We don’t see blockbuster trades in the National Football League every year, largely because each franchise has to stay within a hard salary cap as it pertains to building rosters. For the most part, major NFL trades that occur before or even during a season involve draft picks that will hopefully allow a club to acquire someone who could become a franchise-changing player. The league has a long history of teams moving up in draft classes in order to take highly-rated quarterbacks, but not all of those moves have been successful. You may remember the Cleveland Browns moved up during the second half of the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft to take Johnny Manziel. While that wasn’t a horribly one-sided trade, it nevertheless remains a decision that ended poorly for Cleveland.
All four of the teams in the NFC East are spotlighted in the list of what has to be considered 15 of the most one-sided NFL trades of the 21st century. The New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles both won and won big during the first decade of the century by taking risks and pulling triggers on trades that made national headlines. Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys twice whiffed on such deals. Last but not least among those four clubs is the Washington Redskins, a team that is seemingly just now bouncing back from its worst trade of the decade but also one that is refusing to pay its current franchise QB the money he deserves for reasons that make little sense to those of us who don’t work for the team.
15 New York Giants Trade for Eli Manning
The 2004 NFL Draft class was stacked with quarterbacks, and the first two taken off the big board were Eli Manning and Philip Rivers. Manning, famously, didn’t want to play for the San Diego Chargers, and, thus, the Chargers used the first overall pick to select him before trading him to the New York Giants.
San Diego eventually ended up with Rivers, linebacker Shawne Merriman, kicker Nate Kaeding, offensive tackle Roman Oben and zero Super Bowl appearances over the past 13 years. The Giants, on the other hand, landed a two-time Super Bowl MVP, a pair of championship seasons and the best QB in franchise history. Sure, Rivers has been a fantasy-football hero during his impressive career, but there’s little question Big Blue walked away the winner of this one-sided trade.
14 Arizona Cardinals Trade for Carson Palmer
Back in April 2013, it seemed as if quarterback Carson Palmer was in the closing stages of his career only two years after the Oakland Raiders spent a first- and second-round pick to acquire him from the Cincinnati Bengals. Oakland decided it wise to end the experiment and send Palmer, along with a late draft pick, to the Arizona Cardinals for a sixth-round selection and a conditional draft pick.
Palmer, of course, quickly showed he still had plenty left in the tank, and he even picked up an MVP vote for his work during the 2015 campaign. The Raiders currently have a stellar young QB in Derek Carr leading the team’s offense, but it’s safe to assume the franchise wishes it would’ve retrieved a little more compensation in this trade.
13 Cleveland Browns Trade for Jamie Collins
This one is rather peculiar, if only because it features the Cleveland Browns making a smart trade and the New England Patriots apparently shipping off a Pro-Bowl caliber talent for nearly nothing. During the 2016 regular season, the Patriots traded linebacker Jamie Collins to the Browns for a third-round compensatory pick. The idea, at the time, was that Collins supposedly wanted to obtain a massive pay raise from the Patriots once his rookie contract expired at the end of the season.
Per Spotrac, though, Collins eventually put pen to paper on a deal with the Browns worth only $26,400,000 guaranteed. Even better for both sides, they could elect to part ways after only two years. New England often gets little wrong, but this is a one-sided trade even if Collins fails to play like a Superstar for the Browns.
12 Dallas Cowboys Trade for Joey Galloway
As you will see, it seems the Dallas Cowboys should probably think twice before making a major trade for a big-name wide receiver. Back in the first year of the 21st century, the Cowboys dealt a pair of first-round selections to the Seattle Seahawks for wideout Joey Galloway. Galloway suffered a torn ACL in his first official contest with the club, and he never proved to be worth anything close to the value Dallas sent to Seattle in the initial trade before the Cowboys traded him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
While the Seahawks have won the Conference Championship on three occasions since making the trade with Dallas, the Cowboys still have yet to represent the NFC in any Super Bowl during the current century.
11 Atlanta Falcons Trade for Tony Gonzalez
Tony Gonzalez was already one of the best tight ends in the NFL in April 2009 when the Kansas City Chiefs sent him to the Atlanta Falcons for a second-round draft pick. All things considered, this may very well be the most one-sided NFL trade involving a tight end in league history. Gonzalez showed he was still capable of dominating during games throughout his five-year tenure with the Falcons, and he caught 83 passes and had eight touchdowns during his final season in 2013.
Looking back at the numbers Gonzalez posted with the Falcons, Kansas City easily should have demanded no fewer than a pair of first-round picks for who will be remembered as arguably the greatest tight end to ever play the position.
10 Seattle Seahawks Trade For Deion Branch
Back in the summer of 2006, New England Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch skipped the team’s mini-camp, training camp and preseason games as he attempted to negotiate a new contract with the club. The Patriots refused to budge, though, and the two sides remained separated up through the start of the regular season until New England traded Branch to the Seattle Seahawks for a first-round selection.
Branch failed to post 1,000 receiving yards during any season while with the Seahawks, and salt was poured into that open wound when he returned to the Patriots in October 2010 and then performed admirably during games. Decisions such as this make it easy to see how the Patriots have become a dynasty and the best overall franchise in the NFL this century.
9 Philadelphia Eagles Acquire Terrell Owens
Critics can say whatever they want about all that wide receiver Terrell Owens did and didn’t do during his stint with the Philadelphia Eagles. Philadelphia essentially gave up a conditional draft pick and defensive end Brandon Whiting to acquire Owens in a three-team deal, and that move nearly resulted in the Eagles winning a championship. Owens heroically came back from a serious leg injury earlier than expected to start for Philadelphia versus the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX, and the outspoken wideout finished that contest with nine catches and 122 receiving yards.
His performance would’ve been MVP-worthy had the Eagles defeated the Patriots, and that single game makes this trade a one-sided win for Philadelphia even if Owens left the club after the 2005 season.
8 Buffalo Bills Trade Marshawn Lynch
Running back Marshawn Lynch may have appeared at certain press events only to avoid being fined throughout his time with the Seattle Seahawks, but that doesn’t mean the Seahawks didn’t win the one-sided trade the club made with the Buffalo Bills in October 2010. Seattle spent only a fourth-round pick and a conditional selection in order to land a running back who rushed for over 1,200 yards every year between 2011 and 2014.
Lynch also helped the Seahawks win a Super Bowl title, and he probably would’ve been the MVP of Super Bowl XLIX had the Seahawks handed the ball to him at the one-yard line during the final minute of that historic showdown with the New England Patriots. Simply put, the Bills were robbed in this trade.
7 Dallas Cowboys Trade For Roy Williams
In February 2016, Cameron DaSilva of Fox Sports listed this as the worst trade ever made by the Dallas Cowboys. DaSilva may have had a point. During the 2008 regular season and before that year’s league trade deadline, the Cowboys shipped a trio of draft picks, including a first-round selection, to the Detroit Lions for wide receiver Roy Williams, and the Cowboys then attached over $20 million in guaranteed money on Williams.
Williams found the end zone only 13 times during his time with the Cowboys, and Dallas gave up on him in the summer of 2011. Detroit failed to turn any of the picks acquired from Dallas into an All-Pro, but tight end Brandon Pettigrew, selected by the Lions in the first round of the 2009, gave his team way more than Williams gave the Cowboys.
6 Oakland Raiders Trade Jon Gruden
It's a safe bet this trade will be mentioned whenever it's even hinted an NFL team could trade its head coach to a different franchise. Following the 2001 season, the Oakland Raiders allowed Jon Gruden to complete a move to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Oakland landed a pair of first-round picks, a pair of second-round selections and also $8 million in cash via that transaction.
That trade proved to burn Oakland more than anybody probably imagined at the time. Not only did Gruden go on to lead the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl berth and a championship. Gruden and the Bucs defeated none other than the Raiders to the tune of 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII. As of the summer of 2017, the Raiders haven’t yet made a return to the Super Bowl.
5 Baltimore Ravens Trade Up For Kyle Boller
Those of you who consider yourself a hater of the New England Patriots may want to just skip this portion of the piece. As SB Nation’s Christian D’Andrea explained earlier this year, the Patriots came together with the Baltimore Ravens in 2003 for a trade that allowed Baltimore to move up to select quarterback Kyle Boller.
Drafting Boller ended up being a decision that set the Ravens back multiple years, and he serves as a reminder Baltimore fans should feel blessed Joe Flacco is currently the team’s quarterback. The Patriots, meanwhile, eventually turned the original transaction into future Hall-of-Fame defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and also Eugene Wilson and Dan Klecko. Once again, Bill Belichick was the smartest man in the room while dealing with a conference rival.
4 Washington Redskins Move Up For RG3
By now, much has been written and said about the rise and fall of quarterback Robert Griffin III during his time with the Washington Redskins after the Redskins sent a trio of first-round picks and a second-round selection to the franchise known at the time as the St. Louis Rams for the rights to draft RG3.
You may, however, not know all the Rams got for the QB who ultimately flamed out with the Redskins. The now Los Angeles Rams turned that trade into Michael Brockers, Stedman Bailey, Alec Ogletree, Greg Robinson, Zac Stacy and Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins, the best of those players, made a move to the New York Giants in March 2016, but that doesn’t change the fact the Rams unquestionably won this trade with Washington.
3 Cleveland Browns Trade Pick Used For Julio Jones
The Cleveland Browns have largely been a disaster since returning to the NFL in 1999, in part because of decisions such as the one those running the franchise made in 2011. Cleveland traded the sixth overall pick of that year’s draft to the Atlanta Falcons, and the Falcons used that selection to grab wide receiver Julio Jones.
Jones has since established himself as possibly the best receiver in the game today, while the Browns turned this trade into five, count ‘em, five busts. Phil Taylor, Greg Little, Owen Marecic, Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson were all flops with the Browns, but at least Richardson would go on to be involved in an even worse trade years down the road. It turns out even the Browns can get something right now and again.
2 Indianapolis Colts Trade For Trent Richardson
History will always remember the Cleveland Browns messed things up by using a pair of first-round picks, one of which was gifted to them by the Indianapolis Colts for running back Trent Richardson in October 2013, on cornerback Justin Gilbert and quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Nevertheless, this remains one of the most one-sided NFL trades of the century because of what the Colts gave up to obtain a player who provided little positive to the club. Richardson rushed for a paltry 3.1 yards per carry during his time with the Colts, and the team cut him in March 2015. Had the Colts shown just a little patience, the franchise could’ve waited and used a second- or third-day draft pick to take Devonta Freeman during the 2014 NFL Draft. Whoops.
1 Oakland Raiders Trade Randy Moss
We’re sorry, Oakland Raiders fans. This will forever be seen as one of the most one-sided trades in the history of North American professional sports. In April 2007, the Raiders traded wide receiver Randy Moss to the New England Patriots for the 110th overall selection in that year’s draft.
Essentially, Christmas came early for Moss and the Patriots. Moss solidified his status as a future Hall-of-Famer by setting records as a member of New England’s offense in 2007, he helped the Patriots win 18 straight games and secure a perfect record as of the start of Super Bowl XLII, he scored a go-ahead touchdown versus the New York Giants late in that match-up, and he nearly reeled-in a potential game-winner in the final minute of the contest. Every General Manager dreams of pulling off such a successful transaction.
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