By Sarah Berkowitz
Just in case Eagles fans think their faves are the only NFL team angling to maneuver into position to draft Marcus Mariota at the April 30 draft, think again.
By our count, there are at least four other teams who covet the Oregon QB enough to trade a bushelful of their own picks and players in order to snag him.
Here they are:
Eagles: Picking 20th overall would require a significant move, but perhaps Sam Bradford interests the Titans, or someone else. Chip Kelly (photo above) could always convert Bradford into another first-round pick that could then help sweeten the pot to go get Mariota.
Despite his statements about not mortgaging the future to get Mariota, Kelly will do whatever he feels he has to do, whenever he wants to do it, and consequences and public opinion be damned. He believes strongly in Mariota and if there is a trade he believes makes sense nothing will stop him from doing it (certainly not his own home-spun rhetoric from a press conference).
I don’t buy for a second he wouldn’t consider flipping Bradford, coming off successive ACL tears, in a deal to get Mariota.
St. Louis Rams: Picking 10th overall would require them making a move, but they should keep an open mind. Would Nick Foles do anything for Whisenhunt? Getting out from Sam Bradford’s contract was huge, in an of itself, but Foles and Mariota would give them insurance and an interesting coupling to perhaps take to Los Angeles in 2016. This team is a stable quarterback away from making a power move, they have pulled off huge draft-day trades before (RGIII deal with Washington; moving up for Tavon Austin) and they thought long and hard above moving into the back end of the first round for Johnny Manziel a year ago.
Cleveland Browns: They are picking No. 12 and clearly need a quarterback and a stable citizen at the helm. Josh McCown is a great caretaker but he’s not the future. And Johnny Manziel had about as much of a lost rookie season as one could imagine. His future is already in doubt. The Browns have been peddling their 19th overall pick for Bradford – in both St. Louis and now Philly – and owner Jimmy Haslam has been very intrigued by Mariota for quite some time. And make no mistake, his fingerprints were all over the Manziel selection. You can’t rule the Browns out by any stretch here, with the draft picks and willingness to do it. Haslam likes splash moves.
New Orleans Saints: Picking 13th overall, and 31st overall, and with Drew Brees in what could be his last season in New Orleans and with Sean Payton remaking the team on the fly and making some shocking moves already (the Jimmy Graham trade, for one), getting a quarterback who looks like a tremendous scheme fit at a cheap price might be just want he needs.
Payton has accumulated a bunch of picks already this offseason – he has two third-round picks as well, for instance – and even dealing a few to move up for Mariota would leave him with a decent haul to address other positions. Throw in the fact he’s shown a willingness to shop pretty much anyone on his roster, and the fact that maybe, gulp, someone out there wants to get their hands on Brees, you have to look at New Orleans as a team positioned to continue making bold moves ahead of the draft and during it.
San Diego Chargers: Picking 17th overall, and with franchise quarterback Philip Riversnot interested in a contract extension this offseason (his deal expires after the 2015 season) and the team perhaps willing to move him in the right deal, Mariota would make a lot of sense. It could be they don’t even have to add a pick along with Rivers, and maybe they get something back even. Who knows? Whisenhunt knows Rivers well and worked with him in the past and loves him. Rivers, a Southern boy still at heart, might find raising his brood in Nashville right up his alley if LA isn’t his thing. The Chargers could be moving to LA as well, and having a bright young quarterback who played college ball in the Pac-12 makes sense to say nothing of the cap and cash savings they would gain by moving Rivers. Hard to think of Rivers not under center in San Diego, but crazier things have happened already this offseason.