Remember the Edmonton Eskimos' controversial decision to trade Ricky Ray to the Toronto Argonauts, the outrage and conspiracy theories it spawned, and the role it played in the team's eventual firing of general manager Eric Tillman almost a year later? Well, they've just made a move that looks even worse. The news came out Friday that Edmonton general manager Ed Hervey has traded kicker Brody McKnight and a sixth-round pick to Saskatchewan for two fifth-round picks (39th and 40th overall). On the surface, trading a backup kicker for a couple of late picks doesn't seem terrible...until you recall that they acquired that kicker midway through last season for another kicker, a first-round pick and a fourth-round pick. Thus, the Eskimos have now now given up McKnight, Derek Schiavone, a first-round pick, a fourth-round pick and a sixth-round pick to gain two fifth-round picks. Value, thy name is not Edmonton.
What makes this appear to be a less-defensible series of moves than the Ray trade? After all, it's hard to argue that McKnight can have an impact even close to Ray's on either the Eskimos or the Riders. He's a kicker who's likely to be in a four-way camp battle in Saskatchewan, and he didn't seem to be in Edmonton's plans. However, while the Ray trade was a terrible deal for the Eskimos, there were at least a few things in its favour. They got quarterback Steven Jyles, kicker Grant Shaw and a first-round pick from Toronto, and while that's certainly not anywhere close to Ray's actual value, it's a collection of talent that's worth substantially more than two fifth-round picks. The Eskimos also gained increased cap space out of the Ray move, and it could have turned out all right if Ray had failed in Toronto and they'd found a competent replacement. Neither of those things happened, of course, so the Ray trade was in fact horrible (and one that's had a larger actual impact on the franchise), but it least had the potential to not be completely negative for Edmonton. There's no possible way to argue that turning two Canadian kickers and three draft picks into two fifth-round draft picks is a good move.
Of course, the real reason why this happened is the Eskimos' general manager change. McKnight was in Tillman's plans (and he even appeared in one game last year less than a week after the trade, but had a field goal blocked and never appeared in a game again), but he clearly wasn't in Hervey's. They've placed different values on him, so that's why one acquired him for so much and one gave him away for so little. Moreover, while trading McKnight for two fifth-rounders is far from great, it's better than cutting him and getting nothing in return. Still, this is not a great use of assets by Edmonton, and it highlights the problems often encountered when making dramatic changes in a franchise's direction. With Ray, they turned a great player into some marginal assets and cap space, which was bad enough. With McKnight, they've turned two decent players and three picks (including a first-rounder) into next to nothing.
It's certainly arguable that Tillman put too much value on McKnight. It's also easy to make a case that Hervey is undervaluing McKnight as part of his general housecleaning; he's made his feelings towards the Tillman regime very clear. The true answer may be somewhere in the middle, but we won't know until we see how McKnight turns out in Saskatchewan. It's an unfortunate situation for him, though, as he's now gone through three cities in less than a year, has never really gotten a chance to play and has seen his stock decline from someone worth a player, a first-rounder and a fourth-rounder to someone worth just two fifth-round picks. The really unfortunate people here are Eskimos' fans, though. The McKnight saga has seem their team essentially take a pile of assets and set them on fire, picking up just a couple of fifth-round picks from the ashes. That has to be tough for fans to watch.