The trade deadline in most major sports generates around the clock coverage and speculation. Blockbuster trades occur at the deadline and during free agency every season. The NFL breaks the mold in this regard. Impactful, risky trades involving players rarely transpire due to the complication of schemes and chemistry. More often than not, the most action occurs on draft day when teams package and exchange picks to maneuver around the board.
Of course, the allure of landing a key player sometimes overrides the inclination to play it safe. GMs face tricky obstacles with this task. They must approach deals fairly despite a transparent desire to outsmart their trade partner. There is bound to be a clear winner and loser as time unfolds.
This list covers the most lopsided dealings in the past decade. The year limit removes some of the most boneheaded trades of all time from contention. That means no Dallas dynasty built on the heels of the Herschel Walker gift that kept on giving. Mike Ditka trading his entire draft in order to pick his lovely bride, Ricky Williams, escapes judgment. Still, there are a handful of moves to dissect.
Here are the Top 15 Most One-Sided Trades of the Last 10 Years:
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15 Packers Trade Brett Favre to Jets (2008)
Green Bay suffered from an on-again, off-again relationship with Brett Favre for several seasons before finally pulling the trigger for the gunslinger. As Favre’s performance dipped (20 TDs, 29 INTs in 2005 and 18 TDs, 18 INTs in 2006), Brett continually mulled retirement. The Packers knew they had Aaron Rodgers waiting in the wings, so the team made the unenviable decision to rid themselves of the soap opera in 2008 – even after Favre’s return to form the previous season (28 TDs, 15 INTs). They shipped a future first-ballot Hall of Famer to New York for a conditional draft pick. Game, set, match for the Jets, right? New York ultimately lost the trade. Favre replenished the fan base with optimism and boosted ticket sales, but he failed the to make the playoffs in his lone season with New York. The Jets went 9-7, finishing third in the AFC East while Favre threw a league-high 22 interceptions. He moved on to lead Minnesota to the 2009 NFC Championship game. Green Bay used the conditional third round pick to move up and select Clay Matthews, who became their unquestioned leader on defense. The Packers won a Super Bowl in 2010. The Jets have shuffled through more several quarterbacks without sustained success.
14 Bucs Trade Jets a 1st and 4th for Darrelle Revis (2013)
Nobody won this trade immediately. Both the Jets and the Buccaneers struggled throughout the 2013 season. Darrelle Revis had previously made a name for himself as the best cornerback in the league. Strand a number one wide receiver on Revis Island for an afternoon and the player often came away looking worse than Tom Hanks in Cast Away. When Owner Woody Johnson refused to match Revis’ $16 million per year asking price, New York shipped the cornerback to Tampa Bay for a 2013 1st round pick and 2014 4th rounder. Revis’ man coverage skills never meshed with Tamps Bay’s zone coverage tendencies. He routinely seemed out of place with the team and they released him after only one year. Although New York’s secondary declined, and they whiffed on finding Revis’ replacement (Dee Milliner), the team turned the Bucs’ 1st round pick into Sheldon Richardson. To make matters worse for Tampa Bay, Revis reunited with his old team in 2015.
13 Seahawks Trade Max Unger and a 1st to Saints for Jimmy Graham (2015)
Jimmy Graham’s resurgence in week three and four of 2016 threaten to derail the perception of this lopsided trade. New Orleans traded an injury prone but explosive Graham to the Seahawks along with a fourth rounder in exchange for Max Unger (Center) and Seattle’s 31st overall pick in the 2015 Draft. The pre-draft trade sent shockwaves through the NFL. Fantasy players salivated, ready for Graham to propel Russell Wilson’s passing statistics through the roof. However, Graham didn’t find a prominent place in Seattle’s offensive attack. He served as a blocker (a subpar one) far more often than in his New Orleans years. Graham eventually tore his patellar tendon to end his underwhelming first season with the Seahawks. Their offensive line was, and still is, anemic. It cannot solely be attributed to Unger’s departure, but Seattle cannot protect Wilson. He’s already been injured twice this season due to relentless pressure. Although the Saints have struggled to win games, they signed Max Unger to an extension and used Seattle’s pick to select a solid linebacker, Stephone Anthony. The admittedly small sample size (20 games) leans in favor of New Orleans.
12 New England Ships Deion Branch to Seattle for a 1st rounder (2006)
After winning the Super Bowl MVP award in 2005, Deion Branch entered a stalemate with New England over a contract dispute. The Patriots responded by sending Branch to Seattle for a 1st round pick. As with Graham, Seattle celebrated the move as a great victory. Branch proved them right, but only for one season. He amassed 53 catches for 725 yards and four touchdowns as the Seahawks lost in the Divisional Round. Those numbers would be the highest season totals Branch ever reached in Seattle. By 2009, his statistics plummeted to 437 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The Seahawks gave up on their prized receiver, trading him back to New England in the middle of the 2010 season for a 4th round pick. He responded by putting up consecutive 700 yard receiving seasons, with five touchdowns. Branch was primarily a product of Brady and he didn’t have Brady in Seattle.
11 Dolphins Trade a 2nd round pick for Vikings’ Daunte Culpepper (2006)
After struggling through 2001 and 2002, Culpepper turned a corner for Minnesota in his fifth NFL season. He threw over 3,000 yards for the second consecutive year and had 25 touchdowns versus 11 interceptions. He kept his interception total the same in 2004, increasing his passing totals to 4,717 yards and 39 touchdowns. Disaster struck in 2005, when Culpepper tore every major ligament in his knee. Still rehabbing, he demanded Minnesota either trade or release him during the offseason. Miami offered a 2nd rounder for Culpepper in a move that proved disastrous. Daunte managed to throw for two touchdowns in four games before the Dolphins placed him on IR. When Miami traded for Trent Green the following year, Culpepper requested a release. Even worse than losing a valuable draft pick in exchange for a four game stint, Miami elected to trade for Culpepper rather than bid high on Drew Brees in free agency.
10 Eagles Trade LeSean McCoy to Bills for Kiko Alonso (2015)
Chip Kelly’s high-speed offense wasn’t the only exhausting part of his tenure in Philadelphia. He came in and cleaned house with little regard for the fan base or, in hindsight, for winning. Kelly’s most egregious error came when he traded his star running back for a young linebacker who missed 2014 with a torn ACL. From 2009 to 2014, McCoy had the NFL’s third-most rushing yards (6,792) and fourth-most rushing touchdowns (44). Alonso ranked third in the NFL in tackles during his rookie year and finished second in 2013’s Defensive Rookie of the Year race. He provided 11 games (one start), 43 combined tackles and one interception in 2015. Philadelphia fired Chip Kelly after the season and promptly rid themselves of most of his personnel decisions. They coupled Alonso with Byron Maxwell and the 13th overall pick to receive Miami’s 8th overall pick in the 2016 Draft. It all eventually led to Carson Wentz, deemed Philadelphia’s savior after three games, but that’s a different story. LeSean McCoy had a down year for Buffalo in 2015, but at least he’s still with the organization. Through four games this year, he’s matched his rushing touchdowns from the previous season. Alonso already has just five less combined tackles than 2015, albeit in a different uniform.
9 Seattle Swaps Three Picks for Percy Harvin (2013)
Percy Harvin, an electric talent, ran himself out of Minnesota thanks to durability issues and a cancerous personality. The Vikings rid themselves of Harvin in the nick of time, receiving 2013 first and seventh rounds picks, as well as a 2014 third round pick. Percy Harvin missed most of the 2013 season with a hip injury. He played in one regular season game and two postseason contests. Harvin’s signature moment with Seattle came during a Super Bowl victory against the Broncos. His kick return touchdown put the game on ice, but it’s his lone bright spot. Harvin’s playmaking abilities couldn’t make up for his attitude. One year after using three picks to land him, the Seahawks got rid of Harvin in a mid-season trade with the Jets and Harvin is now out of the league. The Vikings seem to have hit on two of three picks from the trade, as they selected Xavier Rhodes and Jerrick McKinnon with their haul from Seattle.
8 Colts Trade 1st Round Pick for Cleveland’s Trent Richardson (2013)
This story doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending for either team, but the win goes to Cleveland based on flexibility and foresight. The Browns traded their 2012 3rd overall pick, Trent Richardson, to Indianapolis after their second game in 2013. Many accused Cleveland of tanking, as fans and players alike questioned ownership’s commitment to winning. For the first time in recent history, the Browns knew what they were doing. Richardson played overweight and lethargically. He averaged 3.1 yards per carry and rushed for an abysmal 977 yards in 29 games with the Colts. The team admitted defeat and released him following the 2014 season. Richardson is now out of the league.
Cleveland managed to turn an embarrassing bust into an extra first round pick. This afforded them flexibility to make moves on draft day. Here’s the only issue: the Browns used the Colts’ first round pick (26th) and their own third round pick (83rd) to move up four spots to 22nd, where they selected Johnny Manziel. Even when the Browns win, they lose. At this point, we shouldn’t expect anything less.
7 Cowboys Trade Three Picks to Lions for Roy Williams (2008)
During Detroit’s 0-16 season, the team enjoyed at least one victory. Jerry Jones offered them an opportunity to rebuild in the 2009 Draft: a 1st, 3rd and 6th round pick. The Lions did not find any superstars with the extra selections, but did manage to pair tight end Brandon Pettigrew with their new quarterback, Matthew Stafford. The true damage comes from what transpired in Dallas. Not only did they surrender three picks, they also signed Williams to a wasteful five-year contract with $19.5 million guaranteed. He never posted more than 38 catches in a season and had only 1,324 receiving yards over three years in Dallas. The Cowboys managed a playoff victory in 2009, but didn’t return to the postseason again until 2014. Williams finished his career with the Chicago Bears in 2011.
6 Bills Trade Marshawn Lynch to Seattle for Two Mid-round Picks (2010)
The Seahawks finally won a trade. Beast Mode didn’t always call Seattle home. He put together consecutive 1,000-yard seasons for the Bills before running for only 614 yards and two touchdowns from 2009 to 2010. Due to character issues and a logjam at running back with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, Buffalo traded Lynch to Seattle for a 2011 4th round pick and a 2012 5th rounder. The Seahawks eventually won a Super Bowl, while Buffalo wound up selecting tackle Chris Hairston and linebacker Tank Carder. Neither plays for the team anymore. Carder didn’t make it past final roster cuts and never saw a down for the Bills. On the other hand, Lynch powered his way to four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons between 2011-2014. In six years with Seattle, he ran for 57 touchdowns. Spiller and Jackson combined for 37 rushing touchdowns during Lynch’s career with Seattle. Ironically, Jackson played for Seattle in his final year and Spiller caught a touchdown for the team last weekend.
5 Raiders Lure Carson Palmer out of Retirement (2011)
Carson Palmer grew tired of losing in 2011 and threatened to retire if Cincinnati didn’t trade him. It was clear Carson meant to go through with his threat, but the Bengals managed to turn his retirement into a first (2012) and second (2013) round pick. The Raiders erroneously believed Palmer could turn their franchise around and while he was serviceable for two seasons, he never lived up to the price. The Bengals hit on both picks from the trade, ending up with Dre Kirkpatrick and Giovani Bernard. The Raiders traded for Matt Flynn during the 2013 offseason and shipped Palmer to Arizona for a 6th and 7th round pick. Palmer has helped Arizona become a contender in the tail end of his career, much like Kurt Warner did. Cincinnati won, Oakland lost and Arizona became the league’s premier pre-retirement destination.
4 Dolphins Trade Wes Welker to Patriots (2007)
The Miami Dolphins pose one of the most intriguing alternate history scenarios in the NFL. Miami passed on Drew Brees in 2006 after doctors deemed his shoulder injury too serious. The team bombed with Daunte Culpepper instead. Nick Saban scurried away as quickly as possible to coach Alabama to several National Championships. The following year, Miami traded Wes Welker to New England for a 2nd and 7th round pick. What if they never traded Welker? What if the front office spurned doctors’ warnings and signed Brees. Would Saban, Brees and Welker have entered a decade-long battle for AFC East dominance against Brady and Belichick? The ripples from altering those two moves could have led to a completely different, almost unrecognizable league. Back to reality: Miami traded a young, promising receiver to the Patriots, who turned him into a reception machine. The Dolphins selected center Samson Satele with the 2nd round pick. He played his first two seasons (2007-2008) and his last (2014) with the organization. Welker has a ring, five 100-catch seasons and five 1,000-yard seasons.
3 Raiders Trade Randy Moss to Patriots for One Mid-round Pick (2007)
Wes Welker isn’t even the biggest name traded to New England in 2007. The Patriots worked out a draft day trade for Randy Moss, sending only a 4th round pick to Oakland in exchange for the disgruntled receiver. Moss had largely become a forgotten man in Oakland. His skills had seemingly eroded and he was languishing on an inferior team. Once in New England, he dusted himself off and caught a record 23 touchdown passes in 2007, hooking up with Tom Brady at will during the team’s 16-0 season. Moss managed two more 1,000-yard seasons with double digit touchdowns before wearing out his welcome in 2010. The Patriots shipped him to Minnesota mid-season for a third round pick. Moss stayed in the NFL until 2012, but never regained form. He retired after a 28-catch season with the 49ers. The Raiders’ draft day trade netted them cornerback John Bowie, who played two seasons in the NFL and registered two career tackles.
2 Redskins Trade up for RGIII (2012)
Washington has always loved to “win” the offseason. Big money acquisitions are Dan Snyder’s bread and butter, but the strategy has rarely led to a winning team on the field. One of the organization’s greatest risks paid off for exactly one year before blowing up in spectacular fashion. The Redskins mortgaged their future to move up for Robert Griffin III. In order to do so, they gave the Rams their 2012 1st round pick (6th), 2012 2nd round pick (39th), 2013 1st round pick (22nd), and 2014 1st round pick (2nd). RGIII won the Rookie of the Year and led Washington to the playoffs, but his season ended with a loss and a torn ACL. Griffin III began struggling with injuries and poor play. He ultimately lost his job to Kirk Cousins, who Washington drafted in the fourth round of the same draft as RGIII. Griffin III has since moved onto Cleveland and continues to find new ways to injure himself. The Rams used their haul to trade with other teams, eventually ending up with eight picks. The most notable selections include Michael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins, Alec Ogletree and Greg Robinson. When the Rams faced the Redskins in 2014, Jeff Fisher sent out six players directly related to the trade as captains. That’s one way to let a team know you bested them.
1 Rams Repeat Washington’s Mistakes for Jared Goff (2016)
Sometimes the student becomes the master. Other times, the student isn’t even involved and the master simply forgets everything they taught a mere four years prior. The Rams’ front office should know better than anyone how trading the team’s future for a quarterback could backfire. Somehow, the move to Los Angeles inspired them to reverse their philosophy from 2012. The benefactor of several high picks in the previous trade, the Rams turned around and sacrificed even more for Jared Goff. This is purely a speculative, bonus inclusion as a lopsided trade, but history does not bode well for Los Angeles. The Rams sent their 1st round pick (15th), two 2nd round picks (43rd and 45th), 3rd round pick (76th), a 2017 1st round pick and a 2017 3rd round pick to the Titans. In return, LA received Tennessee’s first overall pick, a 4th rounder and a 6th rounder in the 2016 Draft. Jared Goff was the first quarterback taken number one overall to not start the season opener since JaMarcus Russell. Not only that, but Fisher placed him third on the depth chart, rendering him inactive. The coming years will prove whether or not LA made the right decision, but the JaMarcus Russell tidbit doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
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