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.