<
>

Vetting potential trade partners: Jaguars

ST. LOUIS -- We're still months away from May's NFL draft, but that doesn't mean it's too early to start looking at the many possible permutations of how things could shake out.

The St. Louis Rams aren't having an open auction for the No. 2 overall pick like they did in 2012, but general manager Les Snead has already indicated a willingness to move it. Without a pair of clear cut top quarterbacks, the market may not be in a hurry to make a move which could leave the Rams waiting until they're on the clock before making a deal. As the combine approaches along with pro days, prospects will become more valued and the market could crystallize.

Free agency is also likely to have an impact on potential trade partners as teams fill needs in other avenues. For now, we'll take a look at a possible Rams trade partner each week for the next six weeks.

Today, we take a look at the team most closely positioned to the Rams: the Jacksonville Jaguars, who hold the No. 3 overall selection.

Why Jacksonville makes sense: Of the many NFL teams in dire need of a quarterback, perhaps none needs one more than the Jaguars. Although they spent a first-round pick on Blaine Gabbert in 2011, Gabbert's time in Jacksonville has been nothing short of atrocious. He's had injuries, sure, but when healthy he's struggled to move the offense with any consistency.

Likewise, the Jaguars are a team that seems to be in perpetual need of help rushing the passer. They tied for 31st in the league in sacks in 2013 and have been looking for pass- rush help for a long time.

Well, wouldn't you know it, many of the players expected to go at the top of the draft are quarterbacks and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Of course, for Jacksonville to get its hands on Clowney or the quarterback it believes is the best fit, it would serve the Jaguars well to make a pick in the first two of the draft to guarantee that opportunity.

Although the Rams sit just one spot ahead of the Jaguars, it's not unusual for a team to make that small jump to ensure it gets the player it covets most. In 2012, the Browns traded the No. 4 overall pick plus a fourth-round, fifth-round and seventh-round pick to the Vikings for the No. 3 overall choice. Cleveland used that pick on running back Trent Richardson and Minnesota grabbed offensive tackle Matt Kalil.

The Rams, meanwhile, don't have a pressing need for a pass-rusher (though Clowney could be in play for them if they choose to make a pick at No. 2) and have said many times they don't plan to draft a quarterback in the first round. Logic would dictate that Jacksonville wouldn't have to make a move assuming those two things are true but moving up for the Jaguars would be as much about keeping someone else from jumping them and taking their guy as worrying that the Rams would.

On top of all of that, Jacksonville general manager Dave Caldwell told ESPN Jaguars reporter Mike DiRocco that he's open to a trade, in either direction.

Why Jacksonville doesn't make sense: While a pass-rusher and quarterback are the Jags' top needs, those aren't the only spots they need help. Jacksonville finished 4-12 because it had plenty of holes.

That leaves the question of whether the Jaguars would be willing to trade any additional picks to move up knowing that forfeiting an extra pick or two would be one less pick they could use to fill a different spot on the depth chart. For that reason, it might actually make more sense for Jacksonville to trade in the opposite direction, move down and pick up more picks for itself.

Beyond that, it's possible Jacksonville won't fall in love with any of the quarterbacks or even Clowney and could be fine standing pat at No. 3 and landing someone like UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr.

From the Rams' side, a move down with Jacksonville would be great in the sense that they'd only have to slide down one spot but it also probably wouldn't yield as much in return as a deal with a team further down the pecking order. It may not be worth it for the Rams to risk Jacksonville stealing the guy they want at No. 2 for some late-round picks as opposed to moving down three to five spots and accumulating more valuable draft capital.