Quite a few Jacksonville Jaguars fans were upset with the fact that the Jaguars were unable to move down in the first round and still select Tyson Alualu. Now, we know that the Jaguars felt there were as many as 5 other teams who were hot on the trail of Alualu and he was their man. While the first round move isn't the biggest eyebrow raiser as far as trades, the Jaguars attempting to move up in the 2nd round for Penn State linebacker Sean Lee only to have the Philadelphia Eagles trade with division rival the Dallas Cowboys instead is what looked fishy.
Was Gene Smith blackballed in the draft?
Some will ask "Well, why would Gene Smith be blackballed?".
Remember Don Carey? The 6th round defensive back that the Jacksonville Jaguars claimed from the Cleveland Browns who waived him "injured waived"?
"That's the first time I've ever seen that," said an official with another team. "I would have bet money that nobody would have claimed him."
"We all have to 'waive/injured' players every year," the source said. "We're all in the same boat. You just don't claim those guys. What Jacksonville did was unethical." - from Cleveland.com
The Browns were not happy with the move at all, as most didn't expect a team to claim a player who would need to be placed on injured reserve for the season and needed shoulder surgery.
Now, I don't really have a problem with what the Jaguars and General Manager Gene Smith did. You get talent where you get talent, even if you've got to stick him on injured reserve for a season. If the Browns really liked Don Carey that much, they should have eaten the roster spot and placed him on injured reserve. I can also understand why the Cleveland Browns would be upset, as it was kind of an unwritten rule not to claim injured players. The Browns did seem to hint they would get the Jaguars back for what they viewed as an unethical move.
Did this happen during the draft? Did some other teams blackball the Jacksonville Jaguars from maneuvering around in the draft as to say "Hey, you did wrong"? Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith claims that there wasn't really a lot of discussion for teams to come up for the 10th overall pick, despite the fact that the next three selections (11, 12, and 13) all resulted in a trade occurring.
"Up in our range there was not a lot of discussion. When you can make a deal it’s when teams are calling you and this was not like last year and again, we were very happy when this guy was there." - Gene Smith
Now, we know the General Manager of the San Francisco 49ers, Trent Baalke, claims that he attempted to move into the 10 spot. They 49ers wanted to make sure to get their man, offensive tackle Anthony Davis, and were willing to move up to get him. In his press conference Baalke claimed that Jacksonville was the first team he called and he offered them a 4th round pick to swap the 10th and 13thoverall picks. Gene Smith claims different, but this is neither here nor there. All it really reaffrims to me, is that Alualu was who the Jaguars wanted.
"We had gone into the draft thinking we would go as high as 10. We started making calls at 10 when the player was available. Jacksonville was at 10. They didn’t want to make the trade. They had a guy targeted, which I felt good about because they drafted two offensive tackles a year ago. So, once they said they had a player they had targeted, I was pretty comfortable we could move up to 11 and still get the player." - Trent Baalke, San Francisco 49ers General Manager
The real issue with a potential blackball came when the Jacksonville Jaguars attempted to move back up into the 2nd round for Penn State linebacker Sean Lee.
"That’s correct, there was. We aggressively worked the phones as he started to slide. We were unfortunate that they chose to go a different direction, which was surprising … Some teams trade within the division. Some teams don’t."
"When he started sliding, and obviously we did like him, we started to talk to every team that we thought we could match up working a trade with." - Gene Smith
This is where it gets interesting and the theory of a little blackball or payback gets interesting. The Philadelphia Eagles decline Jacksonville's offer to trade with a division rival, the Dallas Cowboys. The Eagles are no stranger to moving in the draft with divisional trade partners, they did it a few years ago when Dallas came up for Anthony Spencer. It does happen however, it's not very common, especially if you have another team offering you something.
My initial suspicion was that former Browns General Manager Phil Savage is now a member of the Eagles front office, and that's the easy connection. Phil Savage however, was fired from the Cleveland Browns in 2008, along with Romeo Crennell. While the Browns and Eagles really aren't buddies so to speak, it was interesting that the Eagles dumped the Jaguars offer in favor of the Cowboys. Unless the Eagles just completely thought Sean Lee wasn't going to amount to anything but Bobby Carpenter 2.0, why would they chose a division rival over an AFC team?
Gene Smith was able to make some moves in the draft, trading down, but that was mostly with the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders, as we all know, are run by Al Davis. Al Davis plays by his own set of rules, and he doesn't care what anyone else thinks. The Jaguars were also able to trade down with the New Orleans Saints, but again it was a trade down. If teams are going to blackball you, they're going to prevent you from moving up and selecting the player you target.
Do I think the Jaguars were blackballed in the draft?
Not necessarily, but it is very interesting how things shook out.