Joe Banner is the former President of the Philadelphia Eagles and CEO of the Cleveland Browns. After leaving the Browns in 2013, he did a short stint consulting for the Falcons. Since then, he’s been a regular guest doing the former-GM circuit on radio and television shows, particularly in the lead up period to the draft. Recently, he went on the Ross Tucker Podcast, discussing some of the Dolphins’ offseason moves, including their draft trades (Banner loved the trade back from #3 to #12 with the 49ers, but did not like the subsequent trade up with the Eagles from #12 to #6).
Banner dropped a number of gems, several of which I want to discuss here. The first was about draft trades:
Tucker: “Doesn’t it feel, Joe, like the Dolphins felt like they were playing with house money? Because they did those trades concurrently, I think they looked at it like, “well, we just got these 3 first round picks, we really want to get Ja’Marr Chase, or Kyle Pitts, or Sewell, or whoever is there at 6. We can trade one of them to go back up there.” Whereas, I would submit to you - and it sounds like you’re on the same page - you have to look at every transaction as a totally separate and distinct business decision. I feel like they tied those two together and they made a mistake in evaluation as a result.”
Banner: “We’re 100% in agreement. Remember, it’s the Dolphins that, not too long ago, traded a 1 and a 2 to go from #12 to #3, and they used it to pick a defensive end (Dion Jordan, in 2013) who ended up being a bust. So they used a first and second round pick to get a player that would be a bust. To me, the picking of the player is a separate thing. And that’s how good an evaluator you are. The trade is: Are you getting fair value, which hopefully then you use wisely. And that’s where it’s very hard to justify moving up 6 spots at that point in the draft....Giving up those kind of assets at this point is not what I’d be doing. If anything, even with all the assets I had, and you said it perfectly, by the way, we had a rule in Philadelphia, there were two ways to exploit the market. One was, teams that have a lot of draft picks tend to undervalue them, so it’s easier to make a trade with them. Exactly what you said Miami may have done in this situation. So, you have to be very, very careful in never losing sight of what the value is, and then cheapening something just because you have a lot of it. You’ll always need more cap room (and draft picks).” [he then proceeds to discuss the evolution of the 49ers cap situation].
Tucker: So you said, “two ways to exploit the markets, one was teams that have a lot of picks tend to undervalue them. What’s the other one?”
Banner: The second one is new head coaches, sometimes because they don’t like somebody, or they don’t think they fit, will cut players that are actually quality - not going to be Pro Bowl guys - but they’re guys that can help other rosters. So when you see a new coach come in, he’s going to re-evaluate who he thinks fits. Who fits his scheme, and who fits his personality, who fits his culture. And if you think about this, you’ll see that sometimes coaches will make the mistake of cutting somebody, at least in the sense that it could turn out to be somebody, who could be quite good on other teams. The biggest example of this currently is [Ryan] Tannehill... You will almost always see a new coach come in, and for whatever reason, make some mistakes in the cuts.”
The conversation continues, and Banner makes some additional, interesting points, but I want to take this opportunity to dig a little deeper into the two nuggets he unearths here, and consider how how the WFT can exploit them this offseason.
1. Teams that have a lot of draft picks tend to undervalue them, so it’s easier to make a trade with them
As most everyone knows, each team starts the draft with 7 picks, one in each round, but through pick trades and the addition of compensatory picks, they can be shifted around or swapped. Including the compensatory picks, on average, each team actually has 8 picks, as the 32 compensatory picks are, in effect, a “hidden” additional round in the draft.
For this part of the exercise, we’ll look at the 7 teams with the most picks in the 2021 draft to see which potential trade partners might be the most vulnerable to undervaluing their pick haul.
- Philadelphia Eagles - 11 picks - 1, 2, 3, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6, 6, 7, 7
- NY Jets - 10 picks - 1, 1 (#23), 2, 3, 3 (#86), 4, 5, 5, 6, 6
- New England Patriots - 10 picks - 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 4, 5, 6, 6, 7
- Minnesota Vikings - 10 picks - 1, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6
- Jacksonville Jaguars - 10 picks - 1, 1 (#25), 2, 2 (#45), 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 7
- Green Bay Packers - 10 picks - 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6, 7
- Dallas Cowboys - 10 picks - 1, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 6, 6, 7
It’s a little disheartening to me that two of our NFC East rivals have among the most draft picks in the upcoming draft. Thankfully, the lion’s share of their excess picks are on Day 3, which could potentially make them interesting trade partners for picking up that 6th round pick that we’re currently missing, if Mayhew and company decide that’s a priority.
I want to look at this group a bit more closely for Day 1/2 options, however, and that, in my opinion, locks us in on the Jaguars and Jets, both of whom have very early (#1 and #2, respectively) first round picks and second first round picks just after us.
I’ll evaluate a potential trade (or two) with each independently (with Rich Hill pick values in parentheses):
- Jets trade #23 (245 pts) and #86 (49 pts) to the WFT for #19 (278 pts) OR Jets trade #23 (245 pts) and #107 (34 pts) and #186 (5 pts) to the WFT for #19 (278 pts) - Each of these trades slightly favors the WFT (remember, this is about trying to eek out additional value), the first by 16 pts, and the second by 6 pts. The first trade nets us an additional third rounder for a slight trade back, the second gets us a 4th and that missing 6th. The slide back 4 slots in the first is a bit of a gamble, but there’s very likely to be a pretty similar pool of talent, including a couple of top end players, still there at #23. If the Jets are intent on getting their guy at #19, either of these options could be interesting ones to pursue for the WFT.
- Jags trade #25 (230 pts), #45 (131 pts), and #106 (34 pts) to the WFT for #19 (278 pts) and #51 (112 pts) - This trade nets the WFT a 5 pt advantage (basically the value of an early 6th round pick) and does two other things that I really like - 1) Gives us the top pick in the 4th round, where solid talent will still remain, and 2) Pinches together our two early picks in the “sweet spot” of the draft, giving us a couple of shots at top talent who could easily slide in that range. The added advantage of this scenario is that it preys on a new front office and head coach, segueing nicely into the next section.
2. New coaches will make the mistake of cutting somebody who could be quite good on other teams
This offseason was one of massive head coaching turnover in the NFL. There will be 7 new head coaches in the 2021 season. Those include the following:
- Robert Saleh, Jets
- Nick Sirianni, Eagles
- Urban Meyer, Jaguars
- Brandon Staley, Chargers
- Arthur Smith, Falcons
- David Culley, Texans
- Dan Campbell, Lions
Using Spotrac’s handy database, I took a look at the player releases for each of these teams in 2021, and the current status of those players. For each player who hasn’t been picked up yet, I include their latest PFF grade in parentheses:
- Jets - Released Henry Anderson (DE) - Signed by the Patriots to a 2 year, $7M deal.
- Eagles - Released Desean Jackson (WR) - Signed by Rams to a 1 year, $4.5M deal; Released Blake Countess (S) (49.3, 2020); Released Treyvon Hester (DT) (62.9, 2019);
- Jaguars - Released Al Woods (DT) - Signed by Seahawks to a 1-year, $3M deal; Released Rashaan Melvin (CB) - Signed by the Panthers to a 1-year, $1M deal.
- Chargers - Released Trai Turner (G) (34.8, 2020); Released Malik Jefferson (LB) (70.8, 2020); Released Casey Hayward (CB) (59.5, 2020).
- Falcons - Released Allen Bailey (DE) (50.9, 2020); Released Ricardo Allen (FS) - Signed by the Bengals to a 1-year, $1.5M deal; Released James Carpenter (G) (56.1, 2020).
- Texans - Released JJ Watt (DE) - Signed by the Cardinals to a 2-year, $28M deal; Released Senio Kelemete (G) (54.5, 2020); Released Eddie Vanderdoes (DT) (52.7, 2019); Released Nick Martin (C) - Signed by the Raiders to a 1-year, $1.3M deal; Released Duke Johnson (RB) (62.6, 2020); Released Josh McCown (QB) (72.7, 2019); Released Brandon Williams (CB) (49.3, 2018); Release Zach Fulton (G) - Signed by the Giants to a 1 year, $1.2M deal; Released Darren Fells (TE) (69.4, 2020); Released Bryan Anger (P) - Signed by the Cowboys to a 1-year deal; Released PJ Hall (DT) (56.7, 2020);
- Lions - Released Christian Jones (LB) - Signed by the Bear to a 1-year, $1.2M deal; Released Russell Bodine, (C) (62.3, 2018); Released Justin Coleman (CB) - Signed by the Dolphins to a 1-year, $2.3M deal; Released Jesse James (TE) (61.2, 2020); Released Joe Dahl (G) (57.4, 2020); Released Danny Shelton (DT) - Signed by the Giants to a 1-year, $1.1M deal; Released Chase Daniel (QB) - Signed by the Chargers to a 1-year, $1M deal; Released Desmond Trufant (CB) - Signed by the Bears to a 1-year, $1M deal;
Wow, this is a pretty thin group that appears well picked over already at this point in the offseason. I struggle to find anyone in that pool even worth looking at (maybe Fells, if he were a few years younger). Perhaps Malik Jefferson (LB)? At this point, I don’t see anyone else worth pursuing, but it could certainly be that a worthy mid-level depth player gets released after the draft. In light of that possibility, I’d encourage Washington’s front office staff to keep and eye out for a potential slip up by these new coaches.
It should be noted, one player who didn’t show up in the Spotrac database yet, but who was released by the Texans, and already picked up by Washington, is Beau Benzschawel (G), so perhaps Mayhew and company are already paying special attention to this group.
I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts on this draft day wisdom in the comments.
Which of these moves would you most like to see the WFT pursue this offseason?
This poll is closed
Jets trade 1
Jets trade 2
Keep an eye on premature releases
Several of the options above
None of them