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NFL Indsider - Mark Maske

Trades Becoming More Frequent in NFL

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 31, 2005; 10:53 AM

General managers have liked to call the NFL a no-trade league in the past, saying it was rare to see noteworthy players traded because of the sport's salary-cap rules and because of the nature of a game in which it is difficult to plug a player into a team's lineup and expect him to be effective without a lengthy adjustment to the system, coaching and players around him. They resigned themselves to using the draft and free agency as the only major means of roster retooling, and players who weren't needed were released rather than traded.

The NFL isn't a no-trade league any more, however. Trades involving prominent players have become more common the past few years, and that trend has continued this offseason.

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Wednesday's trade in which the Denver Broncos sent running back Reuben Droughns to the Cleveland Browns for two defensive linemen, end Ebenezer Ekuban and tackle Michael Myers, was the third significant swap of the NFL offseason in which each of the teams involved received at least one player. There was the blockbuster in which the Minnesota Vikings sent wide receiver Randy Moss to the Oakland Raiders for linebacker Napoleon Harris and two draft picks, including the seventh overall selection next month, and there was the receiver swap in which the Washington Redskins dealt Laveranues Coles to the New York Jets for fellow wideout Santana Moss.

There also have been the more conventional player-for-draft-choice trades. The Broncos got defensive tackle Gerard Warren from the Browns for a fourth-round pick next month. The New England Patriots got cornerback Duane Starks from the Arizona Cardinals for a third-rounder (that deal also involved the teams exchanging fifth-round draft positions). The Browns got quarterback Trent Dilfer from the Seattle Seahawks for a fourth-rounder, and the Vikings continued their offseason defensive overhaul by getting linebacker Sam Cowart from the Jets for a seventh-round selection.

So don't tell the Browns' new decision-makers, Coach Romeo Crennel and General Manager Phil Savage, that there aren't significant trades made in the NFL. They've gotten their likely starting quarterback (Dilfer) and likely starting tailback (Droughns) for next season in trades this month.

The Broncos have remade their defensive line by getting Warren, Ekuban and Myers in their two trades with the Browns, in addition to signing defensive end Courtney Brown after he was released by Cleveland.

And there probably is more to come, with players like Indianapolis Colts tailback Edgerrin James, Broncos defensive end Trevor Pryce and Miami Dolphins cornerback Patrick Surtain on the trading block. The Seahawks have made it clear that they would listen to trade offers for tailback Shaun Alexander, and the Buffalo Bills have been talking about sending tailback Travis Henry to the Cardinals for offensive tackle L.J. Shelton.

Why has the trade activity picked up so much? No one seems to know for sure, but some executives around the league guess one of the reasons is that teams' financial investments in some players have become so immense that the clubs are unwilling to part with them without getting something in return. And once a few trades are made, it becomes all the rage.

Atlanta Falcons General Manager Rich McKay suggested during the NFL scouting combine last month that the league even should consider adjusting its salary-cap rules to encourage more trades. After June 1 each year, teams get a break on the immediate salary-cap hit they must absorb for releasing players, and McKay said that perhaps the rules should be changed to treat the salary-cap ramifications of trading players the same way . . . .

Tom Donahoe, the Bills' president and general manager, said during an interview with Sirius NFL Radio that the Cardinals have been seeking more than Henry from the Bills in a trade package for Shelton. "They wanted us to give them Travis, plus something else," Donahoe said.

But Donahoe said there perhaps could be a breakthrough in the trade discussions closer to the draft. He also dismissed Henry's threat to sit out next season if he's not traded. Henry requested a trade after losing the Bills' starting tailback job last season to Willis McGahee.

"I have heard every threat that there is," Donahoe said. "It is just that time of year where people posture and people say a lot of things. But you know a player is going into the last year of his contract [and] to take the year off and not play football, that is professional suicide."

Carter Arbitration Postponed

An arbitration hearing involving quarterback Quincy Carter and the Dallas Cowboys has been postponed. It had been scheduled for next month.

A source familiar with the case, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issues involved, said the hearing was postponed because Carter was in drug treatment recently. It's not clear at this point when the hearing will take place.

The Cowboys released Carter, their incumbent starter at quarterback, during training camp last summer, reportedly after he had failed a drug test. The NFL Players Association filed a grievance, claiming wrongful termination because the sport's collective bargaining agreement prohibits a team from releasing a player due to a failed drug test. Cowboys officials defended the move and said there were numerous reasons for it.

Carter signed a one-year contract with the Jets and won two of his three starts for the club last season while starter Chad Pennington nursed a shoulder injury. But Carter was absent from the team at the end of its season, and there later were reports that he was in drug treatment and had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Carter now is an unrestricted free agent and recently made a visit to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the team appears to be leaning against signing him. The Jets have signed former Miami starter Jay Fiedler to take over as Pennington's backup.

Richard Berthelsen, the general counsel for the Players Association, said that Carter's arbitration hearing had been postponed but declined further public comment.

Nolan Meets With Boston

San Francisco 49ers Coach Mike Nolan met this week with free-agent wide receiver David Boston. The 49ers are considering signing Boston, the former Pro Bowler for the Cardinals who was released by the Dolphins 3 1/2 weeks ago. The move saved Miami nearly $3.2 million in salary cap space.

Boston's career has been on a downward spiral since he signed with San Diego as a free agent prior to the 2003 season. He spent one season with the Chargers in which he had 70 catches but clashed with members of Coach Marty Schottenheimer's staff. He was traded to Miami but missed all of last season because of a knee injury and, while hurt, served a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's steroids policy.

Boston said in a written statement at the time of the suspension that he didn't take anabolic steroids but tested positive for a "related substance" and was "optimistic that further medical evaluation will explain this positive test and vacate my suspension."

The Dolphins have expressed interest in possibly re-signing Boston to a cheaper contract. If the 49ers sign Boston, it probably would happen after the draft. His best season came in 2001, when he had 98 catches for 1,598 yards and eight touchdowns for the Cardinals . . . .

Nolan told reporters that the 49ers have received some trade inquiries regarding quarterback Tim Rattay, who suffered through an injury-filled season as San Francisco's starter last year. The 49ers have the top overall selection in the draft and could choose a quarterback, either Aaron Rodgers of Cal or Alex Smith of Utah. They seem to be leaning toward taking Rodgers. . . . .

Jacksonville signed defensive end Marcellus Wiley, who was released by the Cowboys, to a one-year contract . . . . The Seahawks reached contract agreements to re-sign center Robbie Tobeck and wide receiver Alex Bannister, both unrestricted free agents . . . . Quarterback Josh McCown, a restricted free agent, re-signed with the Cardinals for a one-year, $1.43 million deal . . . . Reserve tailback Jesse Chatman, a restricted free agent, re-signed with the Chargers . . . . Free-agent wide receiver Curtis Conway is scheduled to visit the Buccaneers today.

Clarett Workout Today

Maurice Clarett is scheduled to work out for NFL scouts today at his former high school in Warren, Ohio.

The former Ohio State tailback is trying to recover from a calamitous workout at the NFL scouting combine last month in Indianapolis in which his draft stock plummeted when he was timed in his two 40-yard dash attempts in a plodding 4.82 and 4.72 seconds, then declined to participate in other drills.

He hasn't played in two seasons since helping Ohio State to a national championship as a freshman, and sued the league in an unsuccessful attempt to get into last year's draft a year earlier than the NFL's eligibility rule allows. Ohio State refused to allow Clarett to participate in its pro-day workout for scouts, so he and his representatives scheduled today's session at Warren G. Harding High.

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