Every year in the NFL, there are a plethora of “almost trades.” These are trades that are either heavily rumored or actually almost went through but were shut down at the last moment for whatever reason. The NFL has more “almost trades” than perhaps any league and it certainly has more trades involving players for draft picks. Big star for star trades rarely happen in the NFL, but luckily there are plenty of those in the “almost trade” category.
You’d be surprised how willing some teams are to dump their top talent, especially young talent, to get draft picks or some washed up player that may not have been all that great anyway. For example, did you know the Dolphins thought about trading Marino in the prime of his career or that the Broncos thought about doing the same thing to Elway? Would you believe the Raiders were desperate to land a star quarterback in the early 90s? Probably. Would you believe that nobody really wanted Steve Young?
A lot of these trades sound crazy, like your buddy saying how great it would be if the Texans traded J.J. Watt to the Patriots for Tom Brady. It’s not hard to see why some of these trades didn’t go down. At the same time, a few of these do make sense, at least they would have at the time.
Either way, it’s fun to wonder what would have happened if these trades went down. It’s enough to make anyone with a decent knowledge of Photoshop drool at the possibilities. Here’s our list of the Top 15 Incredible NFL Trades That Almost Happened.
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15 Eagles Send Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy and Picks to the Buccaneers for Marcus Mariota
In 2015, after head coach Chip Kelly managed to wrangle full control of the Eagles, the team was desperate to find a new quarterback. Many speculated that quarterback would be Marcus Mariota, his former protégé at Oregon. The only problem was Mariota would likely go #2 in the draft that year to the Titans and they weren’t interested in a trade.
The solution was to trade with Tampa Bay, the holders of the #1 pick. Pat Yasinskas at ESPN broke the story about the trade. The Eagles would give Tampa Bay QB Nick Foles, RB LeSean McCoy, and a whopping three first-round draft picks in exchange for the #1 pick, and thus Marcus Mariota.
Yasinskas would go on to say that he spoke to members of the Bucs who denied the rumors. However, the trade would have made sense, considering how badly Chip Kelly was looking for a new quarterback.
In the end, the team failed to get Mariota but still got rid of both Foles and McCoy in separate trades.
14 Michael Turner to the Titans in 2007
There aren’t many details known about this one. We know that the Titans were looking for a running back in 2007 after cutting Travis Henry and the Chargers back-up Michael Turner looked like the perfect candidate. Behind LaDainian Tomlinson, he rushed for 500 yards in 2006.
The following offseason, teams from across the NFL made inquiries into picking up the running back. The one everyone heard about was the Titans, who came close to getting him in a trade in the draft in 2007. It was reported that Chargers GM AJ Smith was looking for a first and third round pick for Turner, which was too high for him back then.
Likely for that reason, the trade fell through on draft day. The Chargers gave Turner a one year deal. He played that year for the Chargers before becoming a star in Atlanta the next year as a free agent. The Titans, meanwhile, got a good year out of LenDale White before drafting Chris Johnson in 2008.
13 Brandon Marshall Forces His Way to the Patriots?
Brandon Marshall is one of those players that can’t seem to stay in any one place for long. Sometimes it’s not his fault, but sometimes he facilitates things. Such is the case prior to the 2014 season, when Marshall says he was almost traded to the Patriots.
“I could have played for the Patriots last year,” Marshall told ESPN after the 2014 season. “There was an opportunity where there probably could have [been] a trade before the season.”
There were rumors that Marshall was unhappy with his situation in Chicago and that the Bears were looking to trade him before he hit free agency in 2015. The team were in contract talks with the star wide receiver, but tension started to grow when the Bears offered him less money than he thought he was worth. He asked the team about a trade and the Patriots expressed interest.
For whatever reason, the deal didn’t happen, and Marshall played one more season with the Bears before being traded to the Jets for a measly seventh round pick.
12 Adrian Peterson to the Cowboys in 2015
In September 2014, Peterson was indicted on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child, after he beat his son with a branch. He played only one game that season and it was reported that Peterson was angry at the Vikings for allowing the NFL to keep him out so long. It was rumored that he was seeking a trade to the Cowboys, something that didn't seem like a joke given Jerry Jones’s willingness to sign criminals to his team.
And those rumors were actually true. Jerry Jones publicly stated that he’d be willing to look into the trade and even hinted at wanting to trade a first round pick for the running back. It’s hard to tell how serious the trade talks were, but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Jones strongly considered it.
That being said, it’s not so difficult to see why the trade fell through. The Vikings didn’t want to trade Peterson, he just turned 30 years old at the time, and the Cowboys were already getting close to going over the cap.
11 DeSean Jackson and Darrelle Revis to the Niners in the Same Year
In 2014, a year before Chip Kelly got full control over the Eagles, he still found a way to get rid of their top receiver DeSean Jackson. While he actually went to Washington, he was almost a 49er. The 49ers were a great team back then and many thought they were one star wide receiver away from finally winning a Super Bowl.
Another potential trade involved Tampa Bay corner Darrelle Revis, who was under performing with the team since they signed him. Once again, the 49ers expressed interest in making a trade to shore up their already great secondary.
Unfortunately for 49ers fans, neither deal happened. Jackson went to Washington and Revis eventually made his way back to the Jets. The 49ers meanwhile collapsed that year and coach Jim Harbaugh would be gone after the season.
You know, the NFL is a small place. Speaking of Jim Harbaugh and Chip Kelly…
10 The Browns Almost Got Jim Harbaugh
As early as the end of the 2013 season, there were rumors that the 49ers front office weren’t happy with their star, nearly Super Bowl winning head coach. That all came to a head after the 2014 season when Harbaugh left to coach at Michigan. He was eventually replaced by the very same Chip Kelly that tried to unload DeSean Jackson to the team funny enough.
But at the start of the 2014 season, the 49ers were seriously considering unloading their rowdy coach. There were rumors that the team was looking to trade him. Pro Football Talk were the first to break the story that the Cleveland Browns were almost his landing spot.
The Browns would have got a great head coach, and the 49ers would have got “multiple draft picks,” though it’s not said how many or of what quality. What sunk the deal ultimately was Harbaugh himself, who apparently had a no trade clause in his contract.
If this trade went through, the NFL (and college football) could be radically different, even today. Harbaugh could still be in the NFL, Chip Kelly might be the one going to Michigan, the Browns might not be so awful, and Johnny Manziel might be the next Tom Brady while still in Cleveland.
9 John Elway a Charger?
It’s no secret that John Elway didn’t want to play for the Colts in 1983. Regardless, the Colts drafted him anyway, and Elway was ready to play baseball if he didn’t get dealt. We all know he was eventually sent to the Broncos, but did you know he almost ended up playing for Denver’s rivals, the Chargers?
Elway wanted to stay in California and the Chargers were his number one pick. They had three first-round picks that year, including the #5 overall pick. The team made several offers to the Colts, but none of them included that #5 pick, which the Colts wanted. For that reason alone, the deal fell through, and the Colts looked to other teams.
Chargers owner Gene Klein, who was involved in the trade talks, said the pick was “never really a factor,” and that Baltimore’s (remember, the Colts were still in Baltimore back then) demands were “absolutely excessive.”
The Chargers had to make due with an aging Dan Fouts and 10th round pick Bruce Mathison, who threw all of five passes with the team in two years.
8 Steve Young to Be Shipped to the Cardinals or Packers
Before he was a Hall of Fame quarterback getting an imaginary monkey ripped off his back, Steve Young was kind of terrible. In two years with the Bucs, he had a touchdown to interception ratio of 11 to 21. He showed some flashes, but the Bucs weren’t the right team for him. In 1987, the team drafted Vinny Testaverde, making Young expendable.
The two teams that expressed interest in Young before the draft were the St. Louis Cardinals and the Packers. A trade didn’t happen before the draft though, leaving Young in limbo. Packers head coach Forrest Gregg said the Bucs asking price was too steep, which the Cardinals likely agreed with.
Eventually, the 49ers traded for Young, something they almost regretted a few years later as you’ll soon see. The Packers ended up struggling for a few years before trading for Brett Favre in 1992, while the Cardinals… let’s just say they probably still regret their decision to this day.
7 Aaron Rodgers for Randy Moss
This is one trade that would have truly have changed everything. The Raiders could have been good, Brett Favre could have retired a Packer, the Packers could have won a Super Bowl, the Patriots might not have gone to the Super Bowl at all. If only one simple trade were made in 2007.
Back then, Aaron Rodgers was a back-up quarterback to inevitable Hall of Famer Brett Favre, and Randy Moss was coming off his second miserable season in Oakland. After the Raiders made it known the wide receiver was on the trading block, Favre lobbied the Green Bay front office to go after him.
The Green Bay offense wasn’t going anywhere, their two best players being quarterbacks, one of whom never saw the field. It made sense to trade Rodgers for the star receiver. However, Packers GM Ted Thompson wanted more than just Randy Moss. He also wanted Oakland’s #1 overall pick, which the Raiders weren’t willing to trade.
Instead, the Raiders used the pick on JaMarcus Russell and traded Moss to the Patriots. Favre started his Retirement Waffle Shop the following year, making Rodgers the Packers starting quarterback.
6 Joe Montana Trade Possibilities in 1993
It’s hard to remember Joe Montana playing football in the early 90s, but it happened. Just not in a 49er uniform. Instead, he finished his career as a Kansas City Chief, never playing up to the level he was once at. But the Chiefs weren’t the only one who were interested in the older QB.
Four other teams were interested in Montana, the most serious being the Tampa Bay Bucs and the Arizona Cardinals. Remember them from earlier?
The Bucs made the first move for Montana, which looked like a good fit. They had a ton of young talent and draft picks, and their head coach was Montana’s former offensive coordinator. Then the Cardinals made a strong move for him, offering the 49ers a first round pick, by far the highest pick offered. The other two teams were the Lions and Raiders, but Montana showed no interest in them.
In the end, it was up to Montana to decide where he wanted to go, and he chose Kansas City. The 49ers got a first round pick, and the Chiefs got Montana and safety David Whitmore.
5 Steve Young for Tim Brown
It’s funny how often Joe Montana, Steve Young, and the Raiders attempting to trade away a wide receiver appear on this list. If only we could combine them together… oh, a trade involving Young and Tim Brown in 1992? Okay!
In 1992, a year before the Montana trade, the Los Angeles Raiders desperately tried to acquire Steve Young from the 49ers. He was the league’s top rated passer from the previous year, but perhaps they figured the 49ers would go back to Joe Montana.
Even more bizarre, the Raiders thought they could get Young for as little as wide receiver Tim Brown. No offense to Brown, he is a Hall of Famer after all, but it would take a lot more than a wide receiver to get one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. They did seek to make the trade on draft day, so perhaps there were some picks involved we don’t know about. Still, it’s not hard to see why this trade never happened.
4 Terrell Owens and the 2004 Ravens Trade Debacle
Terrell Owens had a knack for creating drama. Leave it to him to create so much drama that it resulted in a grievance filed, two teams getting compensation thanks to an arbitrator, and a rare three team trade that left everyone involved much worse off.
The 49ers, who seem to have appeared in every entry on this list, were done with the diva wide out and traded him to the Ravens in 2004 for a second round draft pick. However, TO didn’t want to play for rookie quarterback Kyle Boller and wanted more money than what the Ravens would pay him.
His agent “accidentally” mixed up the deadline for when TO could void his contract with the 49ers and it was too late. He filed a grievance with the Players Association, however, using the mistake as the reason why he should be a free agent.
He wasn’t allowed to enter free agency, but he was traded elsewhere, to the Philadelphia Eagles where he was given a lot more money. The Ravens and 49ers ended up with some draft picks.
3 Fed up Steelers Try to Trade Ben Roethlisberger
This one sounds like total B.S. but there might be some weight to it. The story goes that by 2010, the Steelers were fed up with Ben Roethlisberger. He got in a motor cycle accident and almost died, and he was now accused of sexual assault and rape twice. They were so tired of him, in fact, they were looking to trade him.
Two teams came forward: the Rams and the Raiders.
The Steelers supposedly contacted the Rams first, but they weren’t interested in the two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback. Either they didn’t want to take the risk with Roethlisberger’s legal issues or they trusted rookie Sam Bradford. It was actually Bradford that the Steelers were after.
When that fell through, apparently rather quickly, the Steelers turned to the Raiders, who were reportedly the only other team remotely interested. The Steelers were interested in trading Roethlisberger and the #18 pick to Oakland for the #8 pick.
From here, the story goes cold. We’re not sure why it didn’t happen, but Roethlisberger stayed in Pittsburgh. Maybe the Steelers wanted Darrius Heyward-Bay instead of Johnnie Lee Higgins. They did sign him years later, after all.
2 John Elway to Washington Trade Halted by Jim Lachey
Apparently, Washington tried to trade for John Elway in 1991, much the same way the Browns are currently trying to trade for Cam Newton I suppose. But, according to former Washington GM Charley Casserly, it really did almost happen, kinda, sorta, maybe.
He states in an interview with The Washington Post that the front office talked to the Broncos about it almost on a whim. Surprisingly, the Broncos actually considered the offer, and asked for offensive tackle Jim Lachey amongst others. And you can assume, yes, Washington failed to get John Elway because they didn’t want to get rid of some guy named Jim Lachey.
Of course, Washington did go on to win the Super Bowl that year and John Elway won his Super Bowls well after the prime of his career. It’s still fun to think about how much better that Washington team could have been with Elway under center.
1 Dan Marino to, You Guessed it, The Raiders
The Dolphins finished the 1989 season with a mediocre 8-8 record, not what legendary coach Don Shula was used to. This was now four years in a row the Dolphins missed the playoffs, and Shula thought he needed to make a massive change to get things moving.
That change, he initially thought, was getting a new quarterback, meaning getting rid of Dan Marino.
It wasn’t just a thought either. Don Shula spoke to Raiders owner Al Davis about a trade, and talks progressed so far there was a verbal agreement in place. The deal looked like it was going to happen, but Shula got cold feet and upped the asking price twice. It was too much, even for Al Davis, and the deal fell through.
Dan Marino didn’t get traded and the Dolphins managed to win 12 games the following year. Still, Marino never won a Super Bowl in his time in the NFL and you have to wonder if that would still be the case playing for the silver and black.
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