The Redskins have emerged as favorites for Robert Griffin and co-favorites for Peyton Manning

This week in Redskins quarterback news: Brandon Weeden no longer the most likely the most likely Redskins starting quarterback next season!

The Redskins still really like Brandon Weeden.  They still think Kyle Orton will make a good stopgap solution.  But after meeting with Robert Griffin at the combine, the Redskins apparently are going to rethink their inital position and shoot for the stars.  And I think that might make a lot of fans happy.

To recap, the Redskins initial position on Griffin strictly from things he put on tape at Baylor was that: he’s be a very good fit for the Redskins offensive attack, but the mechanical issues mean he might be less valuable to the Redskins than someone like Brandon Weeden.  It’s possible that after meeting Griffin, Shanahan decided that his hesitency about mechanical issues was not warranted: this Griffin kid is special.  He’ll accept the coaching that Donovan McNabb rejected and Jason Campbell was never offered.

Either way, multiple media outlets have been able to confirm the Redskins interest in the Rams’ second overall pick.  A week ago, the Redskins were looking heavily at other players who might be available with the 6th pick, such as Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill and LSU’s Michael Brockers.  They may still need to scout those players and be able to use the 6th pick on a non-quarterback.  

But the biggest news of the combine did directly involve the Redskins.  The St. Louis Rams let teams know that they are openly shopping the second overall pick, with the intent of trading the rights to draft Robert Griffin to someone else.  Before, we had heard the Vikings and Browns were both open to trading down so someone could position themselves to draft Griffin.  But now it’s the Rams who are trying to create the Griffin market.  As you were.

The Redskins have emerged as the favorite for Griffin.  The Dolphins and Seahawks are both certain to be involved.  Because the Browns will always have the ammunition to target Griffin if they wanted him, the rumors that they want him will not go away as long as the Browns have the pick.  I continue to hear that the Browns are not interested in giving up value to go up and will instead target Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill if he impresses at his pro day.  Finally, according to SI.com’s Peter King, a ‘mystery team’ is reported to have already made a trade offer, though because many different sources have suggested that this team is the Jaguars, Eagles, Broncos, and Cowboys, it’s hard for me to believe that there is just one mystery team.  Any of these teams who has yet to make an offer for the second pick will likely consider doing so in the near future.

If the Redskins are one of just eight teams jockeying for the second pick, what makes them the favorite?  Well, a number of things.  First, understand that of all these teams who are “interested” in giving up a high percentage of their draft to get Robert Griffin, only three and four will still be interested when that price includes “next year’s first round pick.”  For some of these teams, including the Browns and Jaguars, getting this year’s highly rated quarterback isn’t a heck of a lot more important than getting next year’s highly rated quarterback.

But for the Seahawks, Dolphins, and Redskins, who don’t have a quarterback under the age of 27 with a projection as a starter under contract, those three teams realize that they have to do something at the position.  Something can be: acquire Peyton Manning.  Great plan.  Right up there with: acquire Tom Brady, and acquire Drew Brees (just two first rounders away!).  Those are the three teams who — if they can’t get Robert Griffin — would seriously consider drafting Ryan Tannehill anyway.  And it’s that last line of reasoning which makes those teams the favorites for RG3, and everyone else just also-rans.

When you’re planning on spending a lot on a quarterback anyway, suddenly the price tag on the Eli Manning deal (two firsts (including the 6th pick in 2012), a third and a fifth) doesn’t seem so extreme for a starting quarterback.  Let’s say that the Browns were serious about taking Ryan Tannehill at 4th overall if no one could “convince” them not to.  It would probably cost the Redskins their second round pick and then maybe a fifth to get to that spot and get Tannehill.  The difference in cost between Tannehill (who couldn’t work out at the combine and reportedly didn’t wow teams in the interview process) and Griffin?  A single third round pick in 2012.

That’s a hefty price tag for teams that do not need a QB, like the Rams, Browns, Jags, and Cowboys.  For teams that already plan on spending for a quarterback (focusing on the Dolphins in particular), the difference between Griffin and the “next best” is really kind of minimal.  The Raiders got Terrelle Pryor for the cost difference between Tannehill and Griffin right now.

That *2013 first rounder* is going to drive a lot of teams out of the market, and it’s something the Redskins have already resigned themselves to give themselves the best chance at RG3.  But clearly, the Redskins will have to go beyond that pick alone if to hold off other QB needy teams like Seattle and Miami.

But the ace in the hole in discussions between the Redskins and the Rams is that clearly, the Rams are trying to cash in the pick for goods as soon as they can, while the Redskins can see what the Rams see: if the Dolphins, Seahawks, or Redskins leave the race for the second pick because of a future even — potentially one involving Matt Flynn or Peyton Manning — the Rams won’t be able to ask for the Eli Manning trade package at that point.  The Rams want this deal signed, sealed, and delivered by March 13.

Of all the teams in on RG3, Jeff Ireland’s Dolphins are the team most likely to overpay Matt Flynn if the miss out on Peyton Manning.  Flynn could end up with the Browns as well, taking them out of the race for Tannehill, but here at Redskins Hog Heaven, we’re not (yet) covering the race for Ryan Tannehill.  The Dolphins’ owner want Manning perhaps more than any other owner wants Manning, but that fact matters less than where Manning himself actually wants to play.  If the Manning domino falls elsewhere, Miami could throw a ton of cash at Flynn in free agency, and start to look at quarterback options beyond the Tannehill range.

The impatience of owner Stephen Ross may be the only thing that keeps the Dolphins as a legitimate equal for RG3 with the Redskins.  You get the feeling that as Manning makes his demands, the Redskins and Seahawks are likely to say “no” to him before the Dolphins are.  Still, Manning could always choose to play in Kansas City or New York, or even with the right number of concessions, to be the starting quarterback in Indianapolis in 2012 before giving way to Andrew Luck.  Manning is so beloved in Indy, I wouldn’t rule out a situation where the Colts release him to avoid paying his option bonus, and Manning resigns with them with the opportunity to stick one more season in Indy, write his ticket out of town (no risk of franchise tag or transition tag) and hit the market with no concerns about the health of his neck.

If my prediction that the Dolphins will pull themselves out of the race for RG3 by their own impatience end up playing out, the Rams will be left with the Redskins, the Seahawks, and possibly the draft pick-rich Philadelphia Eagles as the teams that want to jump the Browns at no. 4 and get up to where the Rams are at no. 2.  All three of those teams will be willing to part of their 2013 draft to experience the Robert Griffin phenomenon.

But the thing that keeps the Redskins favorites to the very end is the same thing that would have kept the Browns as favorites if they believed that they were better posited to give up future draftsfor Griffin: the Redskins 6th overall pick may be twice as valuable to the Rams as the Seahawks’ 12th pick or the Eagles’ 15th pick.  And that may be at the heart why the Rams don’t want to wait on this deal: if the Rams aren’t getting a lot of interest from the Browns (and don’t think they will down the road), then the Rams don’t really want to see what the market offers after Manning and Flynn sign: they want to give the Griffin pick to the REDSKINS before Manning can make the Shanahan’s reconsider.

So if you believe reports of a ‘handshake deal’ are exaggerated, they probably are.  But the only thing the Redskins really have to worry about is situation where they get into an NFC East bidding war for RG3 with the Eagles and Cowboys.  Short of that seemingly ridiculous concern, the Rams really want to do a deal with the Redskins.  And unless a third team steps in to prevent it, I would be shocked if the Redskins didn’t get this deal done, and do so while keeping their 2nd round pick (39th overall) to find Griffin’s next top receiver.

The real question for the Rams isn’t whether Peyton Manning is enticing enough to hurt the market for the Griffin pick.  It may be instead whether Griffin-mania is big enough to hurt the market for…Peyton Manning?

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