During the NFL owners meetings in the spring of 1999, New Orleans Saints coach Mike Ditka let everyone know: At the NFL draft they would trade all eight picks for running back Rick Williams. So Washington Redskins general manager Charley Casserly said he immediately let his Saints counterpart Bill Kuharich know they were open for business.
Thus began a wild trade that was actually easy to complete.
“They made the decision they were going to get Ricky, and whatever the cost, that’s what they would pay,” said Casserly, now an analyst for the NFL Network. “We didn’t have a negotiation. It was, ‘This is what we need.’ ‘OK, fine.’
It should have set the Redskins up for long-term success; it did not. Nor did it elevate New Orleans. In fact, in the six seasons after the trade, the teams combined for two playoff appearances and three winning seasons. The Redskins won the NFC East in 1999, but failed to reach the postseason again until 2005. Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who was approved as owner in May 1999, fired Casserly before training camp.
The Saints had also discussed this deal with Cincinnati, Casserly said, but the Bengals at No. 3 declined and took quarterback Akili Smith.
While the trade was long discussed, the two teams agreed to it at 9 a.m. on the day of the first round — as long as Williams was available when the Redskins selected No. 5. After Indianapolis selected running back Edgerrin James at No. 4, the trade went through.
This trade has remained in the minds of those at Redskins Park. This offseason, one member of the organization predicted it would take a Ricky Williams trade to get them to surrender the No. 2 overall pick Thursday.
The Redskins received eight picks: a first, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh in 1999 and a first and third in 2000.
Was the trade worth it for Washington? Here’s what it turned into:
Cornerback Champ Bailey (first round): Washington wanted him all along, so after trading with New Orleans, the Redskins focused on moving back into the top 10. They found a partner in Chicago. The Redskins used two picks in the Saints’ trade to help move up — the No. 12 overall and a third-rounder (71st). They also gave up their own picks in the fourth and fifth and a future third. Washington sweated out St. Louis’ pick at No. 6, which turned out to be receiver Torry Holt. Had the Rams picked Bailey, Casserly said they would have drafted cornerback Chris McAlister. And if the Redskins had stayed at No. 12, Casserly said they would have selected defensive end Javon Kearse.
In 2004, with Bailey wanting out, the Redskins traded him and a second-round pick to Denver in exchange for running back Clinton Portis. Bailey is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame; Portis was one of the franchise’s best running backs.
Offensive tackle Jon Jansen (second round): The Redskins traded the fifth-round pick to Chicago in order to select Jansen at No. 37. Jansen proved to be another smart pick as he became a fixture on the right side. He started every game for five consecutive seasons and, after missing 2004 with a ruptured Achilles, started 31 of the next 32 games before injuries took a bigger toll. Jansen never made a Pro Bowl, but he and left tackle Chris Samuels, who arrived in 2000, paired for a strong bookend combination for half a decade.
Linebacker Nate Stimson (fourth round): The linebacker from Georgia Tech was cut in his first camp and never played a down in the NFL. He had an inconsistent college career and didn’t prove to be what Washington wanted: a special teams standout and contributor at linebacker.
Offensive tackle Derek Smith (fifth round): The Redskins used the sixth- and seventh-round picks obtained from New Orleans to move into the fifth round. They had a third-round grade on Smith, but he fell to this round after tearing his ACL during the scouting combine. Smith opened the year on the reserve/non-football injury list. The Redskins placed Smith on injured reserve in the summer of 2000 and cut him after the season. Smith never played a game for Washington.
Linebacker LaVar Arrington (first round, 2000): Casserly wisely got New Orleans to include a 2000 first-round pick in the trade. Because the Saints went 3-13, it turned into the second overall selection. That allowed Washington to select Arrington a year later. He made three Pro Bowls in Washington, but he did move around because of multiple coordinator changes; he went from half a sack in 2001 under Marty Schottenheimer to 11 a year later under new coordinator Marvin Lewis. He signed with the New York Giants after the 2005 season, but injuries ended his career after one more year. Casserly said he would not have drafted Arrington had he remained general manager.
Corner Lloyd Harrison (third round, 2000): The Redskins selected him with the third-round pick; another choice that failed. Washington cut him a year later, and he lasted three seasons in the NFL. He played in 16 games and started one.