Trio of veterans traded in fourth round

A significant increase in the salary cap provided more teams with flexibility and led to an unusual amount of trades during draft weekend.

Originally Published: April 30, 2006
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- For the past few years, attempts to trade veteran players during the NFL draft were fruitless. Normally, teams are cap strapped and don't have the room to acquire the contract of a veteran player. Some don't have room to take the cap hit of trading away a player with room remaining on their contract.

This weekend's draft was different.

In the fourth round on Sunday, the Eagles not only traded guard Artis Hicks to the Minnesota Vikings but they traded defensive tackle Hollis Thomas to the Saints. The Rams dealt tight end Brandon Manumaleuna to the Chargers.

On Saturday, the Packers dealt Javon Walker to the Broncos for a second-rounder. Center Jeff Faine went from the Browns to the Saints. The Lions tried to unload Joey Harrington's contract to the Cleveland Browns, but that didn't work out. The Titans gave Steve McNair permission to start negotiating with the Baltimore Ravens in preparation for a trade.

Why was this year different? Teams entered the draft with a staggering $288 million of cap room. The $17.5 million cap increase from $85 million in 2005 gave more teams flexibility.

"You can make more deals," Eagles coach Andy Reid said.

Reid prepped his two players prior to the draft -- Hicks and Thomas -- about the possibility of trading them. Thomas was no surprise. His name has been floated around since February. Hicks was a surprise because he's a starting guard.

"Hollis and Artis are great guys," Reid said. "Brad Childress (the former Eagles offensive coordinator now coaching the Vikings) is getting a starting right guard, and he's young. The Saints are getting an experienced defensive tackle who works into their rotation."

And the Saints weren't just in receiving mode. New Orleans shopped free safety Dwight Smith. The Bengals dangled wide receiver Kelley Washington. The Lions made calls on running back Artose Pinner after they took Brian Calhoun of Wisconsin in the third round. The Chargers continued to shop linebacker Donnie Edwards and safety Hanik Milligan without success. The Steelers thought about acquiring Falcons running back T.J. Duckett.

"I had about two names come across my desk," Reid said of trade proposals made by other teams.

Bus Cook, agent for McNair, said he just started talking to the Ravens about restructuring McNair's contract in order to fit him into the Ravens' cap. McNair has a $9 million base salary but his $23 million cap number doesn't fit into the Titans cap.

Though the Titans want to keep him, McNair doesn't want to return to Tennessee after the team shorted his contract to one year and barred him from the facility. Titans coach Jeff Fisher was still hopeful a deal could be worked out to keep McNair, but that isn't going to happen.

"We just started talking with Baltimore, and we would like to get something done Sunday night or Monday," Cook said. "But I'm just about to start to work on undrafted free agents, and it's going to get a little crazy."

The Lions' efforts to trade Harrington failed when Harrington told them he wanted to go to Miami and he had a two-year contract agreement. The Lions hoped the Browns, who had seven second-day draft picks, would bail them out because the Dolphins are only offering a sixth-round pick next year. With an $8.4 million salary, including a $4 million June roster bonus, Harrington has to redo his contract to be a backup somewhere.

The Chargers' acquisition of Manumaleuna for a fourth-rounder was intriguing because they have Antonio Gates and Manumaleuna is more of a pass-catcher than blocker. But the loss of Justin Peelle to Miami created the void and the Chargers didn't mind giving up a fourth-round pick to get him.

The NFL is considered a league that is difficult to make trades. This year's draft was an exception.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer

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