The five or more trades made during the first round of the NFL Draft each year really ramp up the excitement and anticipation felt during the event. Given the talent available this year, there's no doubt that at least that many will be announced by Commissioner Roger Goodell from the Radio City Music Hall stage on April 28th.
How many trades occur may, in part, be determined by the optimism (or lack thereof) surrounding the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
If teams believe the matter will take a year or more to be settled in court, much like the 1987 work stoppage, they will have to assume the league will operate under 2010 rules for the upcoming season(s). That means no rookie wage scale and those initial contracts continuing to include large amounts of guaranteed money.
If, however, a rookie wage scale seems likely to be enacted before this year's draft class signs their deals, teams may be more willing to move up to get the player they want. Paying out $10-$20 million in signing and other guaranteed bonuses to a top-five selection is much more palatable than the $30-$50 million included in each high pick's contract last summer.
Either way, teams anxious to land their top-rated player will undoubtedly pull the trigger on a deal. Here are just six of many intriguing trade scenarios for the first round of this year's draft:
Dallas (#9) trades up for CB Patrick Peterson
Potential trade partners: Cincinnati (#4) or Cleveland (#6)
Possible price: Second-round (Cincinnati) or third-round (Cleveland) picks
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will find it difficult to stay in place if Peterson, the prototypical size/speed corner is still available after the top three selections. San Francisco seems a likely spot for Peterson to land if still available, so Jones will have to make a move to gain the type of star player he typically covets. The Bengals and Browns could easily move down and still pick up a fine pass rusher, defensive tackle Nick Fairley, one of the top two receivers, A.J Green and Julio Jones. Both teams could certainly use the extra picks to build roster depth.
St. Louis (#14) trades up for WR Julio Jones/A.J. Green
Potential trade partner: Dallas (#9)
Possible price: Third-round pick with a late-round sweetener
If the Cowboys aren't enamored with one of the top two cornerbacks (Prince Amukamara being the other), they could move down into the mid-first to pick up an offensive lineman or top five-technique defensive end like Cameron Jordan or J.J. Watt. The Rams are obviously in the market for a playmaking receiver to help last year's number one selection, QB Sam Bradford, get the vertical game in gear. They'll need to get ahead of Washington, Houston (#11), and Minnesota (#12) to ensure they can secure the services of Jones or A.J. Green, whoever is still on the board.
San Diego (#18) trades up for DEs Cameron Jordan or J.J. Watt
Potential trade partners: Tennessee (#8), Minnesota (#12), Detroit (#13)
Possible price: Early (Tennessee) or late (Minnesota/Detroit) second-round pick; may receive a late round pick in return
The Chargers have multiple free agents among their three-man rotation up front, and there's not a playmaker among them. With the extra second-round pick they received from the Jets in the (for CB Antonio Cromartie) and the extra third round pick brought in from Seattle (QB Charlie Whitehurst), General Manager A.J. Smith is in a position to move into the top ten if he so chooses. Jordan and Watt have value to 4-3 and 3-4 teams, so Smith may need to go up higher than expected to land his guy.
Philadelphia (#23) trades up for OT Tyron Smith/Gabe Carimi
Potential trade partners: Jacksonville (#16) or Tampa Bay (#20)
Possible price: Third-round and fourth-round picks
Andy Reid is never shy about moving up to get the offensive or defensive lineman he wants. Though Reid has preferred larger line prospects in the past, Smith's growing frame, strength and athleticism may catch the eye of new Eagles offensive line coach Howard Mudd. Carimi could also be the type of no-nonsense and strong right tackle Mudd wants to work with going forward, and probably brings a cheaper price tag.
New York Jets (#30) trade up for OLB Jabaal Sheard
Potential trade partner: Philadelphia (#23) or Baltimore (#26)
Possible price: Third-round pick, possibly with a late-round sweetener
Sheard's stock is on the rise, and he would fit in some 4-3 schemes in addition to projecting to a strong, relentless 3-4 rush linebacker. If fellow 3-4 teams New England (#17) and San Diego (#18) don't snap him up, Rex Ryan and company would trade a third-round selection along with another late pick to make sure the Saints (#24), Falcons (#27) or Patriots (#28) don't put Sheard's name on their cards.
Washington (#41) trades up for QBs Jake Locker, Christian Ponder or Ryan Mallett
Potential trade partners: New Orleans (#24) or New England (#28)
Possible price: Future second-round pick and current fifth round pick
If Washington owner Daniel Snyder and head coach Mike Shanahan don't believe one of the second-tier quarterback prospects are worth selecting in the top ten, they may trade up to find a signal caller late in the first. A falling Locker would be a nice get for Shanahan, who could consider him a Jay Cutler-type prospect who he could mold into an NFL quarterback. The vertical arm strength of a Mallett or moxie/intelligence of Ponder could also entice the duo leading the Redskins to make a deal.
One barrier to this move is Washington's lack of third or fourth round pick this year due to previous trades for OT Jammal Brown and QB Donovan McNabb. Any teams accepting future picks from organizations like Washington desperate to make a move would have to assume there will be a 2012 draft, or at least make the trade conditional so they would receive their trade partner's second-round pick in the next draft, no matter when it may occur.
--Contributed by NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analust Chad Reuter