It's draft day and the draft has gone this way with us now on the clock. So far, Phil Emery is shocked at how the draft has played out. Despite rumors of QBs dropping, 4 go in the top 8 picks. In his position of need list, not a single DT or DB is off the board yet and only one S. Plus, the best MLB is still on the board. This is a tailor made trade down scenario and Phil listens to all offers.
Cleveland was thrilled to take Johnny football with the 4th pick. But they desperately covet another target for their new franchise QB. Typical thinking suggests that they go for another WR to line up opposite Josh Gordon. But Kyle Shanahan tosses out another idea that nobody considered. Sure, they can wait and take whichever WR falls to them and get maybe the 3rd best in this draft. Or they can make a bold move for TE Eric Ebron, the best receiving TE prospect in years and go with more of a 2 TE approach, putting him opposite the already productive Jordan Cameron. "Look at what the Patriots did with Gronk and Hernandez," he points out convincingly.
Cleveland rings the Bears and won't take NO for an answer, offering #26, #71 and #83 to move up. But even with the plethora of desirable players still available, dropping 12 spots isn't what they are looking to do under the circumstances. Phil doesn't budge, hangs up and starts completing his selection form to pick Aaron Donald.
But following some briefly raised voices in Cleveland, the phone rings again and this time they offer #26 and #35 for #14. Phil considers this and asks the war room if they think they could get 2 of the R1 coveted players in those 2 spots. After a lightning quick debate with some spirited dissent, Phil figures it's a chance worth taking and pulls the trigger with some heads still shaking.
The Bears/Browns trade announcement initiates pundit questions regarding why Aaron Donald is still on the board. With the subsequent selections of Jernigan and Nix, discussion burns about why the 285# DT is now officially falling. Kiper has no idea why this is happening, but that doesn't stop him from expertly tossing out a couple of potential explanations. As the next couple of picks come off the board, Donald gets the sad camera treatment. The Pack's choice of Hageman at #21 pours gasoline on the fire and every war room buzzes about the sinking Pitt Panther.
As pick #26 approaches, a silent, thoughtful Emery watches all of this unfold while the rest of the Bears scouting staff frantically contacting everyone they know who might be able to unravel the mystery.
In a sudden move that most of his staff finds head scratching, Phil contacts the Bengals about moving up 2 spots. As expected, they inquire if his interest is in Donald. "Damaged goods", he responds, refusing to get into it any further. But he only offers a 6th rounder, an offer they flatly reject. He argues that the level talent field currently on the board makes it silly to offer more. But Cincy disagrees, probably not wanting to create a reputation for accepting underpayment. As Emery's phone clicks, a wry smile emerges.
With Donald still on the board as the clock starts on pick #26, Phil sits and waits. About 2 minutes in, he takes the first of several trade up calls. He continues to field questions about the plummetting DT and consistently responds to them with short, detail free answers. "Can't take the risk." "Our doctors say NO." "Not gonna take that gamble."
At the 3 minute mark, the 49ers text in an unusual offer, but one not really so crazy for a team with their SB aspirations. They want to deal #56 and #61 for #26, giving them 2 #1s. Phil instinctively knows that this is a low ball offer and after some quick calculations, figures that an additional mid-high 4th is needed to make it fair. Phil chides Trent Baalke for not coming in with his best offer with the clock this late in the game and counters asking for their 3rd, but throwing in our 4th. "We're almost at 2:00. Final offer, yes or no?" After a 10 second discussion, SF gives the deal the thumbs up.
Phil announces the move and instructs his staff to write it up and send it in. "NOOOOOOOOOOOO" says DC Mel Tucker and DL coach Paul Pasqualoni in unison. They begin arguing with Emery, who pivots away to pursue a soda. They reflexively turn and start waving their arms at Marc Trestman, who lets them vent, but preaches calm. They storm out of the room.
The Bears now have the following picks in the first 4 rounds:
R2... #35, #51, #56, #61... R3... #82, #94... R4... nothing
The GM instructs his staff to begin preparing for tomorrow, stating in certain terms that he plans no move ups back into R1. Low volumed grumbling ensues, some louder than others. "Hey!", Phil yells. "Anyone who would like to leave is free to go now. But if you're staying, quit complaining and do your jobs! If you want to bitch, take it home to your wife." The room got eerily still for a few seconds before normal work typing sounds began spilling out.
While R1 continued on, Phil initiated no calls, but did take a couple. He smoothly rejected all offers and maintained his short answer strategy when Aaron Donald's name came up.
When the day's picks concluded with Donald still available, Phil joined his staff to discuss R2 targets for about an hour. After that, he decided to go get a small bite from the restaurant downstairs with Marc Trestman before calling it a night. Trestman didn't eat, but made his case defending his coaches point of view. Emery smiled and reminded the coach that he has their desires in mind, but he's in the player pursuit business, while they're job is to coach. But he urged him not to worry.
As Phil finished his key lime pie, Trestman decided to go share this fairly uninspiring information with his staff. But Emery ordered a beer, deciding to ponder his thoughts for a bit longer. He was starting to wonder if he didn't err in not taking Donald at #26. He knew that was the safe, logical move. He understood the coaching staff's displeasure and was beginning to think they were right. Still, they are where they are and he figured that either Houston would take him or trade their pick to someone else who would. He considered giving Houston a call, but he knew he'd have to overpay to move up 2 spots and he didn't have a 4th round pick that it would probably require, which is as much as he'd sacrifice to make that move. All he could hope for now is that he planted enough seeds of doubt in NFL minds to allow him to fall to #35.
As he tipped his Heineken the final time, Lovie Smith walked up and greeted Emery warmly.
Lovie: How've you been Phil?
Phil: Great! How's everything in Tampa?
Lovie (with a chuckle): That's my kinda weather!
Phil: I'm glad there's no hard feelings, Lovie. You really got quite the deal in Tampa, man.
Lovie: It's just business, Phil. I'm very pleased to be in Tampa now. But I have some unexpected issues.
Phil: What's that, Lovie?
Lovie: I've met with every player on my defense. Only a very few of them have that winning attitude. Some are money guys. Some are fame guys. And a few are posse guys. None of the leaders are winners.
Phil: So why are you telling me this?
Lovie: I want some of my old leaders off your team.
Phil: What?!? Who do you want?
Lovie: Briggs and Tillman. God if I'd have known the boat I was in, I would never have let you sign Tillman.
Phil: But those guys are both in their contract year and have had some injuries. And that would put us in a position to have to find 2 starters. I'm not sure this is doable.
Lovie: But you would also suddenly have about $8M in cap space.
Phil: And there's nobody worth a crap out there to spend it on. I just don't see this happening, Lovie.
Lovie: You haven't even heard my offer yet.
Phil: Your offer? Your name isn't Jason Licht.
Lovie (smiling): I guess you don't understand how I roll Phil, since you guys were nudging me out of Chicago. I make way more money than Jason does. That gives me a looooooot of pull.
Phil: OK, what's your offer?
Lovie: I'll offer you a 3rd round pick or next year's #2 for those two guys. That's fair market value for 2 quality starters in their mid-30's.
Phil: I agree that it's fair value. But this whole thing is problematic. First, I need to come up with 2 quality starters. Second, I get a sports car full of cap dollars and no place to race. Third, you don't have a 3rd round pick and next year's picks don't help me get a starter now. And fourth, I still haven't discussed this with your GM. So I don't know why we're even having this conversation.
Lovie: OK, that was my mistake. How about if I offer you a 2 instead and you give me back a 3, don't you have 2 of them now?
Phil: You want me to suddenly have to find 2 starters, but you want me to take a quality pick and give you one back?!? You're out of your mind, Lovie.
Lovie: Make it our #2 then.
Phil: Lovie, that's a high 2! No way is it worth it, particularly for players approaching the end of their careers.
Lovie: But that pick will get you one of the starters you want, don't you think? And you'll have more than enough cap money to rent another starter for a year.
Phil: Sure, pick #38 would hopefully get me one starter. But I don't know. The free agent market is slim pickins. Besides, how do I know that Jason is on board with this?
Lovie turns away and starts tapping his phone. He spends the next minute in a quiet discussion before handing his android to Phil, who listens to Licht's agreement with Lovie's proposal. He thanks the Bucs GM and hands Lovie's phone back.
Phil: I need to sleep on this. Can I get back to you in the morning, say 10am?
Lovie (with his customary toothy grin): No problem, Phil. Call me in the morning.
(continued next post)