The John Elway Trade (1983 & 1984 NFL Drafts)

I know I recently said I shouldn’t spend so much time on the Broncos. I also know I recently made fun of John Elway for having a horse face and rocking the Justin Bieber hair harder than Tom Brady did in 2010. But unfortunately with all of the parallels between Peyton Manning’s exodus to the Broncos this off-season, I had to address it.

Elway did not want to play for the Colts, who were planning on drafting him in the 1983 draft. He threatened to go pro in baseball instead (he was already playing in the Yankees minor league system during the summer - giving me one more reason to dislike him beyond these commercials), and the spineless Irsays couldn’t handle having their top pick walk away for nothing. So they came up with a trade involving the Broncos.

Indianapolis Received

Denver Received

  • John Elway

With the Broncos’ first round pick in 1984, the Colts drafted Ron Solt.

So, who won? With Elway, the Broncos received a franchise QB who took them to five Super Bowls (winning two in a row to end his career). He put up prolific numbers and was a first ballot Hall of Famer. Say whatever you want about him using the plot from “Major League” as a model for running the Broncos as the GM, but as a player he could sling it with the best of them.

The Colts got two “things.” First, they received one competent player in Hinton. He was a seven time pro-bowl offensive lineman (always great to have). They also got rid of a potential locker room cancer if Elway was bluffing and had no intention of staying in the MLB. The other two were not worth the price.

And, not to get too far off topic, that price was crazy low by today’s standards. If the Redskins had traded for him, the Colts would still be picking for them ten years later. Sorry, but it is true.

So, the winner (without too much debate) was the Broncos. Irsay was lucky to get something out of this at all (as he could have ended up with nothing), but he should have demanded more. Luckily for Elway, him and his equestrian-sized chompers could still serve as the mascot for his new team.

The Ricky Williams Trade (1999 & 2000 NFL Drafts)

It has been widely accepted that Mike Ditka screwed over the Saints in trading for Ricky Williams. Maybe not as much as Gregg Williams, but that is still to be seen. It was a marriage that was doomed from the beginning.

Anyways, the trade was a blockbuster.

Washington Received

  • Pick #12 (Rd. 1) in the 1999 NFL Draft
  • Pick #71 (Rd. 3) in the 1999 NFL Draft
  • Pick #106 (Rd. 4) in the 1999 NFL Draft
  • Pick #144 (Rd. 5) in the 1999 NFL Draft
  • Pick #179 (Rd. 6) in the 1999 NFL Draft
  • Pick #218 (Rd. 7) in the 1999 NFL Draft
  • Pick #2 (Rd. 1) in the 2000 NFL Draft
  • Pick #64 (Rd. 3) in the 2000 NFL Draft

New Orleans Received

  • Pick #5 (Rd.1) in the 1999 NFL Draft

Obviously, with their pick New Orleans selected Ricky Williams. At which point Ditka probably went home, had a few drinks, rubbed his Super Bowl rings and quietly regretted his decision. They had no more selections the rest of the way.

The Redskins, now with enough picks to potentially start a dynasty, decided to blow up their entire plan and trade up to the #7 pick (Rd. 1), which was owned by the Bears. They traded picks #12, #71, #106, #144 and the #87 pick (Rd. 3) in the 2000 NFL Draft to trade up five spots. With this selection, the drafted Champ Bailey. The Bears used their selections to draft (in order): Cade McNown, D’Wayne Bates, Warrick Holdman, Khari Samuel and Dustin Lyman.

Continuing the trading trend, the Redskins traded the other two picks in the 1999 draft received in the Ricky Williams trade (#179 and #218) to move up 14 spots to the #165, originally owned by the Denver Broncos. With their new selection, the Redskins drafted Derek Smith (the Tackle out of Virginia Tech, not to be confused with Derek Smith the linebacker they drafted out of Arizona State two years earlier). The Broncos used their picks to draft Desmond Clark and Billy Miller, respectively.

The following year, upon realizing that maybe, just maybe, trading six of their eight bonus picks for two picks was a bad idea, the Redskins drafted LaVar Arrington with the 2nd overall pick and Lloyd Harrison with the 64th overall pick.

Here is where everyone fell after the dust settled:

Washington Received

  • Champ Bailey
  • Derek Smith
  • LaVar Arrington
  • Lloyd Harrison

New Orleans Received

  • Ricky Williams

Now, as I have been leaning all along, I think that New Orleans is the clear loser here. You do not, under any circumstance, trade that many picks for one player. They should have taken the Herschel Walker trade to the Vikings as a warning.

The bigger issue is, I can’t really name the Redskins the winners. They had eight picks, and used them to draft four players. Of those four players, two of them were complete busts. Of the other two, they played for the Redskins a COMBINED nine seasons. Sure, Bailey is one of the best defensive backs to play in the NFL since Deion Sanders. But, since the Redskins whiffed on drafted a reasonable team for him to play on, he threatened to hold out unless he was traded.

The unseen part here is that the biggest losers in all of this might have been the Chicago Bears, who used the five picks from the Redskins to draft nobody of real significance.

All in all, this trade was a bust for all parties involved. If I had to grade it, I would give the Bears an F, the Saints a D (despite the situation it put their team in, it did give them one of the best running backs to come out of the draft in a long time) and both the Broncos and Redskins a C- (the Broncos drafted two tight ends who were both off of the team within two years). For everyone involved, it would have been better if this trade had never happened.

The Jay Cutler Trade (2009 & 2010 NFL Drafts)

In the wake of the Josh McDaniels’ hiring as the Broncos head coach, the team jettisoned its two most potent offensive weapons from the season before. Brandon Marshall was traded to the Dolphins (a deal which will come into play later in this post - so stay tuned) and Jay Cutler was traded to the Bears.

Here was the deal:

Denver Received

  • Pick #18 (Rd. 1) in the 2009 Draft
  • Pick #84 (Rd. 3) in the 2009 Draft
  • Pick #11 (Rd. 1) in the 2010 Draft
  • Kyle Orton

Chicago Received

  • Jay Cutler
  • Pick #140 (Rd. 5) in the 2009 Draft

First, as it is MUCH simpler, I will break down Chicago’s side. They received a Pro-Bowl caliber QB in Cutler coming off of the best season of his career. With the 140th pick, they selected Johnny Knox.

The Broncos drafted Robert Ayers with the 18th pick in 2009. They traded the 84th pick to Pittsburgh along with the 79th pick (Rd. 3) for the 64th pick (Rd. 2) and the 132nd pick (Rd. 4). The Steelers drafted Kraig Urbik and Mike Wallace with their two picks. The Broncos drafted Richard Quinn and Seth Olsen.

Next year, the Broncos continued to trade picks when they shipped the 11th overall selection to San Francisco for the 13th pick (Rd. 1) and the 113th pick (Rd. 4). At 11, San Francisco drafted Anthony Davis.

The 13th pick was traded again, this time to Philadelphia for the 24th pick (Rd. 1), the 70th pick (Rd. 3) and the 87th pick (Rd. 3). With the 13th pick, the Eagles drafted Brandon Graham.

The Broncos still have four more picks stemming back to the original trade, and they aren’t finished moving them around. They traded their newly acquired 24th overall pick and their 113th pick (the one they got from San Francisco) to the New England Patriots to trade up to the 22nd pick (Rd. 1). With the 22nd pick, the Broncos drafted Demaryius Thomas. While we wont go too far down the rabbit hole with the following trades, as Bill Belichick did what he always does and traded down multiple times, the 24th pick ended up with Dallas (who selected Dez Bryant) and the Patriots used the 113th pick to select Aaron Hernandez.

Okay, so remember when I said the Brandon Marshall trade would come back into play? Well, this is the spot. Miami traded Marshall for the 43rd pick (Rd. 2) in the 2010 Draft and the 46th pick (Rd. 2) in the 2011 Draft. The Broncos traded the 43rd pick, the 70th pick (Rd. 3) and their 114th pick (Rd. 4) to Baltimore for the rights to the 25th pick, which they used to select Tim Tebow. Yes, THAT Tim Tebow. Baltimore used the picks to select Sergio Kindle, Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta.

Apparently the Broncos were tired of trading, because they used the 87th pick to draft Eric Decker.

Whew. Are you still with me? Teaches me to spend time on the Broncos.

Here is where everyone fell after the dust settled:

Denver Received

  • Robert Ayers
  • Richard Quinn
  • Seth Olsen
  • Demaryius Thomas
  • Tim Tebow
  • Eric Decker
  • Kyle Orton

Chicago Received

  • Jay Cutler
  • Johnny Knox

So, the ever important question - who won? It may be too early to judge, but dammit I am going to do it anyways.

Chicago got what it desperately needed - a legitimate starting quarterback (Condolences to Rex Grossman, Kordell Stewart, Brian Griese, and any other of the mistakes that stood behind center since the days of, well, Sid Luckman). The only issue is that Cutler has never been able to replicate the numbers from his 2008 season (partly because the Bears are giving him less opportunities to throw the ball. Knox has proven to be a solid receiver (though he wouldn’t be a #1 on any team not named the Washington Redskins), with no areas to really “knock” at this point (I’m sorry, it was too easy).

Denver’s is more difficult to judge. It got seven total players out of the deal, but you could argue that only three of them ever really did anything for the franchise. The combination of Tebow, Thomas and Decker helped key up “Tebow Time" and the improbable run to the playoffs (only to be stomped by the Pats). Kyle Orton stayed afloat for a time, but was clearly not the answer. The other three made such little impact I will speak no more about them.

However, Tebow time is over. John Elway gave up on it the second Peyton Manning became available. Heck, he gave up on it in the middle of the season. Maybe Tebow wasn’t horse-toothed (horse-teethed?) enough for him, or he didn’t rock the Justin Bieber haircut hard enough. Last I checked, winning is winning. He totally would have been an Al Davis kind of guy, save for that whole Christianity thing.

So, for that reason I have to give the win to the Bears. The WR’s that the Broncos retained are talented (and with Manning throwing them the ball, they could be dangerous), but potential should never outweigh proven performance. Cutler and Knox have proved that they were worth the cost.