The Washington Redskins’ trade with the St. Louis Rams for the second overall choice in this year’s draft brings immediate comparisons to the 2004 draft-day deal in which the San Diego Chargers, after selecting quarterback Eli Manning first overall, traded him to the New York Giants. Manning had informed the Chargers he did not want to play for them. The Chargers got quarterback Philip Rivers, drafted fourth overall that day by the Giants, plus first-, third- and fifth-round picks over that draft and the following draft.
The Giants initially received some criticism for surrendering so much to get Manning, who was regarded by the team’s general manager at the time, Ernie Accorsi, as a once-in-a-generation player. The Chargers did well with the package of picks that they got from the Giants, drafting kicker Nate Kaeding and linebacker Shawne Merriman and trading for offensive lineman Roman Oben. But Manning has won two Super Bowls with the Giants, and few complaints now are heard about what Accorsi gave up to get him.
The Redskins are 11-21 in their two seasons with Mike Shanahan as their coach. Shanahan has failed to find a centerpiece quarterback, first trading for the Philadelphia Eagles’ Donovan McNabb and then, after things didn’t work out with him, trying to get by last season with Rex Grossman and John Beck. The Redskins tried in recent days to lure Peyton Manning but he scheduled a series of visits to other interested teams, beginning Friday night in Denver and reportedly headed next to Arizona and Miami.
The Redskins could have signed a veteran free agent such as Kyle Orton and aimed to select Ryan Tannehill, the Texas A&M product regarded as the likely third quarterback to be drafted in April. Instead, they made a bold move to get Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and will have to try to put players around him in free agency. They are projected to have more than $40 million in salary cap space to use when the free agent market opens Tuesday and the Redskins likely will be seeking a high-profile wide receiver and a right tackle to solidify their offensive line, among other things.
It’s not clear if the Redskins still will pursue Orton in free agency to have a veteran quarterback to go with Griffin.
It is even more of a quarterback-first league than it was when the Giants made the Eli Manning trade eight years ago. League-wide and individual passing records were set last season. Manning faced New England’s Tom Brady in the Super Bowl, on the heels of Super Bowl quarterback matchups of Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers against Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger in the 2010 season, Peyton Manning against Drew Brees of New Orleans in 2009, Roethlisberger against Arizona’s Kurt Warner in 2008, and Eli Manning against Brady in 2007.
“If you have an average quarterback, you’re going to go 8-8 or 9-7 at best,” said former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, an analyst for the NFL Network. “If you have a really good quarterback, you can be 10-6. If you have a really good quarterback and put good people around him, you can win 11 or 12 games. The Redskins are in good shape on the salary cap. If they can add two quality free agents with a young quarterback like this, you have a chance to compete. I think they were a lot closer to success last year than people realized.”
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