The draft winds are swirling, and the prospects haven’t even landed in Indianapolis yet for the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine. After speaking with a dozen of my closest sources over the last two days, I stumbled across an interesting tidbit that’s obviously in its baby steps stage, but it appears to have enough juice to where it could move quicker than a Chris Johnson 40.
The St. Louis Rams are in the market for a quarterback, and all of the trade speculation has the Rams interested in one of the Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks: Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick or Kevin Kolb. The Rams would be interested in all three of the Eagles quarterbacks, but the name that continues to be linked with the Rams is Vick. It was reported earlier this week by multiple media outlets that the Eagles would likely hold onto Vick until the preseason to create a larger trade market for the former No. 1 overall draft pick. If this report is true, and the Rams are unable to workout a deal with the Eagles prior to the draft for Vick, I’ve been told by two sources that the Rams are prepared to turn to option B, and the alternative involves a potential blockbuster trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In addition to finding a franchise quarterback, the Rams are interested in trading out of the top spot in this year’s draft, moving down a few spots and acquiring additional draft picks and players. I’ve been told that the Rams and Buccaneers have had exploratory discussions on a deal, which would involve the team’s first round selections (No. 1 and 3), possibly one of the Buccaneers second round picks (they have two picks in the second round: No. 35 and 42) or their third round pick (No. 67). Again, these discussions have been exploratory, as the Rams continue to investigate all of their options, but the deal involving the Rams and Bucs first round picks and Tampa Bay’s third round pick, not one of their second-round picks, is where it gets interesting.
A source close to the situation in St. Louis told me that if a deal with the Eagles can’t be consummated prior to the draft, they may take the Bucs third round pick over one of their second round picks, because they’re “very high” on third-year quarterback Josh Johnson, who they would insist being in a potential trade with Tampa Bay. Rams officials compare Johnson favorably to Vick athletically, but they feel that he has a greater upside as a passer.
A 2008 fifth round pick out of the University of San Diego, Johnson was known for his accuracy and athleticism while in college, and last year with the Buccaneers he showed promise during a four-game stretch where he was the starting quarterback. Johnson played five games in all during the ’09 season and completed 50.4-percent of his passes for 685 yards, four touchdowns and eight interceptions; which are respectable numbers for a young quarterback leading a mediocre offense. But with the Buccaneers investing a first round pick in the 2009 draft in former Kansas State star Josh Freeman, Johnson is expendable and will attract interest from many teams.
If a deal were to happen between St. Louis and Tampa Bay, and the Rams were to acquire Johnson from the Bucs, that doesn’t mean that the Rams will enter the 2010 season with Johnson as their starting quarterback. NFL.com’s Jason La Canfora reported this week that the Rams have no immediate intention of releasing their injury-prone starter Marc Bulger, but with Bulger scheduled to make $8.5 million this year, it’s likely that he will be wearing another team’s uniform this season.
With Bulger eventually on his way out and Kyle Boller being an unrestricted free agent and unlikely to return, I’ve been told that another motivation for the Rams possibly trading the No. 1 pick is because they have the two premier defensive tackles in the draft, Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy, equally graded on their draft board, and that if they did move down to the third pick, they hope McCoy will fall to them. But, if the Detroit Lions select McCoy with the second pick, the Rams would then entertain the notion of drafting one of the top two quarterbacks in the draft, Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford or Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen.
The Bucs motivation for such a deal is due to their infatuation with Suh. They feel that Suh’s presence in the trenches is exactly what they need and that he would give them the legitimate playmaker they’ve lacked on the defensive line since the departure of Warren Sapp. A month and a half ago, I reported that Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik attended the Brut Sun Bowl to scout McCoy personally, and while the Bucs like McCoy, they have Suh graded much higher and would be willing to make this move to land him.
The same sources told me that if the Bucs don’t trade up, and Suh and McCoy, who are ranked No. 1 and 2 respectively on Tampa Bay’s draft chart, are off the board at No. 3, that the Bucs surprisingly favor South Florida DE Jason Pierre-Paul over Tennessee’s Eric Berry. The No. 3 pick in the draft is widely considered the most pivotal selection in the top 10, as it can alter the view of how the opening frame will ultimately turn out; a prime example of that was in last year’s draft when the Kansas City Chiefs reached for LSU DE Tyson Jackson with the third pick.
It would be surprising to see Pierre-Paul drafted ahead of Berry, but since Tampa Bay needs a pass rusher, and the fact that they have a strong contingent at every South Florida home game during the collegiate season, they’re very comfortable with Pierre-Paul and the upside he has at the next level.
The winds are swirling…
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. Steuber’s features are published across the Scout.com network and on FoxSports.com. If you wish to contact Chris Steuber, email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also now follow Chris Steuber on Twitter.