The Year Of The Trade Continues

Trades used to be rare in the NFL. Thus far, the 2004 off-season has been the exception to the rule. The swapmeet promises to extend to the draft with the Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos getting a jump on teams by swapping first round picks. The Broncos paid for moving up 7 slots to number 17 with CB Deltha O'Neal and their fourth-round pick.

The Broncos have been anxious to unload the under-achieving Deltha O'Neal since completing the blockbuster trade with the Washington Redskins that landed them CB Champ Bailey. With draft boards settling after the completion of all the player workouts, teams already have a pretty good idea which players will be there when they pick and which players will be already gone.

Still, draft day trades are much more common than exchanges weeks before the big day because teams want to be sure they land their intended target. How can the Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos be certain that their new draft slots will land them the player they covet in the first round?

The Bengals get a known commodity in O'Neal and head coach Marvin Lewis has indicated that his main value is his ability to return kicks. O'Neal's play has been erratic, but his potential is undeniable. Cincinnati signed O'Neal to a five-year deal, indicating that they view him as an important part to their team and a cornerback that can help a weak secondary.

Obtaining O'Neal, along with the 4th round pick, gives the Bengals more options in the upcoming draft. The team will not have to chase a CB in the first round and recent indications point to DeAngelo Hall and Dunta Robinson, the two top corners in this year's class, as off the board by the 17th pick.

At 24, the Bengals could target needs on the defensive line, say DT Marcus Tubbs or they could take a chance on a project CB such as Chris Gamble. Given that the top corners will be gone, Cincinnati really didn't loose much by dropping down in the first round.

What did the Broncos gain by moving up?

That question is much more difficult to answer. Denver is taking a fairly big risk if they have a specific player in mind that they think won't be there at #24. The guess here is that they are after RB Kevin Jones, who would fit the scheme well.

Defensive end is another possible target, but the best two, Kenechi Udeze and Will Smith will likely go in the top 15 if not the top 10.

More conspicuously, the Broncos hopped over the New England Patriots, a team clearly in the market for a running back. Denver's plan to land Kevin Jones could backfire with New England now figuring they probably have to trade up to get Jones or Steven Jackson. The Patriots have already been linked to the 6th pick, currently occupied by the Detroit Lions. With two first round picks already in hand, New England could easily make the move.

Denver's early draft trade is a harbinger of things to come. Most teams, including the Broncos, have been very aggressive in their pursuit of specific players. There will be much more shuffling of the first round draft order before Day 1 is over. The San Diego Chargers are hot to trade down because they have fallen in love with QB Philip Rivers. The Cleveland Browns desperately want to trade up to get OT Robert Gallery.

More likely than not, these deals will come to pass and various teams, such as Denver, will have to make a move in order to secure the particular player they covet. Few teams seem to have the patience to wait and see how draft day unfolds.

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