Recently, Tim asked BRB what equal return would be for Dunta Robinson in a trade. In the attached poll, a small amount of the community (53 votes) said that the secondary was too weak to trade a cornerback of Robinson's caliber, however, an overwhelming majority (304 votes) voted for some form of draft picks in return for Robinson.
Now, I understand that many people were just voting for what they believe would be fair value for him, meaning they wouldn't necessarily want to trade him in the first place, but the fact that so few people voted for the "no trade" option tells me that said option is on the back-burner in a lot of minds. That means that there are a decent amount of people that would look to trade him first, rather than having him play out the season and leave via free agency come 2010. Or, BRB readers are lazy and just didn't look at all the options. Most likely though, I'm still the idiot the readers believe me to be.
My stupidity aside, it's safe to say there are people here who would trade Dunta in a heartbeat if the right deal came up. More on that after the jump.
Any deal for Robinson would undoubtedly be for future draft picks. Rarely in the NFL do we see player-for-player deals and even then, they almost never involve stars of any sort or even valuable role players. Robinson would be dealt for draft picks in 2010 or 2011 or both, which means there would be no new player not already on the roster attempting to fill his role on the team. If their real goal is the playoffs, as they say, and it is, a trade of Robinson means the front office has complete confidence in the players currently sitting behind him on the depth chart. Should they?
The CBs (not including Robinson) on the roster before we begin training camp consist of Fred Bennett, Jacques Reeves, Glover Quin, Antwaun Molden, Brice McCain, A.J. Davis, Mark Parson, David Pittman, and Matterral Richardson. Ignoring the fact that I have no idea who Matterral Richardson is or that he was even on our roster, let's take a look at a few of those who would be asked to step up in Robinson's absence, what it is they need to replace, and what we would be able to realistically expect from them in the hypothetical scenario. If you're going to trade Dunta, you must have a backup plan. Do any of the current players fit the bill as a true replacement?
First, let's assess what exactly it is Robinson brings to the table. Not surprisingly, when on the field last year he played at a fairly average level. He provided a spark to the rest of the team just by coming back, but his actual performance left a lot to be desired. It shouldn't have come as much of a surprise though, because it was his first time back in game action with little practice time under his belt, not to mention he was only playing at around 85-90% of his health. I understand that in this regard, Robinson can be seen as a bit of a question mark, considering no one knows if he's 100% healthy only a year and a half removed from reconstructive surgery. I'd be willing to bet, however, that as hard a worker as he is, as quickly as he has healed already, and as much money as he wants, he'll be in top shape whenever he decides to show up. And when fully healthy, it's undeniable who the best cornerback on the roster is. He will be able to consistently man the number one receiver on the opposing team without double team help. He may not be the elite corner he believes himself to be, but he's undoubtedly a difference-maker on the defensive side of the ball. With that in mind, let's move on to the replacement candidates and see if they can offer what's lost with Robinson in a trade scenario.
Fred Bennett - We all know the kind of talent Bennett possesses. The coaching staff would immediately look to him as the replacement to Dunta, based purely on his talent. And yes, I do believe he would be the number one corner over Jacques Reeves in this scenario unless he were to perform horrifically in training camp. If he played even slightly above the level he did as a rookie in 07, the transition away from Robinson would be absolutely nothing to worry about. The problem is the scary decline he suffered last year and how that effects the way he should be assessed going forward. It's easy to brush it off as a sophomore slump, but how can we be assured it's not a sign of things to come in the future? It's impossible to know. We know his leadership skills have improved, which is nice considering the pressure that would befall on the rookies if Robinson was traded, but how much have his on field skills improved? Kubiak did briefly state that he's a better player than before, but even after training camp we simply can't know until the real games roll around. Hell, Jacoby Jones lit training camp and the pre-season on fire his first year and we all know how that turned out. It's simply too much to ask a team hoping to reach the playoffs for the first time to rely on such an unknown to cover the number one receiver on the opposing team week in and week out
Jacques Reeves - John McClain tried to make a reasonable argument claiming that advanced statistics showed that Reeves was an above average cornerback last season. That attempt was debunked fairly quickly. However, Frenchy did improve a lot towards the end of the year and performed at a decent level, if not better. The man can run stride for stride with any receiver in the NFL, but his inability to turn his f'ing head around and get his hands up rendered him nearly impossible to watch last year. With Dunta gone, Reeves would be asked to man the number two position opposite Bennett. The obvious focus David Gibbs has put on technique should benefit Reeves more than anyone else in the secondary and should help him improve greatly. I don't think it's a stretch to say that Reeves would be an average to solid No. 2 with or without Dunta. Unfortunately, Reeves isn't a guy you can rely in to fill Robinson's role (which is the goal here) as a true number one option. Since we've established that Bennett is too much of a question mark heading into the season, it's apparent neither of these guys can replace what Robinson brings to the table.
Glover Quin, Antwuan Molden, Brice McCain - I'm grouping these three because honestly, I'm keeping my expectations low for rookies not named Ponytail, Connor Barwin, or Anthony Hill (kidding). Obviously, everyone's role gets bumped up a notch if Dunta were to leave the team, but who knows how any of these guys would produce under the circumstances. At least with Bennett and Reeves, we've had a pretty large helping of on-field evidence of how they perform. Not so much with this group. Molden is still recovering from the ankle injury he suffered at the end of last year and McCain is speed, speed, and little else until proven otherwise. The Glove did stand out during mini-camp but keeping in mind that no pads were put on, the accomplishment is less spectacular.
You might argue that the improvements that have taken place on the defensive line are enough to make up for the expected decline from the secondary should Dunta be traded. I say those improvements will be rendered worthless if we lose him now. To me, there's just not enough behind him to take a risk for future benefits. If healthy, Robinson can take on the opponent's top man with no fear. If he's gone, it suddenly creates a huge hole in the roster that the coaching staff would have to worry about, with little time to fix the problem. Again, I understand this is all hypothetical and more likely than not D-Rob will be playing in a Texans uniform next season, but I would be very troubled if we traded our top corner for draft picks when we are incredibly close to taking the next step as a franchise by reaching the playoffs.
Continue reminding me how brain dead I am in the comments section below and let your opinion be heard. Why are you for or against a trade of Dunta Robinson?