Our old friend Bill Barnwell (he wrote a thing for us once!) debuted Grantland’s first-ever NFL Trade Value Rankings column, and two Redskins made the top 50. I suppose that’s kind of average, and the Skins certainly paid the price for RGIII, but as a Redskins fan I’m not used to having what others want.
Anyhoo, here’s what Barnwell had to say (hope he doesn’t mind us excerpting him at length):
23. Brian Orakpo
Outside of appearing in the worst series of NFL ads to play during the 2011 season, Orakpo hasn’t really gotten much better after his impressive rookie campaign in 2009. Washington’s addition of Ryan Kerrigan was supposed to free Orakpo from constant double-teams and get him to the next level in 2011, but that didn’t really happen. There’s nothing wrong with the player Orakpo is, since most teams would kill for a consistent 10-sacks-per-year pass rusher who draws a ton of penalties, but it feels like there’s more here waiting to be unleashed.
So, yeah, I guess Orakpo was more of an upside pick? Onto RGIII:
18. Jay Cutler
17. Michael Vick
16. Robert Griffin III
15. Philip Rivers
14. Ben Roethlisberger
Whoa. Whoa. Hold on one second, right? What’s the rookie doing amid a group of Pro Bowlers?
Remember: This is a Trade Value piece, not a power rankings or a performance list. The Redskins just gave up three first-round picks and a second-rounder for the specific purpose of acquiring RG3, and other teams who were in the running weren’t far off from that proposal. It’s impossible to define the trade market for a player like Rivers or Roethlisberger, but you may remember that Cutler was traded in 2009 for a pair of first-rounders, a third-rounder, and Kyle Orton. Unless you think Kyle Orton and a third-rounder are worth more than a high first-round pick and a second-rounder, the Redskins valued RG3 higher than the Bears and Broncos valued Cutler. And that was after Cutler had already established himself as a Pro Bowl–caliber starter.
Now, start applying that same offer to the rest of the league. Would that have been enough to pry Vick away from the Eagles? In light of a somewhat disappointing 2011 season and Vick’s seemingly endless streak of injuries, three first-rounders and a second-round pick looks like a pretty good haul. I don’t know that the same offer would work for Rivers and Roethlisberger, each of whom are more solidly entrenched as the long-term franchise quarterback in their respective cities. I would personally rather have Rivers than Roethlisberger because Rivers gets hit far less frequently, but I think most NFL teams would choose Roethlisberger by virtue of his playoff success.
The other factor that pushes RG3 so high is his team-friendly contract. The Redskins owe him only a little over $21 million for his four-year deal; Rivers and Cutler each had a cap figure above that $21 million total in 2009 alone. If the Redskins get even above-average play from Griffin over his first three seasons in the league, RG3 automatically becomes one of the biggest bargains in football.
I think that’s an oft-overlooked aspect of the RGIII deal: He cost a lot of picks, but he doesn’t cost much money. Seriously, his contract is $5 million less than 2012 free agent Matt Flynn’s, and that’s Seattle’s backup.