Before anyone starts doing cartwheels over the Detroit Lions' latest swindle/trade, let's remember one thing: Good cover cornerbacks are never, EVER reasonably available when under contract. You can get them, but it almost always requires a ridiculous contract on top of premium trade terms.
The Lions had to do neither Saturday afternoon in order to pry Alphonso Smith away from the Denver Broncos. Instead, general manager Martin Mayhew sent No. 4 tight end Dan Gronkowski to the Broncos. And that's it. As of now, at least, there are no indications that the Lions included any draft picks for Smith, who was the No. 37 overall pick of the 2009 draft. *Update: Reports are emerging that the Lions might send a low-round pick to Denver to complete the deal. We'll bring it to you officially when it is announced.
It's rare that a team gives up on a highly-drafted cornerback after one year. It was especially painful for Denver which, as my AFC West colleague Bill Williamson recently pointed out, traded its 2010 first-round pick (No. 14 overall) to jump back into the second round in 2009 to draft Smith. But he was buried deep on the Broncos depth chart this summer and would have been released were it not for this trade.
That said, Mayhew had every reason to make this trade. Even though Gronkowski had a strong preseason, there was little chance he would play in a tight end group that includes established veterans Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler and Will Heller. Cornerback is a much more important position than tight end, and the Lions' need there is acute.
Chris Houston and Jonathan Wade finished the preseason as the starting cornerbacks, with Eric King working at nickel. But Smith will get every opportunity to turn around his career in Detroit, at minimal cost to the Lions. Advantage, Detroit.