It’s easy to say that a player won’t be traded. It’s much harder to say “no” to a major trade offer.
The Jaguars repeatedly said they won’t trade cornerback Jalen Ramsey, and they tried continuously to unruffle his feathers when it was clear that he wanted to be traded. The resisted. They waited. And they waited some more.
Then they got an offer of two first-round picks and a fourth-round pick for Ramsey. And they couldn’t refuse it.
How many teams could refuse that kind of an offer, for any player? Putting it another way, how many players wouldn’t be traded for two first-round picks and a fourth-round pick, if someone extended that offer?
Short-list franchise quarterbacks would top the “get out of here with that crap” list. Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson. (Both Mahomes and Watson were initially acquired in exchange for, as a practical matter, two first-round picks.) Tom Brady would also fall into that category, although Bill Belichick would at least seriously consider what he could do with those picks before slamming down the phone.
The Packers likely wouldn’t accept such an offer for Aaron Rodgers during what could be a special season. Come March, well, who knows?
For non-quarterbacks, the “no way in hell” list is also very short. Aaron Donald, absolutely. Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley, maybe. Perhaps Michael Thomas and DeAndre Hopkins. And before you say “Khalil Mack,” remember this: The Bears gave up less than two ones and a four to get him from the Raiders, and the Raiders were praised in some circles for the deal.
The added benefit of swapping a veteran for two ones and a four comes from the financial ramifications. McCaffrey, for example, is on the cusp of a major, market-value contract (and possibly a holdout in order to get it). Trading him for draft picks results in cheap, wage-scale labor for four years, with the fifth-year option available for the first-round picks.
Another factor in the final decision would be the status of the relationship between player and team. Ramsey wanted out of Jacksonville. Mack wanted out of Oakland. If the relationship is fractured, it makes sense to get the most for the player and move on — especially when a major package is on the table.
To get that major package on the table, it’s important to take the position that the player won’t be traded. Right up until the point that he is.