There are times when trades benefit both teams involved, and there are times when one partner in a transaction gets the upper hand. Then, there are instances in which two teams are completely and totally desperate at a particular roster spot, and throw chum in the water just to see what happens.
The Monday afternoon trade between the St. Louis Rams and New York Jets seems very much like the third example. The Rams sent right tackle Jason Smith, the second overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft, for New York's Wayne Hunter, the embattled right tackle whose struggles with any manner of pass rush have been well-documented in an offseason where Jets coverage has redefined the term ad nauseam on a national scale.
To indicate just how random the trade is, both players were recently demoted. Smith was sent down the depth chart in favor of veteran Barry Richardson, a journeyman at best. And Hunter found himself out of the starting lineup against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday night in favor of Austin Howard. The Jets swore up and down that they weren't trading Hunter under any circumstances, a virtual guarantee that it was going to happen.
Per Brian McIntyre of NFL.com, the Jets actually pick up some salary obligation in the deal. Smith took a major pay cut in the offseason, but he is still guaranteed $4 million in 2012, $1.55 million more than Hunter. Smith is also due $12 million in 2013, but his 2013 season voids if he plays in less than 31 percent of the snaps. Smith's restructure from earlier this year made the 2013 year moot. If Smith doesn't have a voided contract, there's no chance he's on the roster when an $11.25 million roster bonus comes due.
Both players will take physicals on Tuesday to complete the transaction. The Jets had better hope this doesn't turn out like the potential trade for Carolina Panthers tackle Jeff Otah in July -- that one was nixed when Otah didn't pass his physical.
For Smith, it's the most recent chapter of an NFL history that has been discouraging at best. Playing in a spread offense at Baylor, he struggled with power blocking and the three-point stance more generally required in the NFL. He also suffered a worrisome number of concussions in his professional tenure, missing the final 10 games of the 2011 season due to a neck injury as well as those concussion concerns. How the former tight end will fit in a Jets offense supposedly built on gap power and totally bereft of touchdowns in the preseason is still a mystery -- but as they say, beggars can't be choosers.
Hunter, selected in the third round of the 2003 NFL draft out of Hawaii by the Seattle Seahawks, started all 16 games for the Jets in 2011, but was totally embarrassed in a 26-3 Week 2 loss to the New York Giants in which he allowed 2 1/2 sacks and looked outmatched at all times. One would expect that Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, already suffering from an inconsistent line, his third offensive coordinator in as many years, and an alarming lack of targets once again, is starting to wonder if someone up there doesn't like him.
The Jets face the Philadelphia Eagles this Thursday in their preseason finale, and they open the regular season by welcoming the Buffalo Bills and their potentially dominant defensive line to MetLife Stadium. The Rams close out their preseason against the Baltimore Ravens this Thursday, and open their regular season at Detroit's Ford Field against the Lions. So, between Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcel Dareus, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Cliff Avril, it's not like the offensive line deficiencies of these two offense will be exposed or anything...
Final note: The Jets and Rams face off in Week 11 on Sunday, Nov. 18, at which point both teams may want to reverse the trade just for the heck of it.
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