Commentary

Seattle finds better RB values in trades

Originally Published: April 24, 2010
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- Maybe it was the uncapped year. Maybe it was the extra time teams had to make decisions, with the NFL draft spread over three days.

Whatever it was, Day 3 had uncapped and unusual excitement. For the first time in many years, veterans were traded. Leon Washington, Jason Campbell, LenDale White, Bryant McFadden and Kirk Morrison were dealt. The Jets cut guard Alan Faneca after two seasons that cost the team about $20 million. Defensive tackles John Henderson and Albert Haynesworth were among the many names being shopped.

In recent years, draft-day trades have been a disappointing tease. Even though every draft offers the opportunity for teams to move veterans for draft choices, teams have resisted the temptation of late. Sure, the Jets unloaded a bunch of backups to Eric Mangini last year while he was making the personnel decisions for the Browns, but throughout most of the 2000s, draft-day veteran trades had averaged one or two a year. Until this year, that is.

Here are the winners and losers in a fascinating day of wheeling and dealing:

Winners

1. The Seahawks: As great as the first two rounds went for Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks, Saturday might have generated even bigger excitement. Since the heyday of Shaun Alexander, the Seahawks haven't been able to run the football. On Saturday, they picked up the 1-2 punch of White and Washington. The price was ridiculously cheap. Washington cost a fifth-round pick. White came for a swap of seven places in the fourth round and a swap of nine picks in the sixth. To make things even sweeter, the Titans gave the Seahawks a seventh-round pick. Those moves might have been an indictment of a running back class that had seven players taken in the first two rounds. No back went in the third round. White has a chance to reunite with Carroll and be his power runner on first and second down. Washington joins Justin Forsett in the Seahawks' tandem of quick, explosive backs. The Seahawks were looking to replace Julius Jones in the draft, but for little cost, they got depth and options that this draft may not have offered.

2. The Raiders: For years the Oakland Raiders have been rightfully criticized for reaching for speedy players who can't produce on the field. Al Davis got it right this year. He added to a solid draft by picking up Campbell for a conditional fourth-round pick, whose conditions appear to be unachievable. For the Redskins to get that fourth-round pick, the Raiders would either have to make the playoffs or Campbell would have to go to the Pro Bowl. Odds of that are about as good as JaMarcus Russell being on the Raiders' roster this fall. The Campbell acquisition is expected to close the disastrous Russell era. Raiders fans must be rejoicing. Russell created a black hole as far as completing passes consistently. If that weren't enough, the Raiders didn't reach for choices. Their defense is going to be better with linebacker Rolando McClain and defensive tackle Lamarr Houston. Instead of reaching for speedy left tackle Bruce Campbell in the first round, the Raiders got him in the fourth. Sure, Davis couldn't resist going for the fastest player at the combine -- Clemson wide receiver Jacoby Ford -- but he did it with a fourth-round choice, much better than watching the fast but butterfingered Darrius Heyward-Bey.

3. The Eagles: As always, the Philadelphia Eagles love being a moving target by jumping forward and backward with draft-day trades. They made six deals, but after a slow start, they settled in and had a solid draft. The selections of defensive end Brandon Graham and safety Nate Allen in the first two rounds were solid. The Eagles may have gotten greater value for depth on Saturday. They drafted Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka, who could develop into a solid backup. TE Clay Harbor, a fifth-round pick from Missouri State, could become a fullback or be used more as a blocker to help the offense. Getting Clemson linebacker Ricky Sapp in the fifth round was a bargain. Fifth-round wide receiver Riley Cooper is a 6-foot-4, 222-pound target who could help in the red zone.

Losers

1. Tony Pike: In the middle of his senior year, the Cincinnati QB was being looked at as a possible first-round pick by draft experts. He ended up going in the sixth round to a Carolina Panthers team that took Jimmy Clausen in the second round. Pike has one of the stronger arms of the QBs in the draft, but he's not mobile and not considered a great athlete. He suffered a broken arm last fall and the Bearcats' coaching staff almost didn't give him a chance to regain his starting job, lowering his stock.

2. The Jets: Like the decision to replace Thomas Jones with LaDainian Tomlinson at halfback, the Jets made two curious moves in the past two days that didn't necessarily improve the team. The second-round selection of Vladimir Ducasse led to the release of Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca on Saturday. Then the Jets drafted Joe McKnight in the fourth round and traded Leon Washington for only a fifth-round pick, which New York used on fullback John Conner. The Jones-Washington combo worked for so many years, but the Jets were worried about Jones' age (32 in August) and Washington's inability to be satisfied with a long-term contract. The Jets lost a lot of leadership in Jones and Faneca, and the Conner selection could spell the end of fullback Tony Richardson's career with the Jets. As the Jets have done on occasions, they had only a four-player draft class. Those small classes lead to free-agent signings such as Faneca, whom the Jets needed to get more out of than just two seasons.

3. Arizona: The Cardinals made the strangest move of the day, trading cornerback Bryant McFadden to the Pittsburgh Steelers one year after signing him away from Pittsburgh in free agency. The Steelers knew by midseason they should have kept McFadden because William Gay wasn't ready to handle the starting job in his place. Could Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt be making a similar mistake? It's possible. Whisenhunt believes Greg Toler, a fourth-round pick last year, can take over for McFadden just as Mike Tomlin believed in Gay. McFadden played 88 percent of the downs for the Cardinals last season. He had a lot of short passes completed against him, but he gave up only three touchdown passes. The Steelers couldn't be happier getting him back. Now, the pressure is on Toler. All the Cardinals received was a 40-spot advance into the fifth round to take quarterback John Skelton of Fordham.

John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer