On draft day, not long after announcing that he had traded the Washington Redskins' No. 1 pick in 1987, General Manager Bobby Beathard said, "Now we have to make some calls to see if we can give away our top pick in 1988."
It was part joke, part Redskins philosophical declaration. Obviously, the future still is now at Redskin Park.
On Tuesday, after choosing defensive end Markus Koch with their second-round pick (the 30th pick in the draft), the Redskins traded their first-round choice next year and a 10th-round pick this year to San Francisco for the 49ers' second-round pick (45th overall).
With that additional choice, they selected their favorite wide receiver, Walter Murray, who was projected by many observers as a first-round selection.
"You have a choice," Coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday. "You can take Murray now and have him play all this year or you can wait and have your choice next year and pick somebody with what probably will be about the 20th to 28th pick.
"What would you do?"
We know what the Redskins would do. They have done it 16 of the last 19 years, counting the 1987 draft. They'll trade the pick, take the player and run.
"Traditionally, a second-round pick this year is worth a first-rounder next year," Gibbs said.
More than a decade ago, George Allen was dumping draft choices to build his "Over-the-Hill" gang. The theory didn't leave Redskin Park when Allen did.
The Redskins have held a late slot in the draft since they won the Super Bowl in the 1982 season. Their trades are made easier by a drafting position closer to the beginning of the second round than the beginning of the first.
"We hope that our No. 1 next year is toward the end of the round," Beathard said. "If not, it means we've either had a bunch of injuries or we have not had a good team. Then we would really need the No. 1 pick."
Gibbs said the Redskins had been trying for two days before the draft to trade their No. 1 selection in '87. They wanted Koch, Murray and safety Alvin Walton (their third-round choice), and figured they would need another second-round pick to get them all.
If they couldn't get Murray, their next-favorite wide receiver was Webster Slaughter of San Diego State, Beathard said. The Cleveland Browns took Slaughter two picks before the Redskins took Murray.
"We were bent from the very beginning on trading next year's No. 1 for one of these three guys," Gibbs said. The three were Koch and the two receivers, players expected to be gone by the end of the second round, Beathard said.
"If you have a strong conviction about a player that he can come in and play, and we had that with all three of them, we'd rather have that player now than not and have to wait and pick someone next year," Beathard said.
Redskins history is dotted with such moves. Most recently, the Redskins traded their 1985 and 1986 No. 1 picks within a week around last year's draft.
They obtained running back George Rogers by trading the '85 pick and then moved up in the draft to obtain cornerback Tory Nixon in a deal involving the '86 pick and running back Joe Washington.
In Tuesday's draft, the Redskins' situation was complicated when they could not reach Murray by phone at a hotel in Oakland, Calif., where he and his family were having a party. In all likelihood, Beathard said, he would have drafted Murray first -- if he could have talked to him.
But Gibbs and Beathard said they would have made the same deal with their No. 1 pick to get Koch if Murray had been their first pick. In other words, missed communications did not cost the Redskins their '87 first-round pick.
In addition, the Redskins yesterday found themselves in the unusual position of having to defend the past actions of several of their 11 draft choices, five of whom missed chunks of playing time in college because of injuries or personal problems.
Two of their picks, Murray and Virginia guard James Huddleston, have arrest records.
Murray will be arraigned in circuit court in Honolulu Monday on charges of trying to bribe a police officer with football tickets. He said he plans to plead not guilty. If he is convicted, the maximum penalty is a $5,000 fine and/or five years in jail.
Huddleston was forced to sit out the entire 1984 season because of disciplinary action after he was convicted of assault and battery and public drunkenness in an incident with a professor.
Walton missed his entire senior season when he was declared academically ineligible.
Koch, Arkansas linebacker Ravin Caldwell and Washington State quarterback Mark Rypien have missed all or parts of seasons with injuries.
Koch, who recently recovered from a fractured left fibula, separated his shoulder last season and sprained his ankle the year before. Caldwell fractured his kneecap and missed the second half of his senior year; Rypien broke his collarbone and missed five games his sophomore year after sitting out a full season because of knee surgery.
Gibbs said the incidents involving the draft picks were "things we really weren't thinking about."
"It seems like every one of them was just a separate situation. . . . We're getting intelligent guys. It just seems like every one has a little background quirk."
The Redskins knew about Murray and Walton but were unaware of Huddleston's arrest and conviction, Gibbs said. "He seems to be kind of a character," Gibbs said of Huddleston. " His arrest sounds like a one-night deal, like he kind of got caught up in something. It sounds like an immature thing."
Gibbs said the Redskins spent more time checking players' backgrounds this year than ever before.
"These things just flared up. . . . I guess if we think about our own backgrounds, there was sometime when we were growing up that we can pull out and think is funny because we did not get caught."
Beathard said he thought the issue was "blown out of perspective."
"I'd rather have a kid with a grade problem or a minor injury than a guy who's not a good prospect," he said.
The Redskins plan to sign free agent kickers Jess Atkinson of Maryland and Paul Woodside of West Virginia to compete with veteran Mark Moseley, Steve Cox and three other free agents, Beathard said.