Let me start by saying that, while I love NFL trades during the season, I really hope it does not become the NBA or MLB in terms of trades, with teams looking to acquire expiring contracts or dump salary once they are no longer contenders. In-season NFL trades rarely involve starters and typically don’t have a long-term impact on rosters outside of providing depth or a change of scenery for under-performing players. This season that has certainly changed, however, and we have gotten to see several big names on the move already. Last year the only ‘big’ trade happened when Tampa Bay got rid of troubled cornerback Aqib Talib, who was in his final year with the team and serving a suspension. New England took a chance and was able to grab Talib for only a 4th round pick, something they have been known to do with troubled veteran players. Talib had several legal issues and the Patriots gambled on him, but that has really paid off this year as they re-signed him in the offseason and he has stayed out of trouble and played at an elite level.
Jumping back to this season, there have been 4 trades that occurred in the last 3 weeks, and each of them included a former 1st round pick, with 3 of these players being top-10 overall picks in recent drafts. I want to take a quick look at each of these deals, then highlight a few other deals that may yet happen, or would make sense over the coming weeks.
The Indianapolis Colts get last year’s 3rd overall pick, Trent Richardson. The Cleveland Browns get the Colts 1st round pick in the coming 2014 draft.
– This trade blew up the football world. Teams don’t trade the 3rd overall pick after only one season. It became clear that the Browns are in rebuilding mode though, and with a very strong draft projected for 2014, it will help the current front office and coaching staff to start over with their players. There were rumors around Cleveland that some people no longer viewed Richardson as a special talent, and therefore he was expendable. While it is incredibly bad if admit you messed up the 3rd overall pick only one year later, it takes a lot of courage to move on that quickly. For the Colts, they hope these reports were overstated and that Richardson can, at the very least, force opponents to focus more on the run game and free up Andrew Luck in the passing game. This deal was absolutely a win-win for both of the teams involved.
The Baltimore Ravens get Eugene Monroe, the 8th overall pick of the 2009 draft. The Jacksonville Jaguars get a 4th and a 5th round pick in 2014.
– Monroe is a talented offensive linemen and has been the Jags starting left tackle for all four years that he has been there. The Jags took Luke Joeckel 1st overall this past offseason, after finishing with only 2 wins, and it appears as though they hoped he will eventually become the left tackle. Apparently the team decided there was not enough room for both players, or felt they would not be able to resign Monroe, and so they gave him away for two mid-round picks. Ironically, Joeckel was lost for the season with an injury the very next game, so now they don’t have either player. The Ravens, meanwhile, desperately needed help on the offensive line, and acquiring an above average starter for only a 4th and 5th round pick was a no brainer. The Ravens win this trade in theory, but if the Jags truly weren’t going to be able to re-sign Monroe, at least they got something for him and with that considered, it is a win-win.
The Pittsburgh Steelers get Levi Brown, the 5th overall pick of the 2007 draft. The Arizona Cardinals get, umm, get rid of Levi Brown?
– Ok so there are no particulars for this trade outside of conditional considerations being exchanged. This sounds like a NBA/MLB deal where there are future considerations/players or salary exemptions involved. In essence, the Cardinals re-worked Brown’s contract into a signing bonus, so that the Steelers could afford him, then gave him away. Brown was most likely going to be cut by the Cards in the coming offseason anyway, and the Steelers offensive line, despite featuring a 1st rounder and 2 2nd rounders, was a mess. While Brown is no star player, he at least brings 79 career starts with him. The Cards might get a draft pick back later, or they might even get Brown back at a discount rate next offseason, who knows. I don’t come away impressed with the Cards offensive line without Brown, but its not much better with him so I guess this is a win-win as well.
The New York Giants get Jon Beason, the 25th overall pick in the 2007 draft. The Carolina Panthers get a conditional late round draft pick.
– The Giants desperately needed help on defense and, for the first 4 years of his career, Beason was considered one of the best. Sadly, he only managed 1 game in 2011 and 4 games in 2012 due to injuries. The Panthers were ready to move on with Luke Kuechly in the middle and replaced Beason on the outside with former Giant Chase Blackburn. If Beason can stay healthy and display even some of his former athleticism, this trade could work out for the Giants, as Beason is considered a vocal leader as well. For the Panthers, they might get something in return for a player that was no longer in their plans. Win-Win.
Now on to some trades that could still happen:
- Everyone thinks the Browns should trade Josh Gordon, but I just don’t see it happening. He is worth at least a 2nd round pick to the Browns, but the risk of a suspension will prevent another team from offering that much compensation. I just don’t see it happening.
- Another rumored trade is Kenny Britt, and I’m sure the Titans would love to get something in return for a player they are done with, but again I just don’t see it happening. Britt just hasn’t been good outside of some occasional flashes, and can’t be expected to be an upgrade for any contending teams. Unless more injuries occur and he can be had for a 7th rounder, I just don’t see this one either.
- The big name on the trade market for a while now has been Maurice Jones-Drew, and I really thought he was the one headed to Indy last month. I question if MJD has anything left after a few injuries last year, but its impossible to tell while he is on the worst team in the league. There aren’t many contending teams that would be willing to deal for him though, but I could see him as a fit in Miami as I am not a Lamar Miller fan. Another Blount or Ridley fumble could have New England picking up the phone too. I guess the same could be said for New England receivers and drops and the Kenny Britt call though, you just never know with Bill Belichick.
- I read earlier that Chiefs fans are speculating a trade to bring Tony Gonzalez back to Kansas City. Mike Smith is already on record saying that the idea is ‘preposterous’ but in reality it makes all the sense in the world. Thomas Dimitroff is a very smart GM. The Falcons have little incentive to resign Gonzalez to a contract extension, 37 year old NFL players just don’t get them, even if they are 1st ballot Hall-Of-Famers having outstanding seasons. On top of that, Julio Jones is done for the season, Roddy White is banged up and the team is already in a 1-4 hole, 4 games behind the Saints for the division lead. 4th round pick Levine Toilolo is 6’8″ and already has 2 touchdown grabs this season. The team also has former 3rd rounder Chase Coffman on the roster and needs to see if either can replace Gonzalez long term anyway, why not find out now? The Chiefs, meanwhile, are 5-0 and look like real contenders for the postseason, but are using an assortment of sub-par tight ends. Gonzalez spent the first 12 years of his career in Kansas City, and seemingly never gets to experience post-season victory, so a reunion tour complete with a playoff appearance (and hopefully a win or two) would be great to see. I don’t see it happening but Chiefs fans can hope. Maybe next year.
- I also expect some Giants players to be on the market soon. Specifically, Hakeem Nicks and Justin Tuck, who are each in the final years of their contracts. Unless the Giants can right the ship soon, which is entirely possible, they will need to shift to re-build mode and will start cleaning house. I expect this to be Tom Coughlin’s last season (again, barring an insane comeback and playoff run). Coughlin should have enough respect built up to be allowed to retire at the end of the year and not to be fired even if the team drops to 0-7 or 1-6. There is a core of talent in place to re-build on, but the Giants do need a lot of pieces moving forward, so trading some veterans for draft picks makes sense. I’m not sure what kind of value Tuck may draw after a few down seasons, but he is an experienced, respected player, so I’m sure someone would listen if he was on the table. Trading Tuck would also open up playing time for rookie Damontre Moore. Nicks on the other hand, could absolutely draw a mid-round pick to a team desperate for receiver help such as San Francisco, Baltimore or even the New York Jets if they continue to play well. Nicks always seems hurt, but had back to back 1000 yard seasons in 2010 and 2011, and is on pace for almost 1200 yards this year. The Giants would still have Victor Cruz and Rueben Randal in place moving forward, so if they lose a couple more games, this trade would make a ton of sense.
A few other players in the last year of their contracts who potentially could be had for the right offer:
Darren McFadden (doubtful though with his injury history)
Emmanuel Sanders (reportedly working on a contract extension but if the Steelers fear they can’t get it done, teams would absolutely make an offer)