We are in the final few games of the NFL season. The best teams have made their case to bring home a championship, and each team’s roster is pretty much set. All the free agents that were brought in to the organization in the offseason, all the draft day swaps, and all the last-minute deals before the deadline have been completed. But, what if your team made a different acquisition in the offseason? What if you never traded for that star quarterback? What if the Browns never passed up on every good quarterback in the last decade?
There will always be “what ifs,” but today we will focus on the “almosts.” These were recent deals that almost were completed, but for some reason, fell through. Either each team couldn’t compromise on a price, a player may have been unhappy with his potential landing spot, or in some cases, they didn’t get in the paper work on time. These deals just barely fell through, but we’re going to dip in to see what the league could have looked like if they passed. Let’s shake up the NFL a little bit and dive into 15 recent deals that you didn’t know almost happened.
15. Jimmy Garoppolo Almost Traded To Cleveland
With Tom Brady nearing 40, it seemed like the Patriots were set up to have a seamless transition to the future in youngster, Jimmy Garoppolo. The former Eastern Illinois quarterback showcased his skills when Brady was forced to sit out four games as punishment for “Deflategate,” but with Brady looking to play into his mid-40s, New England had to make the decision to deal Garoppolo.
Cue Hue Jackson and the Cleveland Browns. Multiple reports surfaced prior to the 2017 draft that Jackson was pushing the front office to go after Garoppolo. They had plenty of picks in the draft, and they could have easily done a deal. But, the Patriots refused the Browns’ offer of a future second round pick, plus some more, for the fourth year quarterback.
Surprisingly, Garoppolo was traded to San Francisco before the 2017 trade deadline for only a second round pick, less than what the Browns offered. Maybe it was Belichick doing Garoppolo a favor, but he was dangerously close to suiting up in Cleveland.
14. Hafthor Bjornsson Almost Signs With Indianapolis
The 6’9″, 410-lb. Icelandic strongman, and Game of Thrones star, almost landed a job in the NFL back in 2013. Colts owner, Jim Irsay, is known to put his foot in his mouth on social media, but one of his tweets caught the eye of many NFL experts.
Off/Def Lineman,so many 6-3 to 6-7..320-365 lbs/Big,Physical and Nasty! Speaking of size/strength..GM Grig's just might sign "The Icelander"
— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) May 13, 2013
Could it have been true? Could the “Mountain” have made a huge signing that would have had millions of non-football fans tuning into Lucas Oil Stadium every Sunday? Unfortunately, nothing materialized, mostly because Bjornsson had serious knee troubles in the past, which is why he switched from basketball to weightlifting. Plus, he is probably banking so much cash being a monster on HBO’s top show. I’m sure GoT fans would have loved to see him dominate the AFC South, as opposed to dominating Westeros. The “Mountain” could have been the most interesting athlete/actor in our lifetime, but sadly, the deal never happened.
13. Peyton Manning Almost Heads Back To Tennessee
On March 7, 2012, after sitting out the 2011 season due to neck surgery, the Indianapolis legend, Peyton Manning, was released by the Colts. Both sides knew it was time, and Manning gave a tearful speech to his fans, giving nothing but praise to the organization. The true end of an era in Indy.
After his release, the race to obtain for the future Hall of Famer was on. Many people thought that the former Tennessee Volunteer would make the pilgrimage back to the state who embraced him as a college star. Manning had a lengthy visit with Titans coaches and management. Even Manning said “I was very close” to signing with the Titans. Unfortunately for Tennessee fans, John Elway provided a better pitch and Manning chose Denver, where he went on to win his fifth MVP and second Super Bowl. Now we can only ask “what if?”
12. Nick Saban Almost Coached The Giants
After a dismal 6-10 season in 2015, the aging Giants coach, Tom Coughlin, decided to step down. He would have most likely been fired anyway. Offensive coordinator, Ben McAdoo, was promoted to head honcho, and that was that. Or was it?
Through a friend of a friend, boxing promoter, Bob Arum, informed New York that Nick Saban was interested in the job after Coughlin stepped down. There were several he-said, she-said details, but it came down to a $10 million salary for the Alabama skipper, but his wife, Terry, did not want to move to New York. Obviously, Saban denies this reports, but the Washington Post has some compelling evidence for the almost hire. Who knows? With McAdoo now out for the Giants, maybe Saban could have overcame his NFL woes and became successful with Eli and the boys.
11. Brandon Marshall Almost Becomes A Patriot
Before Marshall was traded to the New York Jets in the 2015 offseason (in exchange for a fifth-round pick) rumors surfaces that the Bears were trying to deal the Pro Bowl receiver during the season. After signing a three-year, $30-million extension prior to 2015, Chicago realized they needed to move on from Marshall. Let’s give the mic over to “The Beast” to explain it himself.
“I could have played for the Patriots last year. There was an opportunity where there probably could have (been) a trade before the season. It was my agent and the Chicago Bears because there was a little tension on the contract stuff. I thought I was worth a little more. There were a couple of teams that were offering more money. It never got that far, but there was a possibility with a couple teams.”
10. Martavis Bryant Almost Talks His Way Out Of Pittsburgh
The Steelers are no strangers to diva receivers. Earlier in the season, the NFL’s top pass-catcher, Antonio Brown, threw a temper tantrum on the sidelines out of his lack of targets. But, since “Tony Toe-Tap” is the best receiver in the game, he gets a pass. On the other hand, Martavis Bryant, did not get that same treatment.
After the emergence of rookie Juju Smith-Schuster, Bryant voiced his displeasure with usage in the offense. Many sources stated than Bryant wanted out in Pittsburgh, and even refused to show up to team meetings in mid-October of 2017. Pittsburgh benched the former Clemson stand out the following week, after he went on Instagram ripping the team. While he just narrowly avoided being tossed out of Steel City, there is no doubt that the Steelers will shop him in the offseason.
9. Ben Roethlisberger Almost Traded To Oakland
Roethlisberger is not one to shy away from the media, and has been the subject of trade rumors for years. In 2013, there were rumors Ben wanted out in Pittsburgh after a dismal 2-6 start. Plus, it seems like every year for the past half-decade, “Big Ben” retirement talks dominate the offseason.
What we will focus on is the fact that back in 2010, Roethlisberger almost became an Oakland Raider. The Steelers organization was fed up with Ben’s antics. Between the motorcycle injury to the sexual assault allegations, President Art Rooney II had enough. Originally, they were hoping to move up in the 2010 draft to grab Sam Bradford from the Rams, but St. Louis declined. They decided to try and package Ben and their 18th overall pick to obtain the Raiders 8th overall pick and some change. While all is calm now in Pittsburgh, the trade of a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback wouldn’t have sat well with fans.
8. Jim Harbaugh Almost Traded To Coach Cleveland
The Bay Area isn’t a stranger to head coaches being traded. The now ESPN analyst, and then former coach of the Oakland Raiders, Jon Gruden, was traded to Tampa Bay back in 2002 for multiple draft picks and a whopping $8 million. Gruden went on to win the Super Bowl with the Buccaneers the following year. So, back in 2014, the Cleveland Browns thought, “This worked once before, so let’s try it again,” with another Bay Area coach, Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers.
According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, the deal was dangerously close to being done, as the Browns would send several picks to the 49ers in exchange for their skipper. Of course, everyone denies the reports, but could you imagine the two Harbaugh brothers in the same division? That could have been exciting!
7. Joe Thomas Almost Traded To Denver
As an NFL fan, you have to love tackle Joe Thomas. He is one of the best to ever play the position, and despite protecting the pocket for a plethora of quarterbacks in Cleveland, he has always had the franchise’s back. Unfortunately in 2017, Thomas’ iron-man streak of 10,363 consecutive snaps was broken when he went down with a triceps injury. But, back in 2015, Denver was close to acquiring the perennial Pro Bowler.
The Broncos were on their way to the Super Bowl, and looked to sure-up their offensive line in the process. So, right before the trade deadline, Elway came calling to snag Thomas. Reports state that Cleveland asked for as a much as two first-rounders in exchange for the All-Pro. When it was all said and done, neither side could agree on a deal, and Thomas remained in Cleveland. Thomas would have shined in Denver, but the Browns were just asking too much, and the future Hall of Famer wants to end his career in Northeast Ohio.
6. Matt Forte Almost Signs With New England
When you think about it, Forte’s style of play really suits a Tom Brady led offense. He can dominate on the early downs, yet has great hands out of the backfield for the old Belichick-dink-and-dunk. Apparently, back in the 2016 offseason, this almost became a reality, as the Jets were nervous about signing Forte to a deal due to his persistent knee problems. This made Forte upset, and he decided to board a plane to Boston to visit with the Patriots.
The tables were then turned, as Forte now had the leverage. I’m sure the Jets didn’t want to play against him twice a year and New York scurried to get their running back to return. They finally offered Forte a three year, $12-million deal, to which he accepted. I guess he’ll now know what it feels like to never win a Super Bowl!
5. Aaron Rodgers Almost Becomes A Raider
As a Packers fan (yes, I’m not afraid to admit it), this “almost” trade haunts my nightmares. What would Green Bay have done with out the A-Rod at the helm? Would they have drafted a decent quarterback in the meantime? Would they ever had made the playoffs after Favre? Oh God, would they have been the NFC’s version of the Cleveland Browns?
Thankfully, these are all “what ifs” because the Raiders never closed on a deal that would send Moss to Green Bay in exchange for Rodgers and other picks. Instead they dealt the future Hall of Fame receiver to New England in exchange for a measly fourth-round pick. The Patriots went on to a near perfect season, while the Packers got to keep one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
4. Drew Brees Almost Becomes A Dolphin
Who dat? Back in 2006, after coming off shoulder surgery, a young Drew Brees was on the open market. As we all know, the future Hall of Fame and all-time passing yards leader (he will be as long as he stays healthy for one more year), signed with the Saints, and brought a Lombardi Trophy trophy home to New Orleans, who adopted him as their savior. A great story, but it almost never happened.
During his free agency period, Miami showed interest, but then coach Nick Saban and the front office were wary about the health and durability of Brees’ shoulder, and refused to put up enough guaranteed money. Rumors swirled that he even failed the physical in Miami. Instead, the Dolphins traded a second round pick to Minnesota for Daunte Culpepper (who was also coming off a knee injury). Obviously, Brees was the better bet, as Culpepper only won four games with the ‘Phins. Saban now claims he really wanted Drew, but hindsight is 20/20.
3. RGIII Almost Signs With The L.A. Rams
I think we all know the story of RGIII. He dominated the league his rookie year, executing the read-option perfectly, but due to injuries and poor play during the following few seasons, Griffin was out in Washington. After his exit interviews in the 2016 offseason, Griffin became a free agent, and teams were hoping he could get back to his old ways and dominate with his legs and his arm.
The Rams, who were in the process of relocating to SoCal, weren’t happy with Nick Foles, and looking to switch things up at the quarterback position. RGIII was on the market, and in Fisher’s low-volume pass attack, Griffin could have possibly shined. Rumors swirled that the former Heisman winner would have been interested, but we forget one thing: The Rams could have taken RGIII back in 2012, but traded the pick away to the Redskins. Eventually, the bottom feeder Browns scooped up the free agent QB, yet release him in 2017.
2. Kirk Cousins Almost Re-Signs With Washington Several Times
Speaking of future former Redskins quarterbacks, it really looks like Cousins will be out in Washington at the end of the year. Following the 2015 season, the Redskins could have signed Cousins to a long-term deal, but talks fell through. They eventually put the former Michigan State quarterback under the franchise tag, netting him a cool $20-million dollars in 2016.
Okay, here comes 2017, Cousins has earned a spot as the face of the Redskins, and is looking to secure a long-term deal again. But, reports surfaced that he rejected Washington’s five-year deal in May, and contract talks were stalled yet again. It’s like Dan Snyder only wants to date Cousins, but doesn’t want to jump into marriage. The Redskins eventually put the franchise tag on Cousins for a second year, netting him $23.9-million. The future at QB looks bleak in our nation’s capital, and Cousins will most likely be gone next year in free agency. You like that?
1. A.J. McCarron Almost Was The Next Browns’ Quarterback
Let’s all be honest, this is what we expect from the Cleveland Browns organization. Short story is that before the 2017 trade deadline, Cincinnati agreed to ship backup QB, A.J. McCarron to Cleveland in exchange for a 2018 second and third round pick. The Bengals put in the trade request to the league office, but the Browns missed the deadline. That’s right, they messed up an email or fax (who still uses this ancient technology) and although the teams agreed, the trade never went through. I think ESPN’s Adam Schefter said it best…
Bengals and Browns thought they beat the clock on AJ McCarron trade. Clock beat them. Close but no deal.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 31, 2017
I’m honestly at a loss for words. After nearly two decades of disappointment and despair, the Browns’ future had a glimmer of hope, yet they had to find some way to mess it all up. Cleveland fans, I feel for you, and that’s top recent NFL deal that you did(n’t) know almost happened.
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