It was the biggest debacle in the draft that was supposed to make us forget about the lockout for a while, when Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo pulled back on a Day 1 draft-related trade with the Baltimore Ravens. The original deal was supposed to have sent Chicago's 29th overall pick and a fourth-round selection to Baltimore in exchange for the Ravens' 26th overall pick. But as the deadline to cut the deal closed, Angelo either reneged or just failed to confirm the trade, and the Ravens lost a slot in the draft.
The Ravens wound up getting the player they wanted, Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith, but bad feelings remained — both then and now. The Ravens felt that the Bears owed them a fourth-round pick as promised, and Roger Goodell suggested that the Bears make that move, but Angelo refused on the grounds that he shouldn't be held to a deal that was broken because of a mistake.
"I can't imagine why they would be so opposed to doing this," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said soon after the fact. "I thought Steve [Bisciotti, the Ravens' owner] said it well. You're talking about your reputation. You're talking about how you do business. The McCaskeys [owners of the Bears] are the McCaskeys. They are the NFL. I really think if they were making the decision, I'm pretty sure their fourth-round pick wouldn't be worth the history of their reputation.
"It seems like that's what disappointed Steve. You make a deal. You say you have a deal. It's one thing to come back and say you have no deal. It's another thing to say you have a deal for two minutes and we've called it in. I'm not sure what [Ravens GM] Ozzie [Newsome] is supposed to do. He thinks it's a technical snafu. So, it should be able to get resolved. How hard would it be to pick up the phone and call it in if they don't have it yet. It's pretty hard to understand. ... We do stand on our integrity."
That was then, this is now, and now doesn't sound too different. Harbaugh appeared on ESPN Chicago's Waddle and Silvy show on Tuesday with his brother Jim (now the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers) and proved that those bad feelings are still there.
"I don't think any of us were real angry[,] I think it was just disappointing. And I've said it before and I guess they can get mad at me if they want, but I am not buying the mistake thing. It wasn't a mistake. They knew what they were doing. They got their guy on the phone; they agreed to a pick, they recognized he wasn't getting calls from the team behind them and then they basically stalled for over a minute, telling us they had called the trade in. That was just not honest. They had called the trade in, said it was a mistake.
"Those guys have been doing it for a long time, c'mon. You communicate back and forth and someone's responsible for calling the trade in and there is no way to not get that done. … They basically stole two spots from us and that's not okay. That's not ethical, it's not right and I personally agree with our owner, Steve Bisciotti, that they should've been held accountable for it. But it is what it is and they didn't do anything illegal so, we were just disappointed with them."
It's an interesting time for this to come up, because it seems that funky transactions happen right about the time a new CBA goes into place. Teams are confused about the rules, and other teams will take advantage at times. The Minnesota Vikings put a poison pill contract on guard Steve Hutchinson in 2006 after the Seattle Seahawks goofed up and put the transition tag on the perennial All-Pro. Part of the problem was that new rules were in place and the new cap had just been set. The Vikings heard it from the owners of other teams at the next years' owners meetings, because those owners didn't want something similar to happen to them.
The Hutchinson deal effectively ended the life of the transition tag as a strategic entity. What kinds of shenanigans might we see when free agency busts open this time? Hard to say, but you can bet that the Bears and Ravens won't be doing too many deals.