For the NFL's souls of discontent, a measure of satisfaction was discovered Tuesday in the confines of Samsonite luggage.
Four of the 2004 season's unhappiest men, all wide receivers, were delivered to new destinations by the end of the NFL's trading deadline. Two of them – Oakland's Jerry Rice and Tampa Bay's Keenan McCardell – finally got the trades they had been lobbying for. Two others, Dallas' Antonio Bryant and Cleveland's Quincy Morgan, were sent packing by coaches who were roundly disappointed in their recent production. And in a rare development, it seems all parties involved should walk away happy with the results.
A look at Tuesday's trades:
- Tampa Bay's Keenan McCardell to San Diego for third- and sixth-round draft picks.
It was the move of the day – a huge addition for the San Diego Chargers. Who cashes in? None other than Drew Brees, the Chargers' quarterback who entered Tuesday with only two receiving options in tight end Antonio Gates and running back LaDainian Tomlinson due to receiver Reche Caldwell's season-ending knee injury. Now he has four, with the addition of McCardell and the signing of free agent Bobby Shaw, who was released by the Buffalo Bills earlier this season. Even at 34, McCardell has enough in the tank to be the Chargers' No. 1 receiver. With McCardell, Shaw and Gates, the Chargers have a solid 1-2-3, especially with Gates rounding into one of the NFL's best tight ends.
The holdout acrimony between McCardell and coach Jon Gruden (not to mention general manager Bruce Allen) was unsolvable. It became a nasty hostage situation, with each side squeezing the other for ransom. At this point in the season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers weren't going to get more than the two picks San Diego offered. And with the way things are going, Tampa is going to need to stockpile draft choices for imminent rebuilding.
For the Chargers, this signals two things. Coach Marty Schottenheimer's job is safe with owner Alex Spanos. No way general manager A.J. Smith makes this deal unless that is the case. Secondly, it signals that the Chargers are serious about competing for a playoff spot right now, particularly with Oakland and Kansas City off to miserable starts.
- Oakland's Jerry Rice to Seattle for a conditional seventh-round draft pick.
Last week's rumors of Rice heading to the Seattle Seahawks didn't make a lot of sense, but that was before news leaked of an impending four-game suspension of Seattle receiver Koren Robinson for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Robinson is already in the midst of an appeal with the NFL, but one source told us Monday night it is only a matter of time before he is forced to sit. What is striking is that the Seahawks kept the problem quiet until Sunday night – no small feat considering the concentration problems Robinson has had this season.
Enter Rice, who has fallen on hard times in the eyes of many of the league's talent evaluators. His ability to separate from cornerbacks is minimal now, but Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren knows how to incorporate aging receivers effectively. Rice will get passes thrown in his direction without Robinson in Seattle's offense, and he'll be an even more important factor if third-option Bobby Engram's ankle sprain lingers into November. What Rice won't be is a star. But the Seahawks only gave up a seventh-rounder, which is a sad but accurate indicator of Rice's present value.
- Dallas' Antonio Bryant straight up for Cleveland's Quincy Morgan.
This is a younger version of Keyshawn Johnson for Joey Galloway. The only difference is that the two receivers involved this time around still retain some promise of better days ahead. The reputations and recent hard times are eerily similar for Bryant and Morgan.
Both are former second-round picks who earned praise as possible draft steals in their rookie seasons. Both have displayed a knack for making big plays – but also the ability to completely disappear in games. And both are players who simply fell out of favor with their coaches over the course of this season.
Bryant became known for his immaturity, especially after an incident that saw him storm out of practice this summer after throwing his jersey at Cowboys coach Bill Parcells. And Morgan grew increasingly agitated with his place in Cleveland's offense, his role decreasing even more with the arrival of quarterback Jeff Garcia. It's a classic "start from scratch deal" where each team receives a player who clearly has talent but wasn't able to deliver in their last locale.