For What It's Worth


Let's face it. The only reason anyone in full possession of their faculties will ever propose a trade is to improve their own team to the maximum possible degree at the minimum possible expense. Well OK, there a few philanthropists about and, occasionally, it is necessary for an owner to offload players to meet a salary cap. But there is still every reason for extreme suspicion of any unsolicited opening offer and there are some real con artists out there. I could name names, sadly including some among the commisoner fraternity, but I value my teams' continued health, so let me give some pointers as to how to spot the old wolf in the fleece instead.

At the very least, never feel that you're under any obligation to trade because the league 'requires active participation' or 'encourages dialogue', even when these portentous terms come down from on high. Examine every offer carefully and always ask yourself what it's really worth.

Draft picks, in particular, are a somewhat overrated currency of exchange. Certainly, if you've a team full of gnarled veterans and can expect at least half of them to retire at the end of the season, picks will be attractive. Filling empty roster slots by any other means can prove expensive, depending on how the league asks you to 'pay' for free agents, for example. But, if you've a relatively young team, a jock in the hand is nearly always worth two in the college showers. Unless your league is very generous, the number of rookies who will start in their first year is small and after the second round (or even after half of the first, in some cases) you are unlikely to pick up anything but makeweights. So, if you can pick up a promising starter for your picks, gloating will be in order, but think very carefully before agreeing to return the favour.

And, whilst you shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, it is a highly recommended procedure with linebackers and offensive linemen. It is easy to be dazzled by ratings, especially in leagues which are notable for the general lack of outstanding players in certain positions, but just take a moment to calculate the age difference between the player you're being offered and the one that's being hunted. It should be obvious that trading a rookie for a 12 year veteran is a no-no, but remember that an eight year career is also a relative rarity if time is allowed to follow its natural course. Even in leagues where 'unretiring' is allowed, the cost of that process should be taken into account before you accept an older player.

Look for the trap, for it's not only Greeks of whom you should beware when bearing gifts. In a player for player deal, (and you should always avoid deals in which you don't come out with a full roster!), begin by comparing the two key ratings for the positions (as revealed in your FBPro manual). If the offered QB has say ST 86 and IN 66 while the LB that's being headhunted has SP 75 and ST 90 you should score that (86+66)-(75+90)=-13*2=-26, an inauspicious start for the offer. However, you may want to choose a further two or three comparison categories that are relevant to the positions, say AG, EN, and DI for the QB, and AC, AG and EN for the LB. Using the same formula (but not doubling this time because these are lesser ratings) might give us a +10 score, more encouraging.

Now take the years played and count 1 for all years up to 6, 2 for years 6 to 10, and 5 for all subsequent years. So our LB with 11 years in the trenches counts 13 while a 6 year QB comes in at 6. Comparing these we get a further +7, which is getting us into possible acceptance country, dependent obviously on other factors. If draft picks are on offer you'll want to determine your own scores for these but I personally would avoid scoring even a first round pick much higher than +5 in normal circumstances. Additional forms of currency that leagues use, including salary cap allowances, free agent signing cash, special training and other arcane coinages, obviously complicate matters but should probably be given equally scant regard. Base the weight to give them on how influential you think they are in the actual results that you achieve on the field.

But whatever loadings you apply, you want it all to add up to a plus score. Never accept any deal in which the sum total is a minus, no matter how immediately expedient it may seem. Go after the owner and ask him to put his assets where his mouth is. If he really wants the deal the ante can and will be upped. If it's a speculative raid, designed to deprive the league of talent or a thinly disguised attempt to dump an old warhorse on you and let you suffer the cost of shooting it, the offer will miraculously fade and disappear never to be to be spoken of again. leaving you an older but wiser owner.