The first chips will start falling into place on March 8. That's the deadline for the Indianapolis Colt's decision regarding Peyton Manning. They can keep him on the roster and pay him the $28 million he'll be due, or they can release Manning making him a free agent, free to sign with any team. All signs have been pointing toward the latter.
Following that, the free agency period officially opens on March 13. Of course, the St. Louis Rams have been shopping the No. 2 pick since at least as early as the NFL Scouting Combine. Several experts speculate that the Rams want to get a deal done prior to the opening of free agency when Manning and Matt Flynn may find new teams that were previously in the bidding for Robert Griffin III, essentially the No. 2 pick. I can recall at least one saying that the sooner the Rams can agree to a deal, the higher the value they'll get back.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has an article laying out the trade landscape for the Rams' No. 2 pick as of this weekend according to league sources. Here's what they said about the Browns:
Cleveland (No. 4 pick): The Browns are unwilling at this point to include their second first-round pick, No. 22, as part of any trade package with the Rams.
Initially, I think the claim might appear grim to Browns fans that think RG3 is the only way to turn this franchise around, understanding the importance of a QB in this league. However, I also think that the "at this point" is important here because it puts it in context. Remember that it's still fairly early in the trade discussion, despite the looming deadlines. Depending on what other teams are offering, the Browns may end up deciding to throw in the No. 22 pick as a piece to seal a potential deal. Regardless of their ultimate intentions, it's a smart move for the Browns to protect that pick. They still hold one - very big - advantage, which is being at No. 4 as compared to No. 6, 8, or 12, where talents like Morris Claiborne and Justin Blackmon will simply not fall. Although it appears unlikely now, one of the better case scenarios for the Browns is trading up and still managing to keep the No. 22 pick.
This is what they had to say about the Washington Redskins offer:
Washington (No. 6): The Redskins appear willing to trade their first-round pick next year, as well as their No. 6 overall pick this year. But they aren’t willing to include their second-rounder this year, which isn’t acceptable to the Rams.
I think this is pretty telling. It shows the value of actual tangible picks over future picks. It also shows that the Rams do have a reasonably high asking price. But the previous rumors about 3 first round picks or more is completely unrealistic based on the top two contending teams' current offers. Even with this Redskins' offer, I still think the Browns are in the better position. When this trade talk is in its later stages the ball will end up in the Browns' court and they'll either pull the trigger or they won't, in which case then it will fall back down to Washington.