In a deal involving two division rivals and bitter foes, the Denver Broncos on Monday morning traded defensive tackle Gerard Warren to the Oakland Raiders for an undisclosed draft choice that is believed to be a middle-round selection.
The trade came after the Broncos held Warren out of both their preseason games while they shopped him around the league. It was believed that, if Denver failed to find a viable trade partner by early this week, they would release the six-year veteran tackle. Washington was among the teams that would have been interested in Warren as a free agent.
But the Broncos found a buyer, instead, in the most unanticipated place.
It is hard to quantify the enmity that exists between the Denver and Oakland organizations. Compounding the bad feelings is that Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan was fired by the Raiders four games into the 1989 season, and waged a long battle with owner Al Davis for what he claimed was salary still owed him.
One possible angle to the trade is the presence of recently hired scout George Streeter in the Oakland personnel department. Streeter worked in the Cleveland scouting department when the Browns selected Warren in 2001.
"It was not out of a need that we were disappointed with
anybody that was playing for us or anything," Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said. "This
was the ability to add somebody that could bring competition to us
if he's in the right mind-set."
The third overall player chosen in the 2001 draft, Warren, 29, was acquired by Denver from Cleveland in a 2005 trade. In two seasons with the Broncos, the former University of Florida standout started in 31 of a possible 32 games and registered 93 tackles and 5½ sacks. That included 51 tackles and 2½ sacks in 2006, when Warren appeared in 15 games, all of them as a starter.
But while Warren was still listed as the starter at right tackle on the unofficial depth chart, his playing style no longer dovetailed with the Denver defense and that, in part, has made him expendable. New coordinator Jim Bates prefers two-gap tackles, interior players who are anchors more than penetrators, and Warren has always been a one-gap defender, a guy who likes to get upfield.
To suit Bates' design, the Broncos have dramatically revamped their tackle corps, adding four players in the offseason. Denver signed classic two-gap tackle Sam Adams and Alvin McKinley as unrestricted free agents and added Jimmy Kennedy in a trade with the St. Louis Rams. In addition, the Broncos chose Marcus Thomas in the fourth round of the 2007 draft.
As of Monday morning, the Raiders, who assumed Warren's existing contract, had not attempted to rework the deal. This spring, Warren accepted a dramatic reduction in his base salary for 2007, to the veteran minimum of $595,000, to remain with the Broncos.
But his current contract includes base salaries of $4 million for 2008, $4.63 million for 2009 and $4.68 million for 2010. ESPN.com has also learned that, if Warren participates in 50 percent of the defensive snaps in 2007, he will collect a $2 million bonus.
In stints with the Browns (2001-2004) and Broncos (2005-2006), Warren has appeared in 91 games and started 90 contests. He has 340 tackles, 22 sacks, six forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and 15 pass deflections. His 22 sacks are the eighth most in the league by a tackle since he entered the NFL in 2001.
"Obviously I've been here for training camp so I don't know how
training camp has gone or any of that," said Raiders offensive
lineman Cooper Carlisle, who played with Warren the past two
seasons in Denver. "I know when I was there he still had plenty of
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.