OXNARD, Calif. (AP) — The Rams are tired of waiting to get a franchise quarterback, and they want to make a splash in their return to Los Angeles.
So after waiting a day out of respect for Kobe Bryant, they went all in on one of the biggest trades in NFL draft history.
The Rams acquired the No. 1 overall pick from the Tennessee Titans, giving up six draft picks over the next two seasons in exchange for three choices.
General manager Les Snead and coach Jeff Fisher left little doubt the Rams will choose a quarterback with the top pick, hoping to end years of frustration at the most important position in football.
“This is a fun time, an exciting time,” Fisher said Thursday at the team’s temporary Southern California headquarters. “We still have work to do, (but) we’re going to get the right guy, and everybody is going to like him, and we’re going to go out and win some games.”
Los Angeles has already held private workouts with California’s Jared Goff and North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz, generally considered the top two quarterback prospects in the field. Although Snead confirmed the Rams won’t reveal their pick before draft night, the GM is clearly thrilled by the chance to add a potential franchise passer to an all-around solid roster lacking a centerpiece.
“We do have a few players in mind,” Snead said with a grin. “There will be suspense leading all the way up. … There’s not enough (quarterbacks) on the planet to feed 32 NFL teams, so that is the challenge.”
In the first NFL trade involving the top overall pick since 2004, the Rams also acquired Tennessee’s choices in the fourth and sixth rounds. In exchange, the Titans got the 15th overall pick from Los Angeles along with two second-round selections and a third-round pick in this draft, along with the Rams’ first- and third-round picks in 2017.
That’s an extraordinary commitment of future resources, but the Rams are weary of waiting. They’ve missed the playoffs in 11 straight seasons, and haven’t finished with a winning record since 2003.
“Historically, no one has done this,” Fisher said. “Both Tennessee and we realize that no one has gone from 1 to 15.”
The Rams went 7-9 in St. Louis last year while getting unimpressive quarterback play from Nick Foles and Case Keenum. With the franchise entering the crowded Los Angeles sports market after 21 years away, the opportunity was ideal to add a marquee name to a team already boasting star running back Todd Gurley and a talented defense.
Snead and Fisher ran the deal by Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who approved of both the bold move and its timing.
“He was very, very excited about this opportunity,” Fisher said. “Not only for the potential and the future of his football team, but in addition the circumstances and the timing.”
Snead and Titans general manager Jon Robinson have discussed the deal since the draft combine, where their scouting departments happened to be next to each other in the suites in Indianapolis.
“It was easy for Jon and I to sneak out the back of the suite there, act like we were going to the restroom, and chat about the pick,” Snead said. “They were willing. I think you’ve got that luxury when you have (Marcus Mariota).”
But there was a complication: The Titans wanted to finalize the deal on Wednesday so that both teams could have extra time for draft preparations. Most of Los Angeles was spending that day focused on Bryant’s final game with the Los Angeles Lakers, a night that turned into a spectacle when Bryant dropped 60 points on the Utah Jazz.
So the teams agreed to wait a day to announce a major NFL trade.
“Jeff and I were deep into football and drafts, and all of a sudden, ‘Oh yeah, it is Kobe’s last night,’ and it was very cool,” Snead said. “We were able to chat with Jon and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got this thing going in LA that’s pretty important, and it’s obviously bigger than just LA.’ They were nice enough to say, ‘You know what? Let’s respect that.’ Put it all under wraps, and we can all go watch Kobe get 60 and win the game.”
The Rams made another major draft deal four years ago, landing a host of picks from the Washington Redskins, who chose Robert Griffin III. The Rams haven’t held the No. 1 pick since taking Sam Bradford in 2010, only to watch him struggle through several injury-plagued seasons before trading him to Philadelphia last year. The second-round pick the Rams got in that deal went to the Titans.
Tennessee now holds six of this draft’s first 76 picks. Robinson, hired in January, is looking to rebuild a franchise that has gone 5-27 the past two seasons.
He noted Thursday that the extra picks give him more flexibility.
“I would say this doesn’t really knock us out of moving back up. It doesn’t mean we’re going to,” Robinson said. “It gives us options. Much like a play call sheet on game days, you want to have your full play sheet that you can call plays from. We want to have the same thing with the draft. We want to have multiple options and multiple plays, if you will, that we can go to to make this football team better.”
The draft-shaking trade also impacts the Cleveland Browns, who have the No. 2 overall pick and have their sights set on landing a franchise quarterback after more than a decade of futility. They’ve extensively studied both Wentz and Goff, and still could get one, though perhaps not the one they prefer.
Also, the recent signing of Griffin, coincidentally, as a free agent may have lessened their need to address the position.
by Greg Beacham (AP)