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Finally, after months of previews, the lights have dimmed and the curtains have opened on the NFL draft's trade market. While two-plus days remain for deals to rise and fall, at least one mega trade has appeared on the horizon.
A league source said Wednesday that the Miami Dolphins, who have avidly pursued trading down from the No. 2 overall pick, are on the verge of trading that choice to the Minnesota Vikings for the seventh and 18th picks, as well as another mid-round choice. Several signs point to the deal coming to fruition in the next few days.
"Imminent is a little strong, but I think it has momentum," the source said.
It now appears Miami has been targeting Utah quarterback Alex Smith with the No. 2 pick – which was precisely what one NFC coach insisted at the March owners' meetings. But with Smith in negotiations with the San Francisco 49ers, Miami may be forced to go with Plan B with the second selection.
Contrary to popular belief, it now appears that Auburn running back Ronnie Brown is not being targeted by the Dolphins. In reality, communication between Miami and Brown has been a bare minimum over the last month, an odd occurrence for someone expected to be head coach Nick Saban's first-ever draft choice.
That, combined with the possibility that San Francisco will be taking Smith with the No. 1 pick, has opened the door for the Minnesota Vikings, who are attempting to move to the top of the draft to select Michigan wide receiver Braylon Edwards. The Vikings have placed "exploratory" calls to both San Francisco and Miami to find out the price tag for obtaining their picks.
Opinions across the league are splintered about the value of trading up in the draft, and the Vikings would be paying a handsome price by surrendering two first-round picks to grab Edwards. However, he's widely considered the best player in the draft and would go a long way toward filling the void left by Randy Moss.
As most expected, teams have begun to loosen their ties and hunker down just a few days before the draft begins on Saturday. While most of the major trades won't begin to occur until Saturday morning, word is slowly leaking out of what's in the works.
Among the other trades that are expected to pick up steam in the next 48 hours:
There is a 50-50 chance that this will still get done, but it may hinge on how the first round falls. For now, the Chiefs are counting on Auburn cornerback Carlos Rogers being there when the 15th pick rolls around, but that's not a certainty. If Rogers gets snapped up before Kansas City has a shot at him, they aren't likely to reach at that spot for a cornerback like Nebraska's Fabian Washington or Michigan's Marlin Jackson. That makes it a near certainty they will ship the 46th overall pick to the Dolphins for Surtain and figure a way to hammer out a new contract for him.
Bills general manager Tom Donahoe is playing some serious hardball, but the reality is that there's almost no way he can bring back a disgruntled Henry.
Once again, this is another scenario that will depend on the draft, and who misses out on the running back they covet. Miami hasn't been mentioned in the equation for some time, but if Nick Saban goes another way with his No. 2 overall choice (and it's starting to look that way), the possibility of Henry landing in South Beach will be renewed. And if Jon Gruden settles on USC's Mike Williams over Auburn's Carnell Williams at No. 5, he might be able to pry Henry loose from the Bills for either the 36th or 71st overall pick.
- The Philadelphia Eagles moving up in the first round.
Eagles coach Andy Reid has traded up in both of the last two drafts and has ample ammunition this year to make similar moves. With pairs of picks in both the second and third rounds, and concerns at the defensive line and wide receiver spot, it is almost a certainty Reid will put together a package of picks to move up from the 31st overall choice. Two likely targets are the Cincinnati Bengals at No 17 and Dallas Cowboys at No. 20.
- The New York Jets moving up to draft Virginia tight end Heath Miller.
The Jets are another team that could target the Bengals at No. 17 and try to move up to take Miller. Though Miller doesn't appear to fit many needs for teams ahead of the Jets, head coach Herm Edwards may not be willing to risk waiting for Miller to fall to him.
With only seven picks in this year's draft, the Jets may opt to package this year's 26th pick with a mid-round pick this year and another choice from the 2006 draft.
While there is still a slim chance something could get done on draft day – another scenario where someone misses out on a running back they want – James and Alexander likely will not be dealt anytime soon. It's more likely that teams will reassess their running back spot after the draft, and then look at James and Alexander as an option.
But even then, the 2006 draft could be rich in running backs, too, if a few underclassmen declare early. The mileage and contract demands dictate that neither the Indianapolis Colts nor the Seattle Seahawks are going to reap major returns for either James or Alexander, but it's going to be hard to find teams willing to take on either in a year when running back value is so low.