One way the NFL differs from the NBA and MLB is that big names and All-Pro players are not traded as frequently as All-Star athletes change teams midseason in the other two competitions. Structures of NFL contracts and the fact that those deals only guarantee so much money play a role in this. Front offices and general managers are not as likely to dump assets such as draft picks for a star knowing that individual may become available on the free-agency market once the subsequent NFL year opens. In some instances, draft picks, and what they may bring to a team, are actually more valuable than known commodities.
One reason a team may trade for a player either before or during a campaign is that doing so gives that franchise the rights to his contract and also a head start in negotiating an extension with that individual. In other scenarios, trades are made simply to get better and attempt to win a Super Bowl. The Philadelphia Eagles successfully made one of those moves during the 2017 campaign, and the player involved (Nick Foles) hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy made that transaction one-sided. During the 2018 campaign, the New England Patriots executed what that club hopes will be its own version of such a trade. If that story ends well, 30 franchises may live to blame the Cleveland Browns for the Pats winning another title.
20 New England Patriots trade for Josh Gordon
In September 2018, the New England Patriots essentially traded nothing — a future fifth-round pick that nobody will remember years from now — to the Cleveland Browns for wantaway wide receiver Josh Gordon, who, more likely than not, was probably never going to make it while with the Browns. It’s still early days following the trade involving the 27-year-old, but Gordon has flashed signs that he could become the player of old starting alongside Tom Brady. The partnership between Brady and Gordon could make for some nightmare match-ups for opposing defenses come December, January and, possibly, February. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t the last time the Pats have recently been involved in a trade that already looks one-sided.
19 Cleveland Browns trade Corey Coleman to Buffalo Bills
Odds are the Cleveland Browns will do nothing of note with the seventh-round draft selection the franchise landed for former first-round pick Corey Coleman. What we do know, however, is that the former first-rounder is not going to do anything with the Buffalo Bills, the franchise that traded for his services this past August. Coleman did not even make the final roster following the preseason, and he also failed to impress while having a cup of coffee with the New England Patriots. As of the typing of this sentence, Coleman is currently a member of the New York Giants. We’ll see if the 24-year-old plays a down of football with Big Blue.
18 Pittsburgh Steelers trade Martavis Bryant to Oakland Raiders
The good news for the Oakland Raiders is that wide receiver Martavis Bryant, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Steelers for a third-round pick, is still available and has not been suspended as was feared earlier this year. The bad news is there is zero indication Bryant will be part of the team’s long-term process and plans. There is only one way this won’t be viewed as a one-sided trade years from now, and that is if the Raiders are able to get something in return for him in a deal before the 2018 trade deadline. Otherwise, the Raiders will have given Pittsburgh a draft pick for nothing.
17 Buffalo Bills trade Tyrod Taylor to Cleveland Browns
Assuming that the Buffalo Bills do not really care all that much about the 2018 campaign, this has to be considered an instance of the team winning a one-sided trade with the Cleveland Browns. In March, the Bills sent quarterback Tyrod Taylor to the Browns for a third-round draft pick, and Buffalo later selected Josh Allen in the 2018 NFL Draft. Taylor not only failed to become Cleveland’s bridge quarterback for an entire month before rookie Baker Mayfield rightfully took the gig. It appears the Browns will look to trade Taylor to a team in need of a QB, potentially even before you read this sentence. Dumping Taylor was the wise decision for Buffalo’s future.
16 Los Angeles Rams trade Alec Ogletree to New York Giants
Do the Los Angeles Rams appear to be missing linebacker Alex Ogletree after trading him to the New York Giants for a pair of draft picks earlier this year? Not one bit as of the final week of October, when the Rams are the best team in football and favorites to, at least, make it to the Super Bowl. The Giants, on the other hand, are a complete mess with Ogletree on the roster during the fall. Sure, he has made some solid plays for New York, but the 27-year-old wearing a Big Blue jersey may not save the Giants from finishing the 2018 campaign as the worst team in the league.
15 Carolina Panthers trade Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo Bills
The Carolina Panthers trading lengthy wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to the Buffalo Bills for a couple of draft picks during the 2017 season had many people around the league scratching their heads. It now seems that the Carolina Panthers, not to mention quarterback Cam Newton, aren't missing Benjamin, and some may even say that the Panthers have a better offense and locker room with Benjamin out of town. In Buffalo, the 27-year-old has done nothing to earn himself a new contract with his current employer. He will probably hit free agency after this season unless the Bills can trade him to a franchise willing to pay him beyond 2018.
14 New England Patriots trade Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco 49ers
As of Christmas 2017, the New England Patriots trading backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers for a second-round pick looked like a one-sided deal in favor of the Niners. Jimmy G won all of his starts with San Francisco, and he seemed well on his way to becoming the team’s next franchise signal-caller. The 26-year-old came back down to earth during the early stages of the 2018 season, though, and his year ended prematurely after he suffered a torn ACL. Don’t look now, but the Patriots, not the Niners, could be the big winners here, especially if Garoppolo never returns to his 2017 form.
13 Philadelphia Eagles trade for Jay Ajayi
The Miami Dolphins received a fourth-round draft pick during the 2017 season for running back Jay Ajayi. On the other side of that deal are the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that won the Super Bowl with Ajayi on the roster. Ajayi was not merely a spectator while with the Eagles, as he averaged 5.8 yards per carry on 70 attempts following the trade. Some of the shine of this trade evaporated after Ajayi suffered a torn ACL during the 2018 season, but it was still well worth it for the Eagles. The 25-year-old should have plenty of time to recover and work to be as good as new.
12 Jacksonville Jaguars trade for Marcell Dareus
The Buffalo Bills’ fire sale began in 2017 when the team traded defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, who had underproduced with the club, to the Jacksonville Jaguars for a sixth-round pick. While we don’t know Dareus personally, it’s safe to assume he is enjoying life at his different team rather than being part of a Buffalo side that isn't going anywhere this season. Jacksonville added Dareus to what was already a championship-caliber defense, and that unit could once again help the Jaguars pursue a playoff berth during the second half of the season if the franchise can find a decent QB who is not Blake Bortles.
11 Kansas City Chiefs trade for Cam Erving
When the Cleveland Browns traded offensive lineman Cam Erving to the Kansas City Chiefs for a fourth-round pick in 2017, most in Northeast Ohio viewed the former first-round selection as nothing more than yet another bust taken by the franchise. Erving may never evolve into a Hall of Famer or even an All-Pro, but he played well enough to earn a contract extension from a Kansas City team that is headed toward the playoffs, and that may even be a win away from the Super Bowl next January. That trade worked out for the Chiefs and for Erving. The Browns, however, are the losers of this one-sided deal.
10 Cleveland Browns trade for Brock Osweiler
Make no mistake about the fact that the Cleveland Browns trading with the Houston Texans for quarterback Brock Osweiler in March 2017 was all about Houston wanting to dump Osweiler’s contract on the Browns, a franchise that had more than enough money to eat the cap hit and then move on from the signal-caller. As part of that transaction, the Browns also landed a second-round draft pick, an asset the team used on running back Nick Chubb. Chubb has only had limited opportunities to make impacts during games this season, but he looks like a promising starting back who could help make the Browns a (gasp!) winning team sooner rather than later.
9 Cleveland Browns trade for Jamie Collins
When the Cleveland Browns and New England Patriots are involved in a trade, you would probably assume the Patriots would be the victors if that deal was one-sided. That has not been the case regarding the Browns receiving Collins for a conditional draft pick during the 2016 season. While Collins has had some poor performances for the Browns, that trade has worked out well for Cleveland, and Collins even earned a four-year extension from Cleveland. In fact, some have claimed in October 2018 that the Patriots should attempt to trade with Cleveland for Collins to bolster the team’s defense ahead of the playoffs.
8 Chicago Bears trade for draft pick used on Mitchell Trubisky
Admit it, just about everybody. You thought the San Francisco 49ers would be the big winners of the trade with the Chicago Bears in which the Bears moved up to the second overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft to take quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. How one-sided does that deal seem to be in favor of the Bears as of this fall? Trubisky is hardly a perfect product, but he has made real improvements, and he came to within a single yard of taking the New England Patriots into overtime. The Niners, meanwhile, have a starting QB on injured reserve and no knowledge of what Jimmy Garoppolo will or won’t be when he returns from his torn ACL.
7 New Orleans Saints trade for draft pick used on Alvin Kamara
The New Orleans Saints clearly have zero regrets about sending a future second-round draft pick to the San Francisco 49ers for the draft selection that was used on running back Alvin Kamara. Kamara earned himself Rookie of the Year honors for the numbers he produced during his debut campaign, and he could score at least 13 touchdowns a second straight season. Mark Ingram is in the backfield along with Kamara, but the 23-year-old Kamara should be the feature back for the team in 2019 assuming that the Saints and Ingram will part ways. Maybe there is something to the idea that RBs shouldn’t be drafted until the third round.
6 Kansas City Chiefs trade for draft pick used on Kareem Hunt
The Minnesota Vikings received a handful of draft selections from the Kansas City Chiefs all so the Chiefs could obtain the rights to the pick used to take running back Kareem Hunt in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Unless the Minnesota Vikings win the Super Bowl in 2019 or 2020, this looks like quite the one-sided trade in favor of the Chiefs. The 23-year-old who, like Alvin Kamara, earned Rookie of the Year honors is part of a high-powered Kansas City offense that is playing as well as any unit in the AFC. The Chiefs may set offensive records before the end of the year.
5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers trade for Jason Pierre-Paul
The New York Giants had to free-up some future salary cap space before the start of the 2018 regular season, so trading defense end Jason Pierre-Paul to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a third-round pick in March made sense. That is now a one-sided trade the Bucs won even if Tampa Bay does not do anything of note come January. JPP was averaging a sack per game as of six contests into the season, and the 29-year-old has been worth the investment. While one should not blame the Giants for looking at the reality of the team’s cap situation, the New York front office probably wishes it got more in return for JPP.
4 New England Patriots trade for Cordarrelle Patterson
Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was never going to be long for the Oakland Raiders, so Oakland trading him and a sixth-round pick to the New England Patriots for a fifth-round pick in March 2018 wasn’t all that surprising. Patterson probably won’t ever become the top target for Tom Brady, and it’s possible he won’t even be part of the franchise next March. Patterson found the end zone three times in the first seven games of the season, and he has given the Patriots yet another weapon on offense and in the return game. New England is a win-now franchise, and this one-sided trade is another example of how the Pats are playing chess when others around the NFL are playing checkers.
3 Philadelphia Eagles trade for draft pick used on Carson Wentz
The Philadelphia Eagles went all-in on Carson Wentz in 2016, sending a boatload of draft picks to the Cleveland Browns for the rights to move up and draft the signal-caller. By 2017, Wentz was worth every one of those selections and maybe 15 more, as he played like an NFL MVP candidate until a torn ACL ended his season before the start of the playoffs. The Eagles may be going through a bit of a Super Bowl hangover in 2018, but that doesn’t make this trade any less one-sided. The Browns absolutely could have had a franchise QB two years before the team drafted Baker Mayfield.
2 Kansas City Chiefs trade for draft pick used on Patrick Mahomes
One has to wonder if the Buffalo Bills would happily return the trio of draft picks sent to them by the Kansas City Chiefs so that the Chiefs could move up in the 2017 NFL Draft, select Patrick Mahomes, and then stash Mahomes on the bench up until the start of the 2018 campaign. Mahomes may be the NFL MVP for the first seven weeks of the year, and he could be on pace to throw 50 touchdowns by the halfway point of the campaign. The 23-year-old is a joy to watch for casual viewers, not to mention for passionate Chiefs fans who are enjoying cheering on the best offense in the AFC.
1 Chicago Bears trade for Khalil Mack
The Chicago Bears gave the Oakland Raiders a pair of first-round draft picks and a couple of other selections to the Oakland Raiders for Khalil Mack before signing Mack to a contract extension. Perhaps the Raiders will use those future selections wisely, win a Super Bowl before 2023 and be the big winners of this deal. As of October 2018, though, this looks like a historically one-sided trade that resulted in the Bears acquiring a Defensive Player of the Year candidate who may just be entering his physical prime. Whether or not the Raiders are tanking this season is irrelevant. This trade just appears to be an awful decision made by Jon Gruden.