So, it's no secret that Rick Spielman would like to trade down out of the #3 pick in the 2012 Draft. Before the Redskins gave up their arms, legs...and their left nut for Robert Griffin III, Spielman was ready to auction off the #3 spot to any team wanting to draft RGIII. Now that that option is gone, Spielman says everyone still knows we're open to trading down. And not only that, apparently some even think that Spielman would prefer to draft Morris Claiborne instead of Matt Kalil at #3. Regardless of what our plans are with that #3 pick, Spielman said similar stuff about wanting to trade out of #12 last year, and we went and drafted Ponder instead, so we may never know what Spielman is really thinking.
I was driving home tonight reflecting on the Viking's first week of free agency, and so far, the Vikings haven't gone out and signed that one "big bullet" no matter what Rick Spielman might have said in the past. The John Carlson signing aside, we've picked up some backups, depth and re-signed some of our own backups and depth. There's no "big bullet" there. Regardless of whether you support this lack of movement in free agency so far or not, I think I may have a theory (no, it can't be bunnies*) as to why. More after the jump...
But, check this out. This year, I think Spielman is serious about trading down. Our fearless leader posted about the opportunity of trading down for the rights to Ryan Tannehill last week. But even before that, several weeks ago, Rick Speilman said this:
Is the left tackle that important, or is it more important to have playmakers on offense? Because as your quarterback evolves, he learns the system, he gets the ball quicker out of his hand - and all of a sudden, that left tackle doesn't need to be a Pro Bowl left tackle. He can be a functional left tackle because the quarterback evolves and he's got playmakers.
Now, if we're going to trade down, based on the latest player rankings, there are really only 4 potential picks at #3 that make sense for any team: Matt Kalil, Morris Claiborne, Trent Richardson or Justin Blackmon. To find a trading partner one of two things needs to happen: either a team needs to think that the Vikings will draft one of those players (therefore they'll make an offer the Vikings can't refuse to get them instead), or they need to think that some other team wants to draft those players and would therefore jump ahead of them in the draft, thus starting a bidding war (just like what happened for the Rams and their #2 pick). Of those 4 players, the Vikings could potentially draft 3 of them and fix some pretty glaring needs (and you could argue for including Richardson...if you wanted to, but I don't want to).
Of the top 10 teams in the draft (as low as the Vikings want to drop down I'm guessing), several of them could want to move up to grab one of those guys (Tampa Bay for Claiborne, Cleveland for Richardson, etc). The problem is, while there are certainly teams that want those players in the top 10, I don't know if there is more than one team that wants to trade up for each of those guys to start a bidding war. There just isn't going to be the kind of bidding war amongst teams for #3 like there was for RGIII at #2. So, I think for any trade to happen, teams are going to want to have to beat out the Vikings and "make them an offer they can't refuse" rather than trying to outbid some other team to prevent them from jumping ahead. If you buy that premise, then in order to make other teams believe we're going to draft someone other than Matt Kalil, then we better well still have needs at CB and WR come draft day. Imagine for a minute that we had gone crazy in free agency and spent the farm to get guys like Pierre Garcon or Robert Meachem, and then also Brandon Carr or Richard Marshall. If we had done that, do you think there is any way that any other team is going to believe that we'd draft Claiborne or Blackmon at #3? I doubt it. It would devalue the #3 pick, because teams wouldn't have to compete with the Vikings for those players. They would all assume we'd just draft Kalil, and then they could talk with the guys at #4 or #5 about potentially trading.
IMO, the Vikings are approaching the rebuilding process from an "acquire many picks" perspective. Since drafting or signing any player is a crap shoot, the more players you can draft or sign, then the greater odds you'll have of hitting it big in the lottery of players, so to speak. So, for a rebuilding team, it would be wise to acquire as many draft picks as possible, and to sign as many young, free agents for cheap as possible. The more options you have to choose from during training camp, the easier it will be to rebuild the roster. Once you've gotten the cream of the crop from that process, then you can zero in and address specific holes in free agency the following year and make your playoff run. At least, that is the approach I am guessing Spielman is taking.
So, I don't think it's a ludricous option to consider trading down from #3, assuming that we can stay in the top 10. For me, the question is, which is more valuable, Matt Kalil, or Riley Reiff and a 2nd and 5th round pick? Matt Kalil, or Jonathan Martin and a 2nd and 1st round in 2013 pick? In other words, what is going to address more needs for the team? Matt Kalil, or a "functional left tackle + other draft picks"? While remaining conservative in free agency doesn't exactly address our biggest needs directly (and fans are certainly in the right to voice their opposition to this approach), I think by doing so, it can keep our options open in the draft, because it leaves us as unpredictable as possible. Unpredictable can lead to good trading options throughout the draft, and ultimately it will allow us to better address those needs in this draft, and in the future.
*10 bonus points to anyone who gets the reference.