How often do you hear about a trade and wonder how the hell it happened? In every sport, and every league, every year a trade just like that goes down. It happens between bitter rivals, as there’s a swap between one awful player and one great one, or a team gives up a ton of draft picks and decent players for a slightly better spot in the draft. We’ve certainly seen a lot of that in this year’s draft.
These kinds of head scratching trades seem to happen in Roger Goodell’s No Fun League more than anywhere else. Maybe it’s because the sport is so popular we hear about this more often. Or there are more bad players than in any other major sport. Maybe we’re all just bored and like to talk crap about the league. Whatever the case, the NFL is rife with trades that, even without hindsight, shouldn’t have happened.
Trades are a bizarre thing in and of themselves. Imagine if you worked for McDonalds and your boss suddenly came up to you one day and said you were traded to Burger King for a new fry cook. Now imagine that in a sport where everyone is trying to kill each other and the margin of error is so thin that some guys lose their jobs after only one year. The fact that any trade gets pulled off is a minor miracle.
But that sounds like a cop out, doesn’t it? No, we want to find the strangest, worst, and laughable trades that have happened in the NFL. How did the Rams pull off that trade with Washington for all those draft picks? How did Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell end up in Miami? Keep reading our list of the Top 15 NFL Trades That Never Should Have Been Made to find out.
15 Rams & Eagles Trading Up in the 2016 Draft
We start with the most recent high profile trade in the NFL and that’s the Rams and Eagles moving up to selectJared Goff and Carson Wentz. This trade is fascinating for several reasons. The first is that both the #1 and #2 overall picks were traded away, underscoring how bad the top QBs in the draft are or how bad the Rams and Eagles need QBs depending on whether or not you’re a Rams or Eagles fan.
More impressive, however, is the sheer amount of risk for all four teams. The Rams and Eagles are betting the farm obviously. History has shown that giving up as much as they did to move up for a quarterback never works. But it’s not such a clear cut win for the Browns or Titans either. Goff and Wentz might not be seen as franchise transforming mega-stars, but Cam Newton wasn’t considered that either and he’s now the best quarterback in the league.
14 Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell from Philly to Miami
Okay, so this might not be the most remarkable trade in human history, but it’s a pretty good example of a trade that shouldn’t have happened. Linebacker Kiko Alonso and cornerback Byron Maxwell were part of the Eagles, but new coach Doug Pederson wanted to trade them for draft picks. They were traded to the Dolphins (and their 13th overall pick) for the Dolphins 8th overall pick.
You might be spitting your drink out right now after hearing how much the Eagles gave up for only five spots, but that’s just the least of it.
Maxwell suffered a shoulder injury last season, one of the reasons why the Eagles wanted to dump him. This injury ended up being a sticking point though. After the trade was announced, a report came from ESPN stating that the Dolphins medical staff had concerns about Maxwell’s injury. This could have shut the trade down, but days later, Miami’s medical staff took another look at the corner and the trade went through.
13 1982 Buccaneers Draft Mistake
This one’s a weird story. In 1982, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were debating between selecting DE Booker Reese and guard Sean Farrell in the first round. They decided to go with Reese, but the person who was in charge of turning in the pick to the commissioner thought he heard Farrell’s name. With the 17th pick in the 1982 Draft, the Bucs took Farrell and everyone in the Bucs draft room thought the world was going to end.
Luckily for them though, Reese ended up falling into the second round. They traded their first round pick the following year to the Bears so they could get Reese. Reese ended up being a bust and while Farrell wasn’t a Hall of Famer, he had a decent career.
The Bears drafted receiver Willie Gault with the Bucs 18th overall pick. He had a decent career, but he’s probably best known for getting his 1985 Super Bowl Ring stolen. It’s stunning how a major trade happened through a mistake, a mistake that would go on to shape both the Bucs and Bears for years to come.
12 Carson Palmer Un-retires for Oakland
Following the 2010 season, quarterback Carson Palmer decided he didn’t want to be with the perineal losers Cincinnati Bengals and Marvin Lewis. Can you blame him? Instead of holding out and demanding a trade, he simply retired so he wouldn’t have to play for the team anymore. He was so determined to not play for the Bengals, he would have rather retired. You gotta respect that, unless you’re a Bengals fan at least.
At first the Bengals weren’t going to play his game. Midway through the 2011 season, the Oakland Raiders came calling. Finally, Bengals owner Mike Brown pulled the trigger and traded the star quarterback to the Raiders. Palmer would play in Oakland for only two years and the Bengals got two high draft picks which were used on Dre Kirkpatrick and Giovani Bernard.
For a player to force a team’s hand so dramatically – not just threatening to retire but to actually go through with it – is crazy. The Raiders didn’t have to do it and they shouldn’t have. His first year with the Raiders was terrible and while his second year was decent, he clearly wanted to play for a Super Bowl contender, something the Raiders haven’t been since 2000.
11 Wes Welker Traded to Division Rival
“Hey, here’s a good idea: let’s trade our best receiver to the best team in the NFL with the best quarterback in the NFL in our own division!” is how Dolphins management was thinking after the 2006 season. It’s crazy to think someone who would go on to be one of the best receivers in the game with one of the best quarterbacks in the game came from a division rival.
Wes Welker was a restricted free agent and the Dolphins weren’t sold on the tiny receiver. It’s true he didn’t set the league on fire in Miami, but he clearly had potential. And if the Patriots want one of your players, you know you have something special. The Patriots offered a trade for Welker (second and seventh round picks) and the Dolphins took them up on it. The rest is history, from the Patriots side.
To this day, the Dolphins are still struggling and they haven’t been a playoff contender in years. While Welker’s days are pretty much over, new head coach Adam Gaze is probably wishing the trade never happened.
10 Terrible QB Rick Mirer Gets a Second Chance
Looking at his stats, Rick Mirer was never going to be a starting NFL quarterback. That didn’t stop quarterback hungry teams from reaching though, as the Seahawks did in 1993 when he was taken with the second overall pick. The #2 pick on a guy that never threw for more than 2,100 yards or 18 touchdowns sounds ridiculous these days, but that’s kind of how it was back then.
Draft busts were also how it was back then too, as it is now and Mirer was certainly that. After four awful years in Seattle, the team was ready to let him go. But instead, the Chicago Bears came calling.
The Bears, for some baffling reason that continue to vex mankind, gave up a first round pick for Mirer. They also got the Seahawks fourth round pick, so it’s okay. Mirer only lasted seven games in Chicago, throwing six interceptions and not a single touchdown. What made the Bears decide to spend such a high price on such a massive bust may forever remain a mystery.
9 Brett Favre Traded to the Jets
One day, Brett Favre seemingly woke up and decided he was going to retire, without spending another second thinking about it. The year was 2008, and seemingly days later, he decided to come back. But the Packers were ready to give some guy named Aaron Rodgers a chance at the starting QB job and Favre would have to compete with him. This angered Favre, who demanded he be let go or traded.
It was pretty shocking when Favre decided he didn’t want to be a Packer anymore. He spent almost his whole career there and he was one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
Then he ended up with the New York Jets. As hard as it is to picture a guy like Favre in New York, it happened.
Maybe the Packers should have accepted Favre back with open arms after everything he’d done for the franchise. Think about how the league would look today if Favre retired a Packer like he was supposed to.
8 Michael Vick Drafted a Charger, Became a Falcon
It’s amazing how easily a player could force a team to trade them before they’re even officially in the NFL. Such is the case with Michael Vick, who in 2001 was thought to the be top player in the draft. The Chargers, who owned the #1 pick at the time, were going to take him. However, they couldn’t work out a contract with him before the draft.
As a result, the Chargers traded draft rights of Vick to the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for some picks and receiver Tim Dwight.
I hate to repeat myself, but again, think about it. Simply because they couldn’t work out a deal ahead of time, the Chargers jumped ship and got rid of Vick. All because of contract negotiations before Vick was even in the NFL. Under today’s rookie salary cap rules, this kind of thing would be impossible, and Vick could have and should have been a Charger.
7 Raiders Giving up Randy Moss for a Fourth Round Pick
Remember earlier how the Dolphins just gave away Wes Welker to the Patriots? Yeah, the NFL was keen on giving Tom Brady as many explosive weapons as possible that year apparently. The Raiders even got in on the fun, sending star wide out Randy Moss to New England in 2007 for nothing but a fourth round draft pick.
Randy Moss was clearly a Hall of Fame player after just a few seasons in Minnesota. But he was getting a reputation as a diva, and when he showed up in Oakland, that perception grew tenfold. Moss was able to force his way out of the Black Hole with little to no effort, and not only that, but the Raiders were willing to let one of the best receivers ever go for table scraps.
There was talk that Moss was only a shadow of his former self at that point, but surely the Raiders should have realized if anyone could revive his career, it would be the Patriots. This one shouldn’t have happened simply because it sounds so stupid, and not just because of the benefit of hindsight.
6 Chargers Trade Eli Manning for Philip Rivers
Man, if there’s one team that can’t seem to sign a #1 overall quarterback, it’s the Chargers. They drafted Eli Manning in 2004 with the top pick, but just like Vick, he didn’t really want to be there. Once again, the Chargers gave up without a fight, although this time they did have a backup plan. They traded Son of Manning to the Giants in exchange for the guy they drafted, Philip Rivers.
It’ll never cease to be awe-inspiring how the Chargers were so willing to just dump their top pick in a matter of seconds, without any negotiation. You could argue it worked out for them since they got Rivers, as well as picks they’d use on Shawne Merriman and Nate Kaeding, but how many Super Bowls have the Chargers been to in the last decade?
Unlike with John Elway in 1984, Manning had no alternative to football. If he refused to sign with the Chargers, then he’d be sitting on the couch like Carson Palmer was. According to reports, Eli wasn’t even the one who didn’t want to go to San Diego, it was his father Archie who talked him into it.
5 Bears Trade Greg Olsen for Peanuts
You know a trade shouldn’t have happened when the guy who made the trade admits it was a mistake. Such is the case with the Bears 2009 trade of tight end Greg Olsen to the Carolina Panthers. The Bears gave away the young, talented receiving tight end for a measly third round pick. The Bears have since struggled at the position, while Olsen became the Panther’s best offensive weapon not named Cam Newton.
Normally that’s where the story would end, as terrible trades are made all the time by guys trying to prove they’re smarter than everything else or something. But the GM of the Bears at the time, Jerry Angelo did something rare among those in the NFL and admitted the trade was terrible.
“I understood he wasn't the ideal fit in [Mike Martz's] scheme, but we let our best receiver go,” Angelo told WGWG Chicago. “That's on me. I understood what the coaches were saying, but you don't let one of your better players out the door.”
Good for you Jerry. You still got fired, but admitting to your mistakes is nice.
4 Saints Give Everything for Ricky Williams
The Ricky Williams trade should probably go down as the biggest trade bust ever, saved only by the fact that Williams was pretty good, however brief, and that Washington ended up trading most of those picks anyway.
A brief history for those who don’t know: in 1999, then Saints coach Mike Ditka traded the Saints’s entire draft that year, as well as their first and third round picks the following year, for running back Ricky Williams. They only ended up moving seven spots ahead, by the way. Obviously this blew up big time and remains one of the most interesting trade stories in sports history.
This trade shouldn’t have happened because it didn’t need to. The Saints sat with the #12 overall pick and they jumped up to #5. Not #1 or even #2! Giving up an entire draft and your best picks the following year for so little is beyond a joke. It was like Ditka was trying to get fired.
3 Vikings Trade for Herschel Walker
On the subject of ridiculous trades involving running backs, how about the Vikings trade for Herschel Walker in 1989?
Jimmie Johnson, in his first year as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, was struggling. He decided he needed to make a big personal change to jumpstart the team and get draft picks for the future. Herschel Walker ended up being sent to Minnesotta, a team who thought they were getting the better end of the deal. That turned out not to be the case after the Cowboys used the plethora of picks they got on top players like Emmitt Smith and Darren Woodson, while Walker had a mediocre three years with the Vikings.
Troy Aikman probably would have had a much tougher time winning those Super Bowls without Emmitt Smith.
2 Brett Favre from Atlanta to Green Bay
The Atlanta Falcons may forever be known as the team that had one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time and traded him away for basically nothing. That player was Brett Favre and in exchange all they got was a first round pick, later used on some player whose name is lost to time.
Then Packers GM Ron Wolf rated Brett Favre as the best quarterback in the 1991 draft. At the time he was with the Jets, but couldn’t draft Favre because the team had forfeited their first round pick in the previous year’s supplemental draft. The Falcons drafted Favre late in the second round and Wolf missed out. The following year when he got to Green Bay, Wolf traded a first round pick in exchange for Favre.
Favre was supposed to start his career in New York, not almost end it there.
1 Bill Parcells Traded from Patriots to Rival Jets
These days a head coach being traded isn’t common, but not too unusual. But back in 1997, it was unheard of in the NFL.
Parcells originally tried to resign as head coach of the Patriots, so he could sign as coach of their rival, the New York Jets. Something like that never really happened before. There was a big dispute in the NFL until it was ruled Parcells couldn’t do that. But Parcells couldn’t just stick around after all that. In the end, the Jets traded four draft picks for Parcells. Those picks would later go on to help Bill Belichick rebuild the Patriots years later, but at the time he followed Parcells to the Jets.
The Patriots could have easily turned down the Jets offer, and both Parcells and Belichick would have been stuck in New England for at least one more year. They were at least determined to keep Belichick, offering him the head coaching job just so they could keep him out of the Jets’s hands, but to no avail.