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Duckett Deal Raises Questions

Aug 23, 2006, 11:03 PM EST

You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net

What exactly did the Redskins give up in this deal?

You’ve heard a third-round pick, but that’s not entirely accurate. The compensation will have the draft pick trade chart value of a third-round, but it may not be a third-rounder that changes hands. According to Bill Williamson in the Denver Post, and confirmed by Warpath’s John Keim, these are the possible scenarios:

  1. The two teams exchange first-round picks, in which the Broncos would make a huge jump up the round
  2. The teams flip-flop their first-rounders and the Broncos get a fourth-rounder in 2008
  3. The teams flip-flop their first-rounders and the Broncos get a third- rounder next year
  4. The Broncos get a third-rounder in 2007 and a fourth-rounder in 2008.

To make this as expensive as possible, let’s assume that they are looking at the point value of the first pick in the draft, which on the 2006 chart was 265 points. So, somehow or another, the Redskins have to transfer 265 points to the Broncos. Obviously for any of the first three scenarios listed to happen the Broncos would have to the picking later than the Redskins meaning that the Broncos would need to have a better record in 2006.

Let’s say that the Broncos win the Super Bowl and have the 32nd pick of the first round. To make up those 265 points in an exchange of first-round picks the Redskins would have to own the 20th pick or better. Presumably scenarios #2 and #3 will come into play if the teams are closer together in their draft positions. The fourth possibility, the one that has the Redskins giving up the two picks for Duckett, would occur if the Redskins finish with a better record than the Broncos.

On the face of it giving up a first-day pick for a player with one year left on his contract is a pretty hefty price, one that says very loudly that the Redskins are looking to win it all in 2006.

What does this tell us about Portis’ condition?

The “smart set” out there is saying that this trade means that the condition of Clinton Portis’ shoulder is worse, maybe much worse, than the Redskins are letting on. While it’s in the realm of possibility that there is some truth in this line of thinking it is sheer speculation. People are certainly entitled to being able to engage in that in this age of instant analysis. So I’ll exercise my right and engage in some sheer speculation of my own and try to get into Joe Gibbs’ thinking here. I’m speculating that Gibbs made this deal for two reasons.

First, in his first go around in the NFL he liked to have multiple starting-caliber running backs. In the early years it was John Riggins and Joe Washington. The second Super Bowl was won with George Rogers and Kelvin Bryant gaining the yards during the regular season and then with Timmy Smith setting the Super Bowl rushing record that still stands. In ’91 rookie Ricky Ervins spelled Ernest Byner and Gerald Riggs toted the rock over the goal line.

Now he has Portis and. . .who? Ladell Betts has shown flashes but he hasn’t shown enough to be considered a starting-caliber back. Rock Cartwright is a great guy and a superb special teams player but as a starting running back, well, he’s a great guy. Nemo Broughton? He got his audition in the late going against the Jets on Saturday and was just OK and he fumbled the ball away. Jesse Lumsden? This is the big leagues here, not the CFL. Although Duckett has started just 13 games in his four seasons, that’s eight more than all of the Redskins’ backs not named Portis have started combined.

Second, Gibbs wants to save some of Portis for when it really counts. Last year the Redskins played 18 games. By the last couple of games, the playoffs, Portis was pretty beaten up. Despite all of the talk we heard earlier in the year about Betts taking some of the load off, Portis got virtually every single carry of any significance all year long. Add to it the X factor of the injured shoulder and the fact that he’s starting off the year banged up and there is good reason to want to make sure that his load can be made lighter

The Redskins hope to play in 19 or 20 games in 2006. If their season is going to last longer, Portis is going to have to last longer. Duckett should help make that happen.

This deal doesn’t necessarily mean that the team thinks that Portis will be unavailable for the start of the regular season. It does mean that the want to increase the chances that he will be available for the end of the season.

What about Betts?

Betts quoted as saying, “I don’t understand it” in regards to this trade. I don’t understand something either. I don’t understand why he thinks he’s entitled to anything. Again, he’s shown flashes, but they have been few and far between. What haven’t been few and far between are his injuries. Imagine if the Cincinnati game was a regular-season game. Portis goes down early, Gibbs turns around to look for Betts to go in and, oops, he’s on the bench with a tweaked hammy.

Betts hasn’t proven to be much of a role player either. He’s not a short-yardage back. In 2005 he carried just twice in third and two or less situations and netted a loss of two yards. Third and long hasn’t proven to be his specialty either unless you consider 10 catches for a 7.8-yard average and four first downs to be an acceptable level of production in that role.

If Portis were to miss some significant time, say three or four games in a row, could Betts be relied upon to carry the load, to carry 20-25 times a game? His body of work suggests that he can’t.

This is not to say that Betts is worthless. He has good size, decent speed and good running instincts. The guy can play the game. But if you’ve been around for four years and you have nothing to hang your hat on, you don’t have a role that you own, you haven’t instilled confidence that you could handle the starting job even in the short term much less over the long haul, you should expect to be challenged.

I’m willing to write off Betts’ comments as a heat of the moment type of thing. Nobody likes to have competition brought in and he can be forgiven for having an emotional reaction.

But any player on this team that has an entitlement mentality and doesn’t believe that he needs to go out and earn his playing time will soon find his way onto the end of the bench and, eventually, will find his way out of town.

What’s the bottom line here?

The Redskins have once again shown that they are the most aggressive organization in the game. If they believe they have a hole that needs to be filled, they go out and fill it with the best player they can get. They don’t care if someone is going to get on the air or in front of a keyboard and write that they overpaid for that player. It happens virtually every time they acquire a player. It started when everyone said they overpaid for Portis and for Mark Brunell in Gibbs’ first acquisitions. Since then they’ve paid too much for Marcus Washington and Shawn Springs, gave up too much to get Rocky McIntosh, took an unbearable cap hit to swing the deal to get Santana Moss and so on. The Redskins made the moves anyway.

Let’s talk about this concept of “overpaid” for a minute here. A house in my neighborhood sold for $200,000 recently. I look at the house and the size of the lot that it’s on and I would say that the family that bought it overpaid for it. But it so happens that the house backs up to the elementary school and the family that bought it has two young children. To me, the proximity to the school is worthless but it was quite valuable to the family that will have their kids’ school in their back yard for the next several years. They were willing to “overpay” for the house for that reason.

To me, any money spent on a two-seat Porsche is overpaying because I don’t like driving cars like that and I have no use for one. Others would feel the same way about the minivans and SUV’s that I prefer. It’s all a matter of utility to the end user. In this particular instance, Duckett has a great deal of utility for the Washington Redskins. They gave up what they had to in order to get his services. They are now in a position where they could sustain an injury at running back and where they can better spread out the workload at the position if everyone stays healthy. They also have gained the short-yardage and goal-line power back that they have been missing for the past couple of years.

While there is no question that they will be better in 2006 for having made this deal, there is the matter of the third-round pick, possibly more. At least in all of the other “overpayment” situations mentioned above the player obtained was under contract for a number of years. Duckett becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season and a third round pick is a high price for a one-season rental.

The Redskins haven’t exactly pushed all of their chips into the pot, gambling that they will win it all in 2006. But the pile in the middle of the table keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume One: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when they moved to Washington in 1937 through the 2001 season. For details and ordering information go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com

  1. Joe - Aug 24, 2006 at 10:36 AM

    The move smacks of desparation. I think to the “smart set” (your words) you only make a move like this if you’re looking at about 8 games without your starter. Camp is over so it’s not like they picked him up to compete with the backups. Either they made the trade because they need a starter for week 1 or they overpaid for a short yardage back.

    As far as the Riggo/Washington comparison, that would seem plausible if this were a Joe Gibbs offense. But it’s not. As far as I know, Al Saunders has been a 1 back guy. LJ never saw the field in KC until Priest was injured. Tony Richardson very rarely got that ball at all. Maybe that will change now he’s teamed up with Gibbs, Bugel, et al. But as you said, that’s speculation.

    Saunders had said all kinds of great things about Betts. Sellers was under the impression he’d be the short yardage guy. They have a right to be upset if the coaches were blowing sunshine up their tailpipes while they spent all spring and summer working out in Ashburn, just to have the rug pulled out from under them on the eve of the season. You’d be mad, too.

    As far as overpaying, yes, some people prefer minivans, some prefer Porches. Some people like homes next to a school, some like mansions in Malibu. Buy you don’t pay Porche money for a minivan. You don’t pay Malibu money to live next to a school in Richmond. Regardless of utility, a 1st day pick is too much to spend on a short yardage back. Especially when you have a few guys on the roster that can handle it already.

    Personally, this year is starting to feel like 2000. We’re coming off a season where we won a single playoff game and all of a sudden we need to sign up everyone else’s free agents and malcontents at the expense of team chemistry. I didn’t think Gibbs would operate this way. Let’s hope it doesn’t end the same.

  2. Joe - Aug 24, 2006 at 10:36 AM

    The move smacks of desparation. I think to the “smart set” (your words) you only make a move like this if you’re looking at about 8 games without your starter. Camp is over so it’s not like they picked him up to compete with the backups. Either they made the trade because they need a starter for week 1 or they overpaid for a short yardage back.

    As far as the Riggo/Washington comparison, that would seem plausible if this were a Joe Gibbs offense. But it’s not. As far as I know, Al Saunders has been a 1 back guy. LJ never saw the field in KC until Priest was injured. Tony Richardson very rarely got that ball at all. Maybe that will change now he’s teamed up with Gibbs, Bugel, et al. But as you said, that’s speculation.

    Saunders had said all kinds of great things about Betts. Sellers was under the impression he’d be the short yardage guy. They have a right to be upset if the coaches were blowing sunshine up their tailpipes while they spent all spring and summer working out in Ashburn, just to have the rug pulled out from under them on the eve of the season. You’d be mad, too.

    As far as overpaying, yes, some people prefer minivans, some prefer Porches. Some people like homes next to a school, some like mansions in Malibu. Buy you don’t pay Porche money for a minivan. You don’t pay Malibu money to live next to a school in Richmond. Regardless of utility, a 1st day pick is too much to spend on a short yardage back. Especially when you have a few guys on the roster that can handle it already.

    Personally, this year is starting to feel like 2000. We’re coming off a season where we won a single playoff game and all of a sudden we need to sign up everyone else’s free agents and malcontents at the expense of team chemistry. I didn’t think Gibbs would operate this way. Let’s hope it doesn’t end the same.

  3. mbarnes202 - Aug 24, 2006 at 12:02 PM

    I do think the move makes the ‘Skins better this year, but I also think we did overpay for Duckett’s services. Mainly because Duckett’s on a 1-year deal. You have to ask yourself whether a high third-round pick equivalent is worth more than a situational RB for 1 year. I think the high third-round pick is worth more.
    Now, Lloyd was also on a 1-year deal when we brought him in, and we signed him to a long-term deal shortly thereafter. But are we going to do that this time? That’s where the “what about Betts” question does come into play.
    I disagree with you about Betts–he has shown more than “flashes”. He is a spot-starter, an outstanding reserve, and our #1 kick returner. He’s also a better pass catcher and more of a pile mover than Portis, although he’s clearly inferior. The issue with Betts is durability.
    Gibbs also puts an extreme premium on durability, and my guess is that he values Betts lower than scouts and probably other teams.
    Also, I agree with Rock Cartwright’s concerns– the team dresses three tailbacks each game– so, is Rock out? (Portis, Duckett, Betts.) If not, what position now gets one fewer players suited up to accomodate Duckett (or Rock)? Further, what about team unity? Obviously, winning helps unite a team, but bringing Duckett in clearly has made waves at least among the RB corps. All of these factors add to the cost of bringing in Duckett. Seems awfully expensive to me.

  4. mbarnes202 - Aug 24, 2006 at 12:02 PM

    I do think the move makes the ‘Skins better this year, but I also think we did overpay for Duckett’s services. Mainly because Duckett’s on a 1-year deal. You have to ask yourself whether a high third-round pick equivalent is worth more than a situational RB for 1 year. I think the high third-round pick is worth more.
    Now, Lloyd was also on a 1-year deal when we brought him in, and we signed him to a long-term deal shortly thereafter. But are we going to do that this time? That’s where the “what about Betts” question does come into play.
    I disagree with you about Betts–he has shown more than “flashes”. He is a spot-starter, an outstanding reserve, and our #1 kick returner. He’s also a better pass catcher and more of a pile mover than Portis, although he’s clearly inferior. The issue with Betts is durability.
    Gibbs also puts an extreme premium on durability, and my guess is that he values Betts lower than scouts and probably other teams.
    Also, I agree with Rock Cartwright’s concerns– the team dresses three tailbacks each game– so, is Rock out? (Portis, Duckett, Betts.) If not, what position now gets one fewer players suited up to accomodate Duckett (or Rock)? Further, what about team unity? Obviously, winning helps unite a team, but bringing Duckett in clearly has made waves at least among the RB corps. All of these factors add to the cost of bringing in Duckett. Seems awfully expensive to me.

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