NFC West: Trev Alberts

Running back Ricky Watters, then with the Philadelphia Eagles, suffered a "mild concussion" against Indianapolis during a 1996 game.

Nothing unusual there. Back then, before concussion awareness would become part of the public discussion and Watters would join the growing list of retirees suing the league, players returned to games following head injuries more freely.

"As he was falling to the ground, Watters was hit in the head by the right knee of Colts linebacker Trev Alberts," the Philadelphia Inquire reported following that 1996 game. "Watters stayed on his knees, clinging to tight end Jimmy Johnson. After staying on the field briefly, Watters was helped to the sideline, his legs wobbling noticeably."

Watters, who began his career with the San Francisco 49ers and ended it with the Seattle Seahawks, reportedly suffered the injury late in the first quarter. A team doctor and trainer "hovered" over him in the bench area.

"Two minutes later, Watters jumped up and hopped around the sideline," the Inquirer reported.

Watters returned to the game with nine minutes left in the second quarter.

Snapshots such as this one do not necessariliy prove wrongdoing by the NFL or its teams. They do take on new meaning in retrospect. Then as now, players want to tough it out.

Watters did embrace the warrior's mentality. He was one of the most demonstrably passionate players I can recall covering. He was tough and durable, playing through painful injuries, including turf toe, while starting 116 consecutive regular-season and playoff games, a streak that trailed only Walter Payton's 170 games at the time.
Current NFC West teams popped up four times in Mike Tanier's Insider list of the 10 most disappointing NFL trades of the past 25 years.

How heartwarming.

By disappointing, Tanier meant for both teams. He was not analyzing lopsided trades, but rather those that hurt both teams. Terrell Owens, Kelly Stouffer, Joe Wolf, Deion Branch and Trev Alberts make appearances, so proceed at your own risk.

The San Francisco 49ers' 2004 trade sending Owens to Philadelphia for Brandon Whiting and a conditional fifth-round choice checked in at No. 2 on the list.

[+] EnlargeTerrell Owens
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesTerrell Owens went to the Super Bowl with the Eagles after being traded by the 49ers.
I'm not sure how disappointing this trade wound up being for the Eagles. Owens played a leading role in getting them to a Super Bowl, and his gutsy play put Philadelphia in position to win the game. That one season was worth losing Whiting even though Owens became a headache for the team overall.

On some levels, this deal was a downer for all parties. Owens should have become an unrestricted free agent that year, but his agent failed to file the necessary paperwork to void his deal. The 49ers initially received a second-round choice from Baltimore as part of the trade, but with Owens seeking a ruling that would let him hit the market, San Francisco agreed to lesser compensation as part of a settlement. Owens did get a new contract, so he came out OK, but the trade was definitely disappointing.

The 1989 trade between Seattle and the then-Phoenix Cardinals ranked sixth on the list. The Seahawks got Stouffer, who never became the franchise quarterback they were seeking. The Cardinals drafted Wolf with the first-round pick they received from Seattle.

This deal was also memorable for the Seahawks' failed attempts to trade Pro Bowl safety Kenny Easley before settling on the first-round pick as compensation. The Easley trade fell through when doctors discovered Easley had suffered career-ending and life-altering kidney damage after ingesting massive quantities of ibuprofen over the years. The Seahawks' role in administering the ibuprofen drove a wedge between Easley and the organization. The sides reconciled 15 years later, but it was an excruciating process.

I appreciate Tanier's inclusion of the first Seattle-New England trade involving Branch. Sure, the Patriots came away with Pro Bowl safety Brandon Meriweather, while the Seahawks never got much in return for Branch. This trade was lopsided on the surface, but as Tanier points out, losing Branch cost New England during the playoffs following the 2006 season. I thought the move cost the Patriots a trip to the Super Bowl, and Tanier agrees.

This was a bad move for both teams even though the Patriots came out ahead. New England's relationship with Branch had soured amid a contentious contract dispute. The Patriots got significant value for a player they were unable to sign, but they missed Branch.

One more NFC West trade made the list, but I'm guessing you'll have a hard time singling it out. Tanier went with the 1994 deal between the Indianapolis Colts and then-Los Angeles Rams. The Colts acquired the fifth overall pick from the Rams to select Alberts. The Rams traded the seventh pick to San Francisco, which selected Bryant Young, while using an additional pick from Indianapolis for running back James Bostic. The Rams drafted Wayne Gandy, Brad Ottis and Ernest Jones with the picks from the 49ers.

This deal was disappointing from the Rams' perspective if the team missed out on Young. I wouldn't necessarily view it that way. The Rams came out ahead by a wide margin when we examine the trade itself. Gandy became a long-term starter. Alberts lasted three seasons and made only seven starts.
The NFL lockout sharpens our focus on the 2011 draft by postponing indefinitely free agency and trades involving players.

Teams interested in wheeling and dealing have few options during a lockout. They can still trade draft choices, which got me thinking about what NFC West teams could get in return for their first-round selections.

Specifically, what could the Arizona Cardinals expect to receive in return for the fifth overall choice? The trade-value chart can help, and I was happy to stumble across this handy calculator for analyzing trades during the draft.

History provides another guide. What has the fifth choice returned previously? Two resources became starting points for finding out.

AdamJT13, known around here for his wizardry in projecting compensatory choices, put together a list showing trades involving only draft picks (not players and picks). Another site, this one maintained by Frank Marousek, logs trades by year and identifies the players teams drafted with those choices. Both sites were helpful.

Let's count this as the first in a series of items revisiting NFL trades involving the first-round draft choices NFC West teams hold this year. I'll begin with the fifth overall choice because it's the highest one an NFC West team holds. The division's other first-round choices carried more instructive recent histories, I thought.

The pick: Fifth overall

Held by: Arizona Cardinals

Most recent trade involving only picks: 1999. This one won't help establish value for the fifth pick. Mike Ditka and the New Orleans Saints traded their entire 1999 draft, plus first- and third-round choices in 2000, to the Washington Redskins for the fifth choice. The Saints selected running back Ricky Williams. That type of trade isn't happening again, most likely. For reference, though, the Saints parted with the 12th, 71st, 107th, 144th, 179th and 218th picks in the 1999 draft, plus those early picks in 2000.

Previous trade: 1994. The Los Angeles Rams sent the fifth overall choice to Indianapolis for the seventh and 83rd choices. The trade-value chart says this was close to an even swap. It values the fifth choices at 1,700 points. The seventh and 83rd choices add up to 1,695 points. In this case, the Colts drafted Nebraska linebacker Trev Alberts with the fifth pick. The Rams sent the seventh choice to the San Francisco 49ers in a separate deal. The 49ers used the choice wisely, selecting Bryant Young.

Note: The New York Jets acquired the fifth overall choice from the Cleveland Browns in 2009, selecting quarterback Mark Sanchez. That deal included multiple veteran players. I've excluded deals involving players in part because the lockout prevents teams from trading players. Also, it's tougher to determine values for players than it is for draft choices.