S.D. gets charge by dealing No. 1

Chargers pass up chance for QB Vick, send choice to Falcons

Atl. gives up 3 picks, Dwight

Chiefs finally obtain QB Green from Rams

2001 Nfl Draft

April 21, 2001|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Unable to close a deal for quarterback Michael Vick, the San Diego Chargers traded the first pick in the 66th NFL draft to the Atlanta Falcons yesterday.

Instead of a magical quarterback at the top of the draft, the Chargers likely will acquire a prolific running back today. Instead of a long-term timetable, the worst team in the NFL in 2000 will embark on a more immediate plan of recovery.

The Chargers didn't get everything they wanted in the deal, but they got enough. They will receive Atlanta's fifth pick in the first round today, a third-round pick (No. 67 overall), a second-round choice in 2002, and electric kick returner Tim Dwight.

Contrast that with the ransom they gave the Arizona Cardinals for the chance to take quarterback Ryan Leaf with the second pick in the 1998 draft: the third and 32nd picks that year, a first-rounder in 1999 and two players, kick returner Eric Metcalf and linebacker Patrick Sapp.

At least this way, the Chargers don't have to fear a repeat of the fiasco the Leaf draft became.

"We got this trade opportunity while we were working on the deal and it was too good to pass up," San Diego coach Mike Riley said. "It's going to help our team in so many ways. We know we'll get an impact player with the fifth pick in the draft, as well as help from the third-round pick."

That impact player is expected to be Texas Christian's LaDainian Tomlinson, who is generally regarded the best running back coming out this year. With the worst rushing game in the league and the 28th-ranked total offense, the Chargers obviously need more than one player. They now have a total of eight draft picks this weekend.

In another trade yesterday, the Kansas City Chiefs solved their quarterback crisis by getting Trent Green from the St. Louis Rams. They also secured kick returner and wide receiver Tony Horne in the much-discussed trade.

The Chiefs sent the 12th pick in the first round to St. Louis. In return, they got Green and a fifth-round pick, and the Rams agreed not to match an offer sheet made to Horne.

On top of all that, the Chiefs signed free agent Bubby Brister as a backup quarterback. They started the day with one quarterback on the roster and ended it with a full complement of three.

That trade had repercussions for former Ravens quarterback Trent Dilfer, a candidate to go to Kansas City if Green didn't. Dilfer could end up with the Redskins as a backup to Jeff George.

The Rams, with three first-round picks, are expected to use the 12th selection on a defensive tackle, choosing from Marcus Stroud of Georgia, Damione Lewis of Miami and Shaun Rogers of Texas.

Atlanta, meanwhile, is now on the clock with Vick, 20, who left Virginia Tech with two years of eligibility to play in the NFL. The Falcons, 4-12 last season, will groom him to replace oft-injured veteran Chris Chandler, 35.

They quietly positioned themselves for a run at Vick during the week. When negotiations between Vick's representative and the Chargers reached an impasse late in the week, Atlanta seized the moment.

On Thursday, Chargers president Dean Spanos said that unless there was an agreement in terms, the team would pass on Vick. The two sides never got close.

Andre Colona, Vick's agent, opened negotiations last Monday by asking for a $15 million signing bonus with voidable years.

The Chargers had agreed to such a deal with Leaf in 1998. Leaf got a five-year, $31.25 million contract - with an $11.25 million signing bonus - that could have been voided after three years if he reached performance incentives.

Instead, Leaf was such an abysmal failure the Chargers cut him this off-season, and as a result of that contract, will take a $5.6 million hit on their salary cap.

While Vick dazzled with his speed, quickness, arm strength and athleticism, there was concern about the offensive system he ran at Virginia Tech, and his relative lack of experience.

He played in just 20 games over two seasons, throwing 313 passes. He ran for nearly as many touchdowns (16) as he threw (20) in the two years. At just 6 feet, Vick is on the smallish side for a quarterback. He tended to be impatient in the pocket and did not go through all his reads in the passing game.

In the right system, Vick has potential to be a franchise player. Falcons coach Dan Reeves, who brought John Elway into the league, obviously feels he can provide the right setting.

The ripple effect of yesterday's deal was quickly felt around the league. Arizona is expected to select left tackle Leonard Davis with the second pick. With the third pick, the Cleveland Browns could unravel San Diego's plans by picking Tomlinson, or trading the choice to a team (Chicago at No. 9) that wants him.

If Tomlinson goes to San Diego with the fifth pick, the Bears might opt for pass-rushing end Andre Carter. That would foil the San Francisco 49ers' bid to send the 10th pick to the Denver Broncos, who want to get Carter. The 49ers have been negotiating with both the New York Jets (No. 19) and the Broncos (No. 24).

The New York Giants, picking 30th, are also trying to make a move. They have talked to Tampa Bay (21), New Orleans (23) and Miami (26) about trading up to get tight end Todd Heap or one of the top cornerbacks.

It's also possible that at least two veteran players, Jacksonville linebacker Kevin Hardy and Denver running back Mike Anderson, will be swapped today for extra draft picks.

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