Trade show

Brian Leonard

Baseball had Trader Lane and George Weiss, who as general manager of the 1962 Mets traded the same guy that turned out to be the player to be named later.

Now the NFL has "Trader Mike" Brown, just off his 10th deal in the nine years of the Marvin Lewis era. With the Keith Rivers deal getting finalized for a player to be named later this month in the fifth round of the NFL Draft, the Bengals have turned five trades in the last 290 days.

"You have to like what the Bengals have done," said GM-turned analyst Charley Casserly on Friday. "It's never been an easy league to make trades. It's not like baseball. You don't have a vast field of minor-league players. You don't have as much to work with."

A lifetime after dealing for the Redskins and Texans, you can now follow Casserly on Twitter @charleycasserly as the straight-shooter for NFL Network. In his past life Casserly pulled off two trades with Brown, the most famous of which was the Dan Wilkinson to Washington deal in the winter of 1998 that brought the Bengals the 17th pick that became long-time linebacker Brian Simmons. Casserly also gave up a third-rounder and the Bengals got Iowa guard Mike Goff and his 67 starts in six seasons.

Wilkinson had the misfortune of being the overall No. 1 pick in the 1994 draft in basically his hometown and "only" being a solid player. The two had run its course.

"I think we came out of that one pretty well," Casserly said. "I wasn't looking for the first pick in the draft. I was looking for a solid guy with experience that could be productive and that's what he gave us. I'm not sure what they got out of it, but I think we liked how we did."

And that's the way trades are. It may take two to tango, but you only remember if you were able to dance with the one that brung you. Casserly thinks the Bengals have stepped out pretty well.

"Obviously we all gave them high marks for the Carson Palmer trade," Casserly said of last October's blockbuster that brought the Bengals the Raiders' first-rounder this year and second-rounder next year. "Mike had a value for it, never wavered, and got what he wanted and it's a deal that is really going to help them."

The jury is still out on the Rivers deal and Casserly is a bit mystified with the career of a player that was taken with the ninth pick in 2008. So he can see where both sides are coming from.

"I kind of liked Rivers coming out and I imagine the Giants had a pretty good rating on him and that's their biggest need," Casserly said. "So I'm sure the Giants had him rated high enough that a fifth-rounder wasn't much in their minds."

As for the Bengals, they had a guy in Thomas Howard at Rivers's WILL linebacker spot coming off a season in which he was more productive than Rivers in twice as many snaps. With Howard set, the Bengals were looking at a $4 million backup not accustomed to playing special teams.

"Now you get a younger player that counts less on your (salary) cap," Casserly said of the draft pick. "It's not that they're saving money, it's that they're saving cap space and that's huge."

The Rivers deal means the Bengals don't have to pay him $2.1 million in salary, but since he counts $3.1 million against the '12 cap they don't save all that much in room. That figures to go into the pool targeted for extending the contracts of the young core players working on their rookie deals. Casserly says the salary cap is a reason there aren't as many deals as there used to be before 1993.

"And there has never been a lot of trades and one of the reasons is because draft picks are about all you have to trade," Casserly said. "And there are only seven of them. When you have people say, 'We want to build through the draft,' then you don't want to give up the picks and that makes it tougher.

"If you want to get something for a player with a big contract instead of cutting him, the acceleration into the salary cap prevents you from doing that."

That was the main thing impeding a Chad Ochocinco trade when he pouted through the 2008 preseason looking for one. There wasn't a double standard for The Ocho and Palmer. It was a simple matter when The Ocho moaned, it would have been a $5 million cap hit. Palmer cost virtually nothing on the cap and, by the way, so did The Ocho and that's why the Bengals shipped him to New England before last season for a fifth- and sixth-rounder.

The Ocho deal was also seen as a winner because everyone figured the Bengals were going to cut him even before the latter half of a 2010 season he spent on the shelf.

"It's an advantage when you're dealing with the owner," said Casserly, who before the 1992 draft swapped places in the first round and gave the Bengals the 28th pick in the first round.

"When the owner is making the decision, he doesn't have to look over his shoulder. Whether it's a negative or positive, he's the one making the call and there's no second-guessing.

"You know going in Mike is going to have an opinion and he's going to be realistic. When you're negotiating with Mike, you've got to get straight to the point. He doesn't want you to waste his time or your time. Ron Wolf was like that. If you talked trade more than two minutes with Ron Wolf, that was a long time."

Brown worked the Palmer deal himself as he did the Wilkinson trade. But he also has more people on the ground now, such as director of player personnel Duke Tobin, and they were also in the teeth of the conversations in the Leonard and Rivers deals.

But the concept is the same. It didn't take much time at all to pull off a Wilkinson deal that was supposed to be complicated by the franchise tag.

"It took one conversation," Casserly said.


APRIL 24, 2004: Bengals dealt the 17th pick in draft to Denver for CB Deltha O'Neal, the 24th pick in the first round and a fourth-rounder. With the 117th selection, in the fourth round, the Bengals took Georgia defensive end Robert Geathers, heading into his ninth season with 88 starts. O'Neal played 55 games for the Bengals with 16 interceptions and set a club record with 10 in his Pro Bowl season of 2005. 

APRIL 24, 2004: Bengals dealt the 24th pick to St. Louis for the 26th pick in the first round and a fourth-rounder. With the 26th pick they took Michigan running back Chris Perry, whose injury-riddled career ended in the middle of the 2008 season with 177 carries for 606 yards. In the fourth round, with the 123rd pick, the Bengals took Mississippi tackle Stacy Andrews, better known as a track athlete who ended up starting 32 games at guard and tackle before he left as a free agent after the '08 season. He's started 17 games for three teams since.

With that 24th pick the Rams took Oregon State running back Steven Jackson, a three-time Pro Bowler and the consummate NFL thoroughbred who is still playing and is less than 1,000 yards from a career 10 grand.   

APRIL 24, 2004: Bengals traded RB Corey Dillon to New England for a second-round pick. With the 56th choice they took Maryland safety Madieu Williams, who had four sacks and nine interceptions in 45 starts in four seasons before leaving for free agency after '07. He's had a half-sack and three picks for two clubs since he left. Dillon made the last of his four Pro Bowls in 2004 with a career-high 1,635 yards and helped the Pats win the Super Bowl before gaining 1,545 the next two seasons and retiring after 2006.

MAY 7, 2009: Bengals dealt defensive tackle Orien Harris to the Rams for running back Brian Leonard. Leonard, a second-round pick in 2007, heads into his fourth season as a Bengal as a third-down staple with 72 catches and 4.3 yards per his 53 carries. Harris, a fourth-round pick of the Steelers in 2006, never played for Pittsburgh and played 18 of his 20 NFL games for the Bengals, his last four in '09 when he rejoined the Bengals and Leonard after the Rams released him.

SEPT 4, 2010: Bengals traded CB David Jones and conditional 2012 pick to Jacksonville for safety Reggie Nelson. Nelson had the best season of his career in 2011, earning the biggest safety deal in free agency last month to stay with the Bengals. Jones played 21 games in Jacksonville with five starts before being released last season. The Jags get the Bengals seventh-round pick in this year's draft.

JULY 28, 2011: Bengals traded WR Chad Ochocinco to New England for a fifth-round pick in 2012 and a sixth-round pick in 2013. The Ocho, the Bengals all-time leading receiver, had 15 catches and a TD in 15 games, as well as a catch in New England's Super Bowl loss to the Giants.

AUG. 23, 2011: Bengals traded 2013 seventh-rounder to San Francisco for S Taylor Mays. Mays, a second-round pick in 2010 who played nearly 500 snaps as a rookie, was limited to just 60 snaps because of injury in 2011. He looks to be odds-on favorite to begin the season starting opposite Nelson.

AUG. 29, 2011: Bengals traded DT Clinton McDonald to Seattle for CB Kelly Jennings. With third corner Adam Jones sidelined with a neck injury, the Bengals picked up a former first-round pick in Jennings. His role became even more prominent in mid-season when Jones returned as starter Leon Hall ripped his Achilles. Jennings played 416 snaps and had no picks, five passes defensed, and a sack while McDonald, on the Cincinnati roster bubble as the preseason wound down, took 436 snaps in Seattle that were pretty much split between passes and runs and had 25 tackles, 10 quarterback pressures, and four QB hits, according to Jennings won't return to Cincinnati after the Bengals re-signed Jones and signed free agents Jason Allen and Terence Newman.

OCT. 18, 2011: Bengals traded QB Carson Palmer to Oakland for a first-round pick in 2012 and a second-round pick in 2013. Palmer, sitting out the season, just missed leading the Raiders to the playoffs with a 4-5 record as a starter. In a year Bengals rookie Andy Dalton went to the Pro Bowl with 20 TDs and 13 interceptions, Palmer had 13 TDs and 16 interceptions. The Bengals go into the April 26 first-round with Oakland's 17th pick.

APRIL 12, 2012: Bengals traded WILL outside linebacker Keith Rivers to the Giants for a 2012 fifth-rounder. Rivers, a 2008 first-round pick, missed all of 2011 with an injured wrist and nine games of his rookie season with a broken jaw and played primarily first and second down in '09 and '10 with 196 tackles, two sacks, an interception, six passes defensed, no forced fumbles and no fumble recoveries.

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