The Washington Redskins traded Eddie Brown plus their seventh draft choice in 1981 to Los Angeles yesterday for a pair of second-year offensive linemen and the Rams' third-round draft pick in 1979 and their second and fifth choices in 1980.
The Redskins obtained offensive guard Donnie Hickman and offensive tackle Jeff Williams, both second-year players who were on the Pams' injured reserve list last year. Hickman, the Redskins believe, could challenge for a starting position this season.
The key figure on the deal, of course, was Brown, one of the most crowd-pleasing Redkskins of the George Allen era. He was an All-Pro punt and kickoff returner, versatile defensive back and one of the most popular men on the team.
Brown displayed mixed feeling about the deal that will reunite the little big-play man with his former coach, Allen. Brown smiled during a press conference and said, "I guess it's a compliment to me. I hope I can live up to the deal."
But a few minutes later, when he began to talk about the trade, tears welled in his eyes and he left to walk alone around the Dickinson College campus.
"He was our offense last year," said kicker Mark Moseley, one of Brown's closest friends on the team. "No, it's not going to be very popular with the players. And I guarantee you it's not going to be real popular in Washington."
For Redskin General Manager Bobby Beathard and Coach Jack Pardee the trade was an effort to beef up their offensive line and, as Pardee said, "to get back into the draft business." Until yesterday's trade, the Redskins did not have a choice in the first six rounds of the 1979 draft.
Brown became expandable, according to the Redskins, when they acquired Lamar Parrish from the Cincinnati Bengals. Parrish is a skillful kick returner.
"Both players we received were in an area where we needed help - in the offensive line - and these players will strengthens us there," Beathard said. "We felt that Hickman is a player who can come in and complete for a starting job. I don't believe Jeff is in that position yet, but we think he's a fine prospect."
Hickman, 6-foot-2 and 261 pounds was a two-year starter at Southern Cal and was drafted by the Rams in the fifth round of the 1977 draft. Williams, 6-4, 256, also was a fifth-round choice that year out of Rhode Island.
"We got a man of proven quality," said Ram General Manager Don Klosterman, "but we gave up a lot. I beleive it will be beneficial to both teams. Hickman can play either side and he's got good speed. Williams also played both tackle positions.
"Obviously we all wanted Eddie. You know how George feels about him and our coaches had him in the Pro Bowl. We felt with his age (26) and what he gives us, he'd be a valuable guy. We've also inventoried some draft picks up just for this reason.
"No," sadded Klosterman, "We are not talking to the Redskins about any other players."
The Redskins now must replace the man who holds NFL records for total punt returns in one season (37) and single-game punt returns (11)., the man who led the league in punt returns in 1976, falling nine yards short of an NFL record, and the man who consistently came up with the big return, interception or tackle whenever the Redskins needed him the most.
Pardee has a number of candidates to fill Brown's return role, including wide receivers Brian Fryer and Walker Lee, rookie running back Tony Green and Parrish, who returned punts in Cincinnati.
"Actually I'd rather not do it here," Parrish said yesterday. "That's awfully riskly. But I'll do what they want me to."
Pardee said yesterday he perfers to use three deep men, as opposed to the single safety used primarily used in the Alllen era. and that the deep returner will be the one with the best hands.
Brown, who played cornerback and safety, also frequently was in the lineup as the Redskins' nickle back on that defense a year ago. From that position he made a last-minute interception to beat the Cardinals. In 1976, his interception in overtime set up a game-winning field goal.
The Redskins probably will return to either Gerard Williams or second-year safety Mark Murphy as the nickle back.
Pardee indicated that he would rather use a third corner-back in nickle situation because so many teams now are sending three wide receivers down field in obvious passing situations.
Both Beathard and Klosterman said they had been working on the deal for the last three months. Beathard said Brown's contract problems earlier in the offseason had no bearing at all on the trade.
Brown said he was shocked by the trade, particularly after he had signed a three-year contract less than two weeks ago. But he said he was delighted to return to work under Allen, the man who had rescued him from a Cleveland Brown waiver list three years ago, so that he was "happy in some ways and very sad in others."
That's what Brown said in front of the news conference cameras. But as he stood in front of the team dormitory. Brown's voice cracked frequently and several times he was on the verge of tears.
"I just tried to call my wife and she's not there," he said. "Lord, don't want her to hear it on the news. And what do I say to the guys (his teammates). I don't know what to say, except you have no idea how much I'm going to miss them. We really had something special here, and that's the toughest thing about it."
For Brown there was other problems. He and Moseley were in business together, constructing homes in Washington. He recently had purchased a lot in Haymarket, Va., and was planning to build a home next spring.
Many Redskins players said they were stunned and disturbed by the trade.
"I don't even want to talk about it," said linebacker Rusty Tillman, like Mosely a close friend of Brown's.
"It's unbelievable," said linebacker Pete Wysocki. "It makes you feel funny. Aside from the fact that the guy did everything in the world for us, he's also a great friend.