Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Rams Are No Strangers to Blockbuster Trades

By John Turney
Most knowledgeable football fans know that in the 1950s the Los Angeles Rams once traded eleven players for Les Richter and later in that decade they traded nine more players for Ollie Matson.
In the Richter trade, a few of the eleven players were good. But most were backup-types. It is hard to determine what the real value was. The Rams got an eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker and gave up players that played 27 total games for the Texans/Colts franchise. More than half the eleven never played for the Texans at all. The Texans likely had to make the deal, they couldn't afford to pay Richter and they needed players. But the hype that went with the trade "Rams Trade 11 Players for LBer Richter" is overblown.

The same goes for the Matson deal. It was actually eight players and a draft pick and those players totaled 116 games for the Cardinals, or about 13 games each. So again, what was the value? Matson played four years with the Rams and was used less and less as each season passed. Finally, he was traded to the Lions for Harley Sewell a longtime player who was at the end of his career and the Rams not next to nothing from him.

When Rosey Grier went down with an Achilles injury in camp in 1967 George Allen, wanted to keep the Fearsome Foursome powerful gave the Lions the old "Lawrence Welk" deal—ah one, ah two, ah three. Brown played well for two seasons was nagged with injuries in 1969 and basically ate his way out of the league in 1970 by ordering pizzas, many pizzas after curfew.

It's hard to blame Allen for the deal, Brown could be dominant, but had he kept in shape he could have played a handful more years, perhaps some with the Washington if things would have played out the same. (They wouldn't—If you believe in "the butterfly effect")
The Rams got tremendous bounties in both 1973 and 1974 when they traded Roman Gabriel and John Hadl to the Eagles and Packers respectively. The Rams, in early 1973, traded for Hadl to compete with Gabriel for the Rams starting quarterback job after Gabriel has arm issues in 1972. Gabriel was not pleased and demanded a trade. So, the Rams obliged when they found someone willing to pay a king's ransom. There were media reports than George Allen wanted him but former Redskin assistant Mike McCormack the head coach of the Eagle was apparently the highest bidder.

For Gabe, the Rams got two first-round picks, a third, and a Pro Bowl wide receiver and  Harold Jackson and an excellent short-yardage back in Tony Baker.

Hadl developed back issues in late 1973 and it affected his arm strength. He had dynamite start with the Rams and tailed off through the playoffs. The slump continued early in 1974 and when the Packers were desperate for a QB and James Harris had proven he could play and win for the Rams,  GM Don Klosterman fleeced the Pack for two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and a third-round pick—Ah one, ah two, ah one, two, three.

The Gabriel trade had many interesting footnotes (as did the Hadl deal). With the first-rounder they got from Philly they took John Cappelletti. The Rams got five years of service out of him (three as a starter) then traded him to the Chargers for a second-round pick. In 1982 the Rams added a #3 and a #5 to the #2 they got for Cappy and upgraded to a 1st rounder which they used to take Barry Redden.

Okay, stay with us, they got five years of service out of Redden, mostly as a backup or blocker for Eric Dickerson, and then, in 1987, sent Redden to the Chargers for Buford McGee and a 1988 second-round pick that turned out to be Flipper Anderson plus a conditional pick that turned out to be a sixth-rounder (#148-Thom Kaumeyer).

So, the point is, not only did the Rams get the services of the players they got for Gabriel they parlayed them into players who still produced for the Rams through 1994.

And that is not all. The Gabriel "trade string" continued because for the third-rounder the Eagles gave the Rams drafted a player named Dan Nugent. Nugent never played for the Rams he was hurt early but was considered talented and was sent to Washington in 1976 for a 1980 second-round pick and a 1980 third-round pick.

The second-round pick turned out to be Irv Pankey who was a Rams starter through 1990. And yes, when they had gotten a decade out of him, they traded him to the Colts for a third-round and an eleventh-round pick. The third-rounder was defensive tackle Marc Boutte and the Rams got two years of starting defensive tackle from him before waiving him.

It gets more complicated, but in this same trade string, the Rams packaged Charle Young (who Rams essentially traded Ron Jaworski for) and a Gabriel pick that ended up netting the Rams Jewerl Thomas who provided a nice spark for the Rams in late 1980 but a few years later he was then unloaded for Eric Harris who came in handy for the Rams in 1983-84 when they were rebuilding.

Additionally, the Rams got five excellent years out of Harold Jackson and then, in 1978, they sent him to the Patriots for 3rd and 4th round picks. One of those picks was used as capital to trade up for Johnnie Johnson and the other was used as part of the aforementioned Charle Young and Jewerl Thomas deal.

Finally, the Rams got two solid years from Tony Baker and shipped him down the coast to San Diego for a fifth-rounder that the Rams used to draft Carl Ekern, a 13-year Rams (nine as a starter).

It is impossible to really get a full value out of the Gabriel trade but a guesstimate is they got well over 60 years of service for Gabriel and a few backup players and a couple of lower picks.

And that's just the Gabriel haul.
The Hadl haul included Mike Fanning (who was unloaded to the Lions for a fifth-rounder after nine seasons; Monte Jackson (who gave them three years—two All-Pro, and then was traded to Raiders for a #1, #2, and #3), those top two picks were George Andrews, LeRoy Irvin (16 total seasons of service).

The 3rd rounder was part of another "splitting Aces" trade technique that sent Bob Budzinki to Miami and the Rams got Jim Collins, Mike Barber, and Henry Childs. Collins was solid, Barber played one good year and got hurt, and Childs gave the Rams little in 1981.

Also, it has to be noted that one of the Hadl #1s was sent to the Lions for compensation for signing free agent Ron Jessie. Jessie was a good receiver for the Rams for a few years and then he was sent to the Bills for a 7th rounder, which was packaged in another deal.

The third-rounder the Rams got from the Packers for Hadl was used for Geoff Reece. In 1977 he was packaged with the Rams own second-round pick to move up into the round to take Nolan Cromwell, who Rams didn't think would be on the board when their second-round pick came around, so Reece was the "capital" to upgrade their Rams pick to get a great player they were targeting.

The Hadl second-rounder was Pat Thomas who was a Pro Bowl cornerback when healthy but whose knees went out on him in 1982. However the Rams, in 1983, shipped him to the Raiders for Monte Jackson, the same Monte Jackson they sent to the Raiders in 1978.

However, Thomas failed the Raiders physical and he was returned to the Rams who cut him. Apparently, his knees were not good enough for the Rams either. The Rams and Raiders worked out other compensation for Jackson who did play a little for the Rams in 1983 but was nothing near what he was.

Again it's difficult to get an exact number but for Hadl and the very few "extras" they gave up in upgrades the Rams got at least 50 years of service from the players and draft picks they received.

So, for Hadl and Gabriel and some backup players and a few picks (a couple high ones) we think a good estimate would be 110 or so seasons of action as compensation for the two quarterbacks.

One can debate how many of those seasons were good ones, but with Dennis Harrah and Pat Thomas and the upgrades to get Cromwell and Johnson and with Collins, Cappelletti, Jessie, Baker, Jackson, Fanning, Andrews, Irvin, Ekern, Pankey, Flipper, Redden, and the rest the trades did extremely well.

The happy ending for the Rams would have been winning a Super Bowl title and that didn't happen even with the talent they accumulated from these deals. Klosterman, as can be seen, was a hoarder when it came to picks. And when he had a chance to draft Earl Campbell in 1978 he wouldn't pay the price to move to the top of the draft and the Oilers were willing to do it and landed Campbell. Klosterman just wanted his picks we suppose.

In 1981 Fred Dean was offered to the Rams for a second-round pick and changes (basically the same as the 49ers ended up paying) but Klosterman thought that price was too high for a player who was already 29. That is a head-scratcher since Dean was in his prime and the Rams desperately needed a right defensive end to match with Jack Youngblood.

Additionally, Dean was small, around 230 pounds and the Rams his just jettisoned Fred Dryer who was around 225 or so and for years Rams each coach Ray Malavasi (according to Dryer) was trying to replace him because he thought Dryer was too small.

So, getting another small end might not be what Malavasi was wanting. However they seriously underestimated Dean's natural strength and talent. So, the Rams again stood pat and failed to improve their team at a time where an infusion of the kind of talent Campbell or Dean would have brought for the small price of some draft picks that Klosterman coveted.
As we just mentioned in the previous paragraphs the Rams sent Monte Jackson to the Raiders in another 'Lawrence Welk' deal, a 1st and 2nd and a 3rd which was considered a blockbuster at the time, especially for a defensive player.

The Jackson deal brought a lot of criticism on the Ram brain trust but they kind of snookered the Raiders. Though people like Fran Tarkenton and others thought Jackson was the best cornerback in the NFL he'd taken a liking to bodybuilding. Not lifting weights to get stronger, he was naturally strong and lifted with the linemen on the Rams, but puffing up his physique.

Some Rams question his dedication to the game, and Al Davis wanted a replacement for Willie Brown who was going into his final year and he was not privy to the increased size of the corner he coveted. So, he gave the Rams the three premium picks and by 1980 Jackson had been replaced in the starting lineup by a journeyman corner names Dwayne O'Steen (ironically a former Ram).

In 1982 the Rams sent a first-rounder and a second-rounder to the Colts for Bert Jones. Now, usually, it is not mentioned as a blockbuster trade, perhaps because it was not two 1st rounders. But when you consider the picks were the #4 and #34 overall, the draft chart value is higher than many of the two #1 picks which often are late-first rounders and not a top 5 pick as it was in the Jones deal.

Jones played one year and had to retire due to a neck injury. After not pulling the trigger on Campbell or Dean the Ram did so with Jones and the injury bug bit them. Bad luck, we suppose.
In 1986 the Rams were involved involving Jim Everett. The Rams sent Pro Bowl guard Kent Hill and defensive end, William Fuller and two first-round picks and a fifth-round pick to the Oilers for Everett.

Everett was worth the price, though it was steep. Kent Hill didn't fit with the Oilers and was out of football in a couple of seasons. William Fuller, on the other hand, was a stud player. he was a USFL player the Rams had the right to and the Rams could have used him. No one knows the end from the beginning but the deal might have gone through without Fuller who was the kind of pass rusher the Rams wanted but couldn't find after Jack Youngblood retired.
The next year the Rams, in a complicated three-way deal sent Eric Dickerson to the Colts and for him the Rams got three first-rounders (two from the Bills, on from the Colts), three second-rounders (two from the Colts and one from the Bills) and a running back from each team Greg Bell from the Bills and  Owen Gill from the Colts.

It may have been John Shaw's (Rams de facto GM) crowning achievement in the NFL for getting eight players for Dickerson. It also may have been John Math's (Rams draft guru) worst moment in the NFL though there are plenty to choose from.

The players the Rams took with the six picks were Gaston Green,  Aaron Cox, Fred Strickland, Cleveland Gary, Frank Stams, and Darryl Henley.

Green was not the kind of back John Robinson liked, he was traded in 1991 to the Broncos with a 4th rounder and the Rams got a late pick and Gerald Perry. The Rams got two years out of Perry (one was a great one—1992) but he was a low character player. So was Henley. He was a fine man-to-man corner but also got into dealing drugs and ended up in Federal prison for threatening a judge.

Cox was talented but small. Gary was talented and had one 1,000-yard rushing season but he was up and down and fumbled too much. Fred Strickland was a good pick, Rams got real value for him, but he got hurt too much and was a 'tweener in some ways. Fritz Shurmur found great ways to use him in the Eagle/Hawk defenses of 1988-90. Stams was just a guy.

The running back that helped the Rams the most from the Dickerson trade was Greg Bell. In two seasons with the Rams he averaged 1174 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns per year. And n 1990 the Rams traded him to the Raiders for a fourth-round pick. That pick was Robert Bailey who was a decent nickel back and who gave the Rams four years of service (11 years of NFL service) and whose claim to fame is that he set the NFL record for the longest punt return in history.

In all, the Rams essentially blew the haul they got from Dickerson in our view. The opposite of what happened with Hadl and Gabriel and Jackson.

Moving on.
In 2016 the Rams sent two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and two third-round picks to get the number one pick overall (they wanted Jared Goff) and the Titans sent a 4th and a 6th rounder along with it to fit the "value".

Goff proved to be worth it guiding the Rams to the Super Bowl and putting up great numbers in the process, but he's been in a bit of a slump lately, but we fully expect Sean McVay to right the ship.
Now, after week six in 2019 the Rams have sent two first-rounders and a fourth-rounder to the Jaguars for Jalen Ramsey.

It smacks a little of desperation, but it could be brilliant. He could boost the defense into playing the way Phillips wants to play (more man to man) and there is the possibility of  Aqib Talib coming off injured reserve and giving the Rams two good corners, though Talib is aging.

Or, we suppose Ramsey could be the kind of locker room disruptor he's been with the Jaguars. However, by giving up so much the Rams have pretty much committed to signing Ramsey to a long-term deal. If they can't they can trade him but we don't think, in that scenario, that another team would pay what the Rams did. But time will tell if he plays well and the Rams reward him with big-time money.

When will they pull the trigger again? Time will tell. But it seems these big-time deals are just in the Rams nature, their DNA if you will, So it will happen again we think. 


  1. Good Lawrence Welk reference. I think it was Dave Hanner of the Packers who referred to the Hadl trade as the "Polka Deal", a one, a two, a one two three.

    The Rams and Cowboys were consistently good organizations for the 70's and 80's, but they did a great job in 'fleecing' teams by trading veteran players for draft picks.

  2. Just as Belichek does now with the Patriots

  3. Fun walk down memory lane. Yeah the Rams blew Eric Dickerson trade big time. I'm warming up to trading picks for known quantities.