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Top 15 Biggest NFL Trades In Recent Memory

The 2016 offseason featured many interesting trades that will surely be talked about to death over the next decade. For example, the Carson Wentz deal. If he works out, the Eagles will constantly be p

The 2016 offseason featured many interesting trades that will surely be talked about to death over the next decade. For example, the Carson Wentz deal. If he works out, the Eagles will constantly be praised for taking a necessary risk. They’ll be praised for seeing the talent in a player when few else did. The Browns, conversely, will be chastised for once again failing to properly scout the quarterback position.

On the other hand, if Wentz fails, the Browns will be lauded for showing restraint and patience. They let things come to them and took advantage of an opportunity. The Eagles will be criticized for giving up on their talented roster after on poor season to take a flyer on a mediocre quarterback.

Regardless of the outcome of the trade, it will provide talking points until the end of time. Trades are a naturally interesting topic. This article will go back through some of the biggest trades that bold NFL franchises have made over the past several years, that will be talked about for years to come.

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15 The Bills Trade Up for Watkins

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo made one of the most surprising moves of the 2014 draft when they traded up with the Browns for the fourth overall pick to select wide receiver Sammy Watkins. The move was shocking because this draft class was potentially the deepest wide receiver class of all-time. They could have stayed at ninth overall, kept their 2015 first round pick, and drafted the second or third best receiver. Providing no other trades were made that would have left them with Odell Beckham Jr., who's been light years ahead of Watkins.

Though, it still worked out just fine for the Bills. Watkins has been what was promised. In his rookie year, he came just 18 yards shy of hitting the 1,000 receiving yards mark; an insanely impressive accomplishment for a rookie. In his sophomore year, he managed to eclipse the milestone despite missing several games.

The Browns were highly praised for the trade. However, they failed to capitalize properly with the picks received. They took Justin Gilbert after using the Bills’ pick to move back up to 8th overall. Just two years later, Gilbert was traded away to the division rival Steelers for next to nothing.

With the Bills’ 2015 first round pick, the Browns selected Cameron Erving. The jury is still on the young offensive lineman.

14 Greg Olsen to Carolina 

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Greg Olsen came into the league in 2007 as the 31st overall pick by the Chicago Bears. Of course, tight ends being drafted in the first round is far from common, so it easy to say that Olsen had very high expectations.

Unfortunately, Olsen spent his first two years struggling to hold onto a spot in the starting lineup. Eventually, he did develop into a solid tight end, though perhaps not living up to his draft position.

Just four years into his career in 2011, Olsen was traded to the Panthers in exchange for a 2012 third round pick. It wasn’t long before Olsen became the top receiving target in Carolina. Four times he has eclipsed 800 receiving yards, better than any year he had in Chicago. His career high came in 2015 in which he had over 1,100 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns.

13 Darrelle Revis to the Buccaneers

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

This was a massive trade at the time, but looking back it’s easy to forget that Revis was ever a member of the Buccaneers.

Tampa Bay gave up their 13th overall pick as well as a 2014 fourth round pick in exchange for Jets’ shutdown corner. It was expected to take the defense to the next level. They already had two young stars in their front 7, Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy, so they just needed one in their secondary.

It did not work out as planned. Greg Schiano had a terrible year as head coach, winning just four games. He was fired in the offseason and replaced by long-time Bears head coach Lovie Smith; a coach well known for his defenses. However, Revis was not the type of player that he was looking for in his cornerbacks. In addition, he was set to make $16 million in 2014. So as a result of scheme and cap concerns, Revis was released the following offseason. Just one year after the team gave up their first round pick for him.

It is certainly worth noting that they Jets used that first round pick to select Sheldon Richardson. They also re-signed Revis just two years later.

12 Brandon Marshall to the Jets 

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Marshall has been one of the most dominating wide receivers over the course of his career. At 6’4” and 230 pounds, he can impose his will on any defensive back who has the misfortune of being tasked with covering him.

Typically, when teams have a player like that they’ll make sure to keep them at all costs. However, Marshall’s character concerns have cost him greatly over his career. Teams haven’t valued him nearly as much as what his talent suggests.

Over his career, he has been traded three times. The most recent coming in March of 2015, when the Jets acquired Marshall from the Bears for a fifth round pick. Granted, he had just hit 30 and was coming off the worst statistical season of his career, so it makes sense why his price was so low. However, it paid off in spades for the Jets as he ended up having a career year the next season, recording just over 1,500 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.

For what it’s worth, the Bears made out far better than expected in that trade. The 5th round pick from the Jets was used to select Adrian Amos; a safety who instantly became a quality starter for Chicago.

11 Nick Foles for Sam Bradford

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports/Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Foles took over the Eagles’ starting quarterback job just a few games into Chip Kelly’s first season in 2013 following an injury to Michael Vick. He immediately found success, infamously throwing 27 touchdowns compared to just 2 interceptions. Towards the end of the season, Kelly was asked if Foles was the quarterback of the future, he responded by claiming that he would be the starting quarterback “for the next 1,000 years.”

After a somewhat down year in 2014, where the Eagles finished 10-6 but failed to make the playoffs, Kelly took matters into his own hands to take the team to the next level. One of those moves was exchanging Nick Foles for Sam Bradford, a move that upset many Eagles fans. Foles did not play terribly well in 2014, but many weren’t ready to write off his historic 2013 season; they still viewed him as the future of the franchise.

On the other hand, everyone in St. Louis was tired of Sam Bradford. He was (and still is) a player that gets credit for having a ton of potential. The issue is he’s never able to capitalize on it.

Foles failed to work out in St. Louis, proving that 2013 was just a fluke. However, in addition to Foles, the Rams also received a second round pick. That pick was used in a package to move up to the first overall pick in 2016 to draft Jared Goff. So the trade wasn’t a total loss.

For Philadelphia, it’s hard to say the trade wasn’t a success. While Bradford didn’t work out for the team, they were able to flip him to the Vikings for a first round pick just before the start of the 2016 season.

10 Alex Smith to Kansas City 

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Smith was the first overall pick in 2005 by the San Francisco 49ers. His career was largely disappointing, but he did perform well enough to hold onto the starting job when healthy.

However, in 2012, Colin Kaepernick went off and led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance. He was instantly crowned as the team’s franchise quarterback and one of the best young players in the NFL, understandably.

Smith became expendable and the Chiefs made a play for the 28-year-old quarterback. They had to give up their second round pick in 2013, as well as a conditional pick the following year (which ended up becoming another second round pick).

Looking back, it’s easy to say that Kansas City got the better of this trade. Alex Smith hasn’t been lighting the world on fire, but he is certainly good enough to keep the Chiefs in contention in the AFC.

On the other hand, San Francisco got a solid return. They turned their two second round picks into Carlos Hyde, Chris Bortland, Stevie Johnson, Tank Carradine, and Corey Lemonier. Though, the group would look far better had Bortland elected to stay in the NFL. Even still, there is no chance San Francisco would have made this trade had they known Kaepernick would lose the starting job to Blaine Gabbert in a few years.

9 Vontae Davis to Indianapolis

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Vontae Davis was drafted by the Dolphins at the tail end of the first round in 2009. The 21-year-old corner was raw, but full of potential. He was coupled with the team’s second round pick, Sean Smith, who formed one of the leagues youngest and most dominant corner tandems.

However, over the next two seasons, Vontae Davis did not progress as expected. He failed to build off of his rookie season and continued to make mistakes that weren’t expected of a player in his second year, and certainly not in his third. As a result, the Dolphins decided to cut ties with the still-promising corner, betting that he would never be able to take the next step.

Indianapolis decided to part with their second round pick to take a shot on Davis. The risk paid off in spades for the team, as the defensive back did manage to get it together. He started rapidly progressing and quickly looked like a true NFL star.

It can be easy to fault Miami for giving up on their first round pick so quickly, but that is an unfair evaluation. All signs point towards that trade being a wakeup call for Davis. Had Miami elected to keep him, it’s very likely he would have continued to regress.

8 Chandler Jones for Jonathan Cooper

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports/Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

This move went down with surprisingly little attention. The Patriots chose to trade away one of their most effective pass rushers for a guard selected in the top 10 just a couple years ago as well as a second round pick.

It was a major move for the Cardinals. They have put together one of the most dominate back 7s in the NFL. However, they were strongly lacking a talented pass rusher to tie everything together. Players like Jones seldom become available and they team took advantage of opportunity.

From the Patriots side, they questioned whether they would have the resources to re-sign all their talented young defenders. They decided to trade away one now for a significant return instead of having someone leave next year for free. They also needed draft picks as they had lost their first round pick in the 'Deflategate' scandal.

This is a rare trade in that it appears to be very balanced at first glance. It will be very interesting to see how it unfolds over the next several years.

7 The Vikings Trade for Sam Bradford 

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Coming out of the offseason, the Vikings had Super Bowl aspirations. They had their franchise quarterback, a Hall of Fame running back, and an elite defense. However, all their hopes were dashed when Teddy Bridgewater suffered the most brutal injury in recent memory. Not only is he done for the year, but there are serious questions as to whether he can be the same player coming back.

With only a week until the start of the season, the Vikings made a risky move. They managed to pry Sam Bradford away from the Eagles; the quarterback that the Eagles were set to roll with for the 2016 season. It wasn’t cheap, of course, but a bold move was required if they wanted to keep their hopes alive.

For the Eagles, it wasn’t the plan, but you have to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. They were offered a first round pick for a player they 100% were not going to commit to going forward. Plus, Wentz looked solid during the offseason and the front office was undoubtedly looking forward to seeing him in action. It also seems to be working out for the Vikings, as Sam Bradford was terrific agains the Packers in week two.

6 Jimmy Graham for Max Unger and a First

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being a tight end, Jimmy Graham put up numbers on par with the NFL’s elite receivers. In 2011, he recorded over 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns. In 2013, he recorded 1,200 and led the league with 16 touchdowns.

However, a massive dispute over Graham’s position caused a falling-out with the franchise. Graham felt he was really a slot receiver instead of a tight end. While it seems small at first glance, that difference significantly effects his compensation under the franchise tag; a difference of over $5 million.

An independent arbitrator ruled in favor of the Saints, but the damage was still done. The Saints made him available and ended up trading him to the Seahawks for Max Unger and their first round selection.

For the Seahawks, they had already built one of the most strongest teams in the league. Now, there were looking to establish a dynasty. Adding one of the greatest receiving tight ends in history looked like an amazing move forward. Unfortunately, injuries have prevented Graham from being what many have expected in Seattle so far. And, they also moved a valuable piece of their known underperforming offensive line.

5 Carson Palmer to the Cardinals

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Carson Palmer had quite the ride in the middle of his career. He was the first overall pick in 2003 by the Bengals. He quickly established himself as one of the league’s best quarterbacks. However, Palmer grew disgruntled with the franchise after nearly a decade with the team and requested a trade.

The team initially rejected his request, given that they had just recently rewarded him with a long-term contract. Though, the Raiders were eventually able to pry him away after offering a deal too good to refuse.

In Oakland, Palmer proved that he wasn’t the same player due to several injuries. As a result, the Cardinals were able to acquire him for effectively nothing. This will likely go down as one of the biggest trade steals off all time. In three years so far, Palmer has been producing like he did in his prime. He has led the team to consistent success over his tenure and has his team in position to make a strong run at the Super Bowl in 2016.

Quarterbacks capable of leading a team to the Super Bowl are hard to come by. It’s insanely expensive to even get a shot at having one. The Cardinals managed to pick theirs up off the scrap heap.

4 Trent Richardson for a First Round Pick

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Never has the general consensus on a trade flipped so harshly so quickly.

Trent Richardson was selected by the Browns with the 3rd overall pick in 2012. He was instantly crowned as the next Adrian Peterson and the perfect first step in the Browns rebuilding effort. His first season was promising. He came just 50 yards shy of the 1,000 yard mark; an impressive feat for a rookie back. He also logged 12 total touchdowns. While his YPC was far from impressive, just 3.6, most people attributed that to all the goal line carries he got.

However, just two games into his sophomore season, the Browns elected to trade him to the Colts in exchange for their first round pick. Cleveland fans were in a panic as the team had just traded a player they felt was the cornerstone of their offense for a likely late 1st round selection. It didn’t make sense at all, it seemed like the Browns were self-destructing now that they finally seemed to be on the upswing.

It took about a month before everyone realized Trent Richardson wasn’t actually good at football. He had incredibly poor vision and just couldn’t pick the right lane to run through. It seems like that should be an easy fix, but all of his coaches failed to correct him.

In total, Indianapolis only had Richardson for two years before cutting him.

3 The Rams Trade up for Goff

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Rams spent the offseason claiming they were comfortable with Case Keenum moving forward. Absolutely nobody believed them. However, after not making a play for a quarterback in free agency, everyone started to think they might be serious.

They shocked many when they moved up to the first overall pick from 15th. Initially, many thought they were getting Carson Wentz, however they quickly corrected that. They made it clear that Jared Goff was going to be their selection. While Wentz was considered a better passer, Goff was regarded as having the better brain and therefore would be more NFL ready.

The move drew criticism from many who felt that neither quarterback in this class deserved to be a top five pick. It felt like a team that made the move out of desperation. At the same time, others felt that the Rams had to make a move this year, less they risk wasting the prime years off all their young superstars.

2 LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports/Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Chip Kelly’s offense is a hurry up, no-huddle offense that historically had only been used when teams are against the clock. As a result, they are largely associated with a pass-heavy attack.

However, Kelly’s approach to offense focused on the running game. Being able to consistently and effectively run the ball was far and away the most vital aspect of his system. It came as a massive surprise when he decided to move on from his All-Pro running back, LeSean McCoy, a player that had been the most effective offensive player on a team that dominated defenses.

He was traded for Kiko Alonso; a linebacker who came very close winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 2013. He was only made available because he suffered a significant knee injury the following season and missed the entire year. There were questions as to his ability to say healthy long term.

As this stage, the Bills clearly got the best of the trade. McCoy understandably doesn’t look as good as he did in his prime, but he is still one of the best running backs in the NFL. Conversely, Alonso looks small, slow, and incapable of overpowering anyone. He was just awful in 2015. In fact, the Eagles elected to move on from him just a year later.

1 A King’s Ransom for RGIII

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The 2012 draft was praised as having the deepest quarterback class in ages. Andrew Luck was practically inducted into the Hall of Fame before the Colts even selected him. Robert Griffin III had the skill to be the 1st overall pick in any other draft class. In fact, there were some rumors that the Colts were considering him over Luck (though no one actually believed them).

The Rams with the second overall pick already took Sam Bradford just two years ago. He had a highly impressive rookie season, but struggled with injuries in his second. The Rams were still very high on him and made the second overall pick available as a result.

The Redskins elected to move up from the 6th overall pick, giving up three first round picks and a 2nd. It was massive bounty to give up, but many considered it worth it for a franchise quarterback.

Surprisingly though, the trade didn’t really work out for either team. After winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, Griffin had injuries take over and they derailed his career. The Redskins ended up giving up on him half way through his third season.

On the other side, the Rams failed to do much with the picks obtained. They ended up receiving Michael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins, Isaiah Pead, Rokevious Watkins, Alec Ogletree, Stedman Bailey, Zac Stacy, and Greg Robinson. It certainly isn’t the worst group of players, but far from the results you would expect from three first round picks (including the second overall pick) and a second round pick.

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Top 15 Biggest NFL Trades In Recent Memory