Every NFL Team's Most Regretful Trade Involving An Active Player

Random trades are bound to happen in the NFL. Some players get traded away to other teams, while others are traded away just to make room for a couple of draft picks in the near future. And, in some instances, there are players who have been traded up on the draft ladder. Of course, there are some trades that work out in a team's favor (or in some cases both teams benefit), but like any other taken risk, there are some trades that make things even worse for a team.

When a GM is making a decision for the team, they have to outweigh the benefits and consequences to ensure that they're going to make the right decision for the players and coaches, who will have to deal with the newest member of the team's roster. But, of course, they might hope for the best after making a questionable decision and the day where a player turns things around never comes. What do they do if a negative effect occurs? All GMs can do from there is look back at their past mistakes and learn from them. However, not everyone has the ability to learn from their mistakes, so there's that, too.

We've seen more and more trades occur at a more frequent pace in the NFL. We've seen more trades occur mid-season, as the norm in today's NFL is to be aggressive, both on the field and in the front office. Here's every NFL team's most regretful trade involving an active player.

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Start Now

32 Arizona Cardinals: Trading For Matt Barkley

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

It's quite remarkable how Matt Barkley was once considered a potential first overall pick, before returning to USC for his senior season and seeing his draft stock plummet. As for the Cardinals, they haven't made all that many bad trades in recent memory (their last bad one was getting Kevin Kolb). So giving up a conditional seventh rounder for Barkley, who's already played for six NFL teams. Barkley's first stint with the Cardinals lasted less than a year, as he mostly served as a third stringer behind Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton.

31 Atlanta Falcons: Trading For Marquis Spruill

via thefalcoholic.com

Free agent linebacker Marquis Spruill remains without a job at the moment. Considering that they didn't really give up any significant assets, giving up just a 2014 sixth-round and seventh-round picks, it wasn't THAT bad a move. Spruill was an average LB but not a standout guy, and the move was made in an attempt to add depth to their inside LB position.

Spruill's rookie season ended with a season-ending injury, which was unfortunate. Spruill ended up in the CFL, but was released after just two months.

30 Baltimore Ravens: Trade Back, Take Hayden Hurst

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Before Anquan Boldin's retirement, we would've slotted the Ravens trading him away as their worst move with an active player. Instead, we'll have to settle for the Ravens trading back in this past April's draft and using that 25th overall selection on tight end Hayden Hurst. So far, Hurst has struggled to move up the Ravens' depth chart, while passing on first year standouts like Calvin Ridley or D.J. Moore, who could've been good fits in this Ravens offense.

29 Buffalo Bills: Trading Away Marshawn Lynch

via billswire.usatoday.com

While running back Marshawn Lynch had issues with the Bills' coaching and management staffs, perhaps this move was made in haste. The Bills probably regret trading away Lynch to the Seahawks for a 2011 fourth-round pick and a 2012 fifth-round pick.

As we know, Lynch was a key part of the Seahawks' success in the early 2010s and was arguably the best RB in the NFL for three years. Lynch might've had some flaws in the past, but in his prime, he was the NFL's most unstoppable running back.

28 Carolina Panthers: Trading Away Kony Ealey

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

While Kony Ealy hasn't had much success since the Panthers sent him to New England, along with a third rounder, for a second rounder, Ealy was a very effective player for the Panthers. He was part of a loaded front seven, but the Panthers felt he was expendable. He was a good rotational player for the Panthers, and in his best season, 2015, he managed to force three fumbles while recovering two. The Panthers' defense has regressed in recent years and it could be due to missing some depth in their front seven.

27 Chicago Bears: Greg Olsen To Carolina For A 3rd Rounder

via windycitygridiron.com

The Bears drafted tight end Greg Olsen with the 31st overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Olsen was a member of the Bears for three years from 2007-2010. Olsen was a good, if not great, TE for the Bears, who were looking for someone who had chemistry with quarterback Jay Cutler.

But Bears' offensive coordinator Mike Martz felt Olsen wasn't a good fit for the Bears' offense, which was widely contested by the fans and media alike. Still, Olsen was traded to the Panthers for a 2012 third-round pick, which wasn't the wisest move on the Bears' behalf, who lost one of their best receivers.

26 Cincinnati Bengals: Trading Up For Brandon Wilson

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

To be fair, we really had to find a needle in a haystack here, because well, the Bengals never really make many significant moves. Safety Brandon Wilson was a sixth-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals during the 2017 NFL Draft. Sure, that seemed like a good pick at the time, as Wilson was a versatile player who played both sides of the ball at the University of Houston, but Wilson has already been waived at one point before returning to the Bengals' roster.

To be fair, Wilson is still young, but the Bengals didn't really need to make the move to trade up.

25 Cleveland Browns: Trading Down In 2016 Draft, Passing On Carson Wentz

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Browns chose to pass on taking a quarterback in the 2016 draft, even though Carson Wentz was likely to fall to them at no.2 (he would have). Wentz seemed to be the perfect guy to quarterback in a cold weather city like Cleveland, but the Browns instead opted to stockpile future picks. To be fair, the Browns did get an extra first rounder in 2017 out of the deal (which they also traded for a later first rounder). Yes, they have Baker Mayfield now, but former GM Sashi Brown has to wonder if he'd still have a job had he drafted Wentz.

24 Dallas Cowboys: Trading Up For Morris Claiborne

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Usually when a team trades up into the top 10 to take a player, it's because they see something they really like and they feel that player could be a true difference maker for them for the next seven to 10 years. Unfortunately, Morris Claiborne was not that for the Cowboys. Jerry Jones sent the 12th overall pick to Chicago, as well as a 2nd rounder to take Claiborne. Claiborne had some decent years in Dallas, but never really emerged as the no.1 corner the Cowboys had pegged him to be.

23 Denver Broncos: Trading Demaryius Thomas To Houston

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Demaryius Thomas was traded by the Broncos this season, back at the trade deadline, to the Houston Texans for a fourth round pick, while swapping seventh rounders with Houston. Thomas has already looked revived in Houston. The Broncos like young receiver Courtland Sutton a lot, which was why they traded the former first rounder, but one has to wonder whether the Broncos should've looked to upgrade at quarterback, rather than send the former Pro Bowler packing. We'll see how Thomas continues his career resurgence.

22 Detroit Lions: Trading Golden Tate To Philly

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

This move was questionable at the time, because the Lions were still in playoff contention ahead of this year's trade deadline. Trading away Matt Stafford's favorite target was essentially throwing in the towel on the season. Since the trade, the Lions' play has regressed, as well as Matthew Stafford's. Yes, Tate was a free agent at the end of the year, but the Lions should've found a way to keep Tate around long-term. They got a third rounder out of the deal, so we'll have to see how that pick pans out.

21 Green Bay Packers: Trading HaHa Clinton-Dix

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers have been criticized for not surrounding Aaron Rodgers with enough talent for him to get them back to a Super Bowl. The Packers were sellers at this year's trade deadline, as they sent former Pro Bowl safety to Washington for a fourth round pick in 2019. While the Packers do have some young talent in the secondary, it's strange as to why the Packers felt they had to move on from Clinton-Dix in his fifth NFL season.

20 Houston Texans: Trading For Ryan Mallett

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Yep, the Texans' worst recent move involving an active player has to be signing quarterback Brock Osweiler, but that was a free agency move, not a actual trade. So let's take a look at 2014 when the Texans gave up a conditional sixth-round pick to get quarterback Ryan Mallett, who's now a free agent.

Mallett previously spent three years in New England and given Bill O'Brien's past in New England, he must've meant that he could've be a top-notch quarterback in no time. But that wasn't the case as Mallett sustained some injuries and Mallett's reputation was shattered after he missed a team flight on a road trip.

19 Indianapolis Colts: Trading 1st Rounder For Trent Richardson

Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

While calling Richardson an 'active' player is a stretch, considering no NFL team has signed him in years, and his most recent pro stint was in the CFL, he still hasn't retired from football.

Richardson had a decent year in Cleveland after the Browns drafted him third overall in 2012. So the Colts were convinced that Richardson was going to be great for them and traded a 2014 first-round pick to get him. Richardson had one good game and then fell apart on the field, which eliminated his chances of playing in the postseason the following season.

18 Jacksonville Jaguars: Trading Up For Blaine Gabbert

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The Jaguars should've learned how to do something right after so many mediocre seasons and No. 1 picks, but their naivety showed when they traded their first-round and second-round picks to draft quarterback Blaine Gabbert with the 10th overall pick in 2011.

Gabbert was a solid QB at the University of Missouri, but he was nowhere near the rookie QB that the Jaguars had hoped for. Gabbert was sacked 40 times and racked up 40 fumbles in his rookie season. The Jags cut Gabbert two years later and found their solution in quarterback Blake Bortles. Err, at least they thought so.

17 Kansas City Chiefs: Trading Away Marcus Peters

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Chiefs haven't made many bad moves in recent year. But there's one move that Chiefs fans questioning and that's the fact that they traded away cornerback Marcus Peters for 2018 fourth-round and sixth-round picks, along with a 2019 second-round pick.

Peters was a 2-time Pro Bowler and a key part of the Chiefs' defense. Sure, Peter apparently had attitude problems, but he was able to stay productive with the team on the field. The Chiefs are last in pass defense, and one has to wonder how much better they'd be with Peters still on the team.

16 Los Angeles Chargers: Trading Up For Manti Te'o

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

When you think of cornerback Manti Te'o, the first thing that will likely come to your mind was his infamous story back in college.

That, my friends, overshadowed Te'o's starry career at the University of Notre Dame. Still, the Chargers took the baggage, selected Te'o with the 38th overall pick in the second round in 2013, and handed over their second-round and fourth-round picks. Te'o made 284 total tackles, but he never became the star many expected him to be. Eventually, he would join the Saints, where has mostly been used as a rotational player.

15 Los Angeles Rams: Trading For Aqib Talib

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Don't get me wrong, cornerback Aqib Talib is arguably one of the best CBs in the NFL. But the Rams shouldn't have traded away a 2018 fifth-round pick for Talib. Why's that? Talib was one of the hottest free agents to hit free agency this offseason, but he's a 32-year-old veteran CB now. Also, Talib will likely be past his prime sooner than later, especially in the CB position.

Sure, Talib's a fine CB, but he hasn't been able to stay on the field this season and the Rams have to be thinking they could've targeted another player to address their secondary.

14 Miami Dolphins: Trading Jarvis Landry

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

For some reason, the Dolphins wouldn't commit to Jarvis Landry long-term, so rather than signing him to an extension, they sent him to the Cleveland Browns this past offseason for a pair of draft picks. While Landry isn't on pace for the 110-plus catch seasons he's had in Miami, he's still become a valuable part of the Browns offense, as he has a knack for moving the chains on key downs, something the Dolphins are sorely missing. The move looks even worse, considering the Dolphins signed Danny Amendola to replace Landry, who's been very ineffective in Miami.

13 Minnesota Vikings: Trading For Sam Bradford

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

This move was made solely out of desperation to salvage their 2016 season and there's no doubt that the team messed up when they gave up their 2017 first-round pick and 2018 conditional fourth-round pick to pick up quarterback Sam Bradford to salvage the 2016 season after their starting QB Teddy Bridgewater sustained a season-ending knee injury.

Yes, Bradford led the Vikings to a 5-0 start, but went on a losing skid. The following season, Bradford played in only two games before undergoing surgery. Bradford's run in Minny went as everyone predicted; inconsistent and couldn't stay on the field.

12 New England Patriots: Trading Jimmy Garoppolo For 2nd Rounder

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots are definitely a modern dynasty, but even they've even made some bad choices.

We all know the saga of the Jimmy Garoppolo/Bill Belichick/Tom Brady/Robert Kraft situation in Foxborough. Belichick was keen on moving forward with Jimmy G as the Patriots' QB of the future, but owner Robert Kraft stepped in and made sure the team kept the aging Tom Brady around. Brady has shown some signs of regression this season, with no succession plan in place in New England. One has to wonder how this move will look for the Pats down the line.

11 New Orleans Saints: Trading Away Darren Sproles

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Talk about giving up on a three-time Pro Bowler too soon. Running back and return specialist Darren Sproles has a lot to offer and there's no doubt that he had the ability to get those third down yards and help out the special teams in New Orleans as a member of the Saints.

The Saints, however, traded away Sproles for a 2014 fifth-round pick, and that apparently didn't sit well with starting quarterback Drew Brees, who said: "You only see a Darren Sproles type of player come around once in your career." Thankfully, Brees did get someone like that, in fact someone even better, when the Saints drafted Alvin Kamara in 2017.

10 New York Giants: Trading Away Jason Pierre-Paul

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Sure, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul sparked a lot of eye-rolling among the fans and media after a fireworks incident on July 4th nearly cost him his career in 2016. But that doesn't mean that the Giants' decision to trade him to the Buccaneers was correct. Pierre-Paul was a solid pass rusher who recorded seven sacks in 2016 and eight and a half sacks in 2017.

Although Pierre-Paul wasn't the same, he proved that he was able to get to the starting quarterback at the right times. The Giants shouldn't have felt the need to trade him for a 2018 third-round pick.

9 New York Jets: Trading For Brandon Marshall

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Marshall tends to wear out his welcome with teams. He has been a part of the Broncos, Dolphins, Bears, Jets, Giants and Saints in his career and has yet to play in a playoff game. When the Jets traded for Brandon Marshall in 2015, they got one good season out of him, but quickly saw his game regress in 2016. The Jets wound up releasing him after his second season, and he joined the Giants from there, where his career continued to dwindle.

8 Oakland Raiders: Trading Away Khalil Mack

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, of course, I have to bring up the struggling Raiders under their head coach Jon Gruden, who has been serving his second stint in Oakland in the 2018 season.

Outside linebacker Khalil Mack made tons of headlines for what felt like a never-ending holdout and then the Raiders traded him to the Bears in Chicago for 2019 and 2010 first-round picks along with future third-round and sixth-round selections. Since then, Mack became the highest paid defender in the NFL (before Aaron Donald got signed to an extension), and the Raiders' defense hasn't been the same.

7 Philadelphia Eagles: Trading Away LeSean McCoy

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The defending champion Eagles are flying high, but it was unfortunate that running back LeSean McCoy was unable to partake in the Eagles' fun-filled festivities this year.

You see, the Eagles made a bad mistake trading away McCoy for linebacker Kiko Alonso, who tore his left ACL and was cut from the team just days after their season came to an end. McCoy went on to do a great job in Buffalo and was named the Bills' captain prior to the 2018 season. Meanwhile, the Eagles still haven't found a long-term solution for their running game.

6 Pittsburgh Steelers: Trading Up For Mason Rudolph

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

You know why the Steelers stay on top? They don't make any bad moves. Although, we do have to question why they felt the need to trade up for Mason Rudolph this past draft, considering Big Ben has revised his stance on retirement and feels he can play another three years. It's unlikely Rudolph will ever take any meaningful snaps for the Steelers. The team gave up their 79th and 220th overall picks to Seattle for pick no.76, used to take Rudolph.

5 San Francisco 49ers: Trading Back In 1st Round, Drafting Soloman Thomas

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

While the 49ers saw their biggest trade acquisition in recent memory, Jimmy Garoppolo go down for the season with a torn ACL in his first full year as a starter, they definitely don't regret landing Jimmy G. However, the 49ers taking Soloman Thomas third overall, after trading down from the no.2 spot doesn't seem like it benefitted them at all. While trading down from pick 2 to 3 was smart, they seem to have whiffed badly on the actual pick used, as they passed on names like Jamal Adams, Christian McCaffrey and Patrick Mahomes, all of whom would've addressed some of their biggest needs at the time.

4 Seattle Seahawks: Trading Up To Take Rashaad Penny

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Much like their division rivals, the Seahawks' entry on this list comes via draft day trade. After the Packers had traded down from their mid first round pick with the Saints, they traded the 27th overall pick to Seattle, who used it to take Rashaad Penny. While the Seahawks have the no.1 rushing offense in football this year, Penny has been a big disappointment and clearly wasn't worth the Seahawks trading up to get him. Penny likely would've been available in the second round anyway.

3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Trading Up... For A Kicker

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

We've sure seen a lot of draft picks used on kickers turn out to be flops. With the position being such a mental game, it seems one missed kick can seriously derail a kicker's career. In Tampa Bay's case, they traded up in the sixth round of the 2016 draft to take Roberto Aguayo out of Florida State. Aguayo was just about as bad as any kicker can be in the pros, and the Bucs chose to move on from him in 2017.

2 Tennessee Titans: Trading Away Andy Levitre

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Titans haven't been the talk of the town in the past decade, but I'm almost certain the team offered a little too much for guard Andy Levitre, who experienced knee soreness just days after agreeing to a six-year, $46.8 million deal.

Despite all that, Levitre bounced back as a starting guard on the Falcons' line. The Falcons won that trade as they merely handed over a 2016 sixth-round pick to the Titans. Maybe it was just bad luck on the Titans' part.

1 Washington Redskins: Trading Up For Robert Griffin III

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps it's the D.C. curse, but there's no denying that the Redskins have taken chances on generational type of talents and it ends up backfiring.

Quarterback Robert Griffin III was one of those talents. RGIII was supposed to be a big pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. The Redskins traded up to draft RGIII with the second overall pick and gave up their 2012-14 first-round picks and their 2012 second-round pick to the Rams.

RGIII was named Rookie of the Year in 2012, but he sustained a leg injury, which derailed his momentum on the field. The Redskins must've regretted those 15 minutes of fame.

More in NFL