A master of his trade

Chargers general manager A.J. Smith has become a master of his trade by, well, mastering the art of the trade. Core players such as Philip Rivers, Keenan McCardell and Shawne Merriman were all acquired via trade. Smith's last trade, swapping Sammy Davis for Rashaun Woods, has immense payoff potential. More trades may be on the way.

Ironically, Smith's latest trade is directly tied to one of his first ones. Shortly after taking over as general manager, Smith traded down from the No. 15 spot in the 2003 draft in order to pick up Davis and Terrence Kiel. Although Davis disappointed on the field, at least the Chargers were able to get a playmaking receiver in return for his services. Kiel has been a starter since midway through his rookie season.

"I need to do a better job," Smith admitted. "The personnel department needs to do a better job to get good players to add to the ones we have. It enhances your opportunity and chance to be successful."

Smith's biggest splash would come in the 2004 draft. He was set up well for the occasion due to the trades Junior Seau and Trevor Gaylor to the Dolphins and Falcons, respectively. That draft would come to define Smith as a master trader.

In 2004, Smith selected Eli Manning with the first pick in the draft. He then traded Manning for Rivers, a third-round pick (Nate Kaeding), a first-round pick in 2005 (Shawne Merriman), and a fifth-round pick in 2005 (which was traded to the Buccaneers in exchange for Roman Oben). He used the aforementioned extra selections to pick up Michael Turner and Shane Olivea.

Smith's highest profile trade came midseason in 2004, when he traded third- and sixth-round picks in the 2005 draft for Keenan McCardell. He really gave up only the third rounder, because the sixth-round pick he gave away came from Miami as a throw-in from the David Boston-for-Jamar Fletcher trade.

"I think a lot of people see my passion for the game," said McCardell. "I just try and go out and show it. When you are a football player and you see a guy with a lot of passion, you try and take to it. I have taken to them because I see a lot of passion in this locker room. We want to win."

Just as he did before the 2004 draft, Smith set himself up with two extra selections prior to the 2006 draft. He added a sixth-round pick by swapping Cleo Lemon for A.J. Feely, and a seventh rounder by sending Toniu Fonoti to the Vikings. He used those picks to select Kurt Smith and Jimmy Martin, respectively. Also, having the two extra selections allowed him to send a fourth rounder to the Rams for Brandon Manumaleuna.

So when Smith decides to trade for a receiver (Woods) instead of drafting one, skeptics should give him the benefit of the doubt. Woods now has the experience and physical well being necessary to succeed, things he was lacking while in San Francisco.

And when Smith announces that former Pro Bowlers Donnie Edwards and Hanik Milligan are on the trading block, he should be trusted then as well. Firstly, he has already developed ample depth at both linebacker and safety in preparation for their departures. Secondly, he has proven that when he makes trades, he will get something of value in return. That is what makes him a stellar general manager, and an indisputable master of his trade.

"We have a plan to win now and in the future," Smith said. "Plan strategic moves for the future. I don't want to operate on a year-to-year basis. You have to have an eye on the future."


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