St. Louis Rams trade OT Jason Smith to the New York Jets for OT Wayne Hunter

The Jets and Rams are essentially swapping terrible right tackles in this deal. Smith is the better of the two, but the former 2nd overall pick has only played in 28 games in 3 seasons and only played in more than 7 games once, starting 15 games in 2010. In 2010, he was awful, grading out as below average as a run blocker and pass protector, allowing 5 sacks, 6 quarterback hits, and 32 quarterback pressures, while committing 9 penalties. Out of 76 offensive tackles, Smith graded out as ProFootballFocus’ 56th ranked offensive tackle that season.

He wasn’t much better in limited action in 2009 or 2011. After missing 10 games with concussions last season, Smith did not impress this offseason, evidently, and was benched for Barry Richardson, who was horrific in his own right last season as the starting right tackle for the cross state Chiefs as Richardson was ProFootballFocus’ 2nd worst rated offensive tackle. It’s pretty pathetic that Smith couldn’t even beat him out.

Hunter, meanwhile, has been even worse over the past 2 years. In 2010, Hunter played the equivalent of 7 whole games, including playoffs, and allowed 4 sacks, 6 quarterback hits, and 15 quarterback pressures, while committing 7 penalties and struggling as a run blocker. Ironically, Hunter managed to grade out one spot lower than Smith on ProFootballFocus’ offensive tackle rankings, 57th, despite only playing less than half the snaps that Smith played.

Hunter did not get better in 2011. In fact, he pretty much continued his awful play over an entire season. ProFootballFocus’ 67th ranked offensive tackle out of 73, Hunter allowed 11 sacks, 11 quarterback hits, and 32 quarterback pressures, committed 11 penalties and struggled as a run blocker. After allowing 3 sacks in a preseason game against the Giants a week ago, Hunter was benched for veteran journeyman Austin Howard, who has only played in 2 games in his career, including one start where the 2010 undrafted free agent allowed 2 sacks and 2 quarterback hits.

Jason Smith is also younger, heading into only his age 26 season, while Hunter heads into his age 31 season, and has more upside as a former #2 overall pick if he can get his game together and stay healthy. However, Smith is owed 4 million fully guaranteed this season, while Howard is owed just 2.45 million fully guaranteed this season. For what it’s worth, neither tackle will see the money they are owed in 2013, as Hunter is owed a non-guaranteed 3.95 million and Smith is owed a whopping non-guaranteed 12 million (including an 11.25 million dollar roster bonus due in March of 2013).

However, I don’t know if the “upgrade” from Hunter to Smith is really worth an extra 1.55 million. If Smith can start to make good on some of his upside and prove to be a decent right tackle, it will be, but the Jets are taking a major risk. I’d rather pay Hunter 2.45 million than pay Smith 4 million. The Rams are also taking a risk, betting that Smith won’t ever emerge as a decent starting right tackle, because this deal pretty much locks them into having an awful right tackle this season, either Hunter or Richardson. However, it’s unlikely that Smith would have been much better than either of them and the Rams are saving 1.55 million this season, so I like this deal a little bit more for them.

Update: Apparently the two sides pulled some salary cap magic and restructuring Smith’s contract right before the trade so that 1.55 million of Smith’s deal would be paid to him as a signing bonus by the Rams before he went to the Jets. Essentially, these two teams are going to be paying these two players the same amount this season. Given that, this deal makes no sense for the Rams? Why trade someone who probably has no upside for someone who definitely has no upside? Smith is younger and better than Hunter. Although, admittedly the former is like comparing eating a pound of dog shit to eating 2 pounds of dog shit. Still, the Jets win this trade.

Grade for St. Louis: C

Grade for NY Jets: A

If you’re interested in doing a fantasy football league with me, here’s the link (no draft date set yet, currently standard, with the option to become PPR with group vote).




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