The Pittsburgh Steelers’ trade up in the first round with the New England Patriots to secure offensive tackle Broderick Jones has gotten a lot of attention, even a week after the draft ended. A lot of people think a lot of things about it, but few actually know anything concrete. Most likely, neither did the Steelers or the Patriots.
The favored part of the story is the suggestion that the Patriots were motivated to trade with the Patriots, even willing to take less than their selection might be worth, specifically because they wanted to screw over the New York Jets, their division rivals.
We can’t possibly know whether or not that was true, but it’s reasonable to assume the Patriots knew the Steelers had a need at tackle and that so did the Jets. Whether or not they got a bargain for the move up three spots and whether or not New England was amenable to taking less because they were hoping it would hurt the Jets is another matter, but Steelers general manager Omar Khan shared his own perspective of the move in speaking to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk recently.
“No inside information, but Sheldon White, who’s our director of pro [scouting], does a great job of preparing us leading into the draft as to what every team’s specific needs are and what he believes their priorities are”, he said about whether or not they traded up because they knew the Jets were going to draft Jones.
“It wasn’t just the Jets but there were teams behind us that we had the same concern that had a need for an offensive tackle that might come up and trade up to get Broderick”, he added. “When the opportunity was there, we just didn’t want to take the chance of waiting to see if he was there or not. But we had no inside info that that’s who the Jets were going to take. It’s just a hunch”.
That is surely how things operate in the vast majority of cases. Teams don’t make it a habit of sharing more information than they need to. It’s more likely that a team would communicate what position they were drafting, if required as part of getting a trade done, than naming a specific player.
Teams often trade up with the team directly in front of them, as the Philadelphia Eagles did in the first round to take Jalen Carter. The Chicago Bears surely had a good idea that the Eagles would take Carter and that that wasn’t who they were going to pick, so they were willing to make the deal. But Philadelphia knew that any other team just as easily could have traded with the Bears to get Carter as well once he began to fall.
Rarely is a trade ever about one team. Everybody scouts other teams’ needs, so every team that covets a particular player knows where they have to get to on the board, at least, to get the guy they want. And they have to get there before anybody else does.
The Steelers got there first for Jones, just ahead of the Jets, who very well may have hoped he would fall one more pick to get to them. But did the Patriots do that to hurt the Jets or because they wanted to move back and acquire an extra draft pick? Did Khan hear anything about that particular motivation on New England’s part? “I did not. Those conversations did not happen with us”, he said.
Either way, they got their guy, and the price was reasonable, and that’s all that matters until they get the big man on the field and we start seeing if it was all worth it in the first place.