's draft. The Titans, well they are kinda stuck.
in the end though, I think we are gettin a deal done with one or the other. If the Titans are smokescreening, they have everyone in one the joke....right down to McNair. Telling him to leave and that they would pay for a trainer to work with him? yeah, right. Those guys want a new QB, and it isn't the King of Hype, Vince Young. But the Jets need a QB, the biggest market in the NFL (so the NFL wouldn't be too unhappy with a marquee name in that role) and I'm pretty sure Matt wouldn't mind it there either. I say we deal with the jets.
Now, if only I could say I was breaking news with that nugget of joy
With Grant, Stallworth and Smith all being talked about, packages of players and picks make any thing possible. I bet Payton is discussing the possible combo's with other teams to get picks and maybe some of their unhappy players. God I love this time of the year. We longtime saints fans are good at pipe dreams.
Nice post Pak
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