The goal of every NFL franchise is to win the Super Bowl. They hire the best front office staff they can find to help evaluate talent. They hire the best coaches to teach, shape and mold the talent they acquire. They will scour colleges to draft the best talent available. Another avenue a franchise will try is free agency. Every year, GMs for every NFL team will open up their check books to try and land the best player at a position of need for them. Sometimes it works out, but sometimes, just like the draft, it doesn't. One more way to acquire talent is through a trade.
Trades in the NFL are not as commonplace as they are in the NHL, MLB and NBA. Mainly because of the complex systems and schemes run by the various teams. But that doesn't mean they don't happen. Sometimes a GM really covets a guy and is willing to give up whatever is needed, like Ron Wolf did for Brett Favre. Sometimes the player is from a previous coaches regime and the team wants to move on, like DeMarco Murray in Philadelphia. Sometimes a player's personality just doesn't mesh with the team, like Mike Wallace in Miami and Minnesota. Sometimes it could be all of the above.
Trades can be made by swapping a couple of players, draft picks or any combination of the two. In some situations, a coach or other personal in the front office could be the subject of the trade, so it's not just limited to players. Let's take a look at some of the trades that didn't work out so well for one side with the worst trades in every team's history.
32 Arizona Cardinals - Ottis Anderson
This was by far the toughest team to find a bad trade for. From getting plenty of picks for the number two overall pick in 1998 (Ryan Leaf) to robbing the Raiders for Carson Palmer, they seem to be on the upside of every trade. After hours of digging, we settled on Ottis Anderson as being the worst trade they ever made. During the 1986 season, "OJ" was traded to the New York Giants for a couple draft picks and at the time it looked like a good deal since injuries had limited his effectiveness. That was until Bill Parcells gave him the starting job in 1989 and he became the Comeback Player of the Year when he rushed for over 1,000 yards and scored 14 TDs. The next year, he ended up being the Super Bowl MVP, while the Cardinals spent the next decade looking for a replacement running back.
31 Atlanta Falcons - Brett Favre
Brett Favre, quite simply, is a legend. He is a Hall of Famer, record setter, three time MVP, and Super Bowl Champion, who used to be a heavy partier. That last part is what prompted the Atlanta Falcons to trade Favre after his rookie season for a first round pick from the Green Bay Packers. Ron Wolf, the GM of the Packers at the time of the draft, was enamoured with Brett out of college and was really disappointed when the Falcons chose him before they could. The Falcons were happy at the time to get a first round pick which turned into Tony Smith, while Favre became a true legend in Green Bay.
30 Baltimore Ravens - Scott Mitchell
The Ravens have made some really bad trades over the years. There was the Terrell Owens Fiasco in 2004. Then the Bills swindled them a couple times, once for Willis McGahee in 2007 and then again for Lee Evans in 2011. None of those missteps were as bad as the Scott Mitchell trade in 1998. After a sub par season in which he filled in for Dan Marino with the Dolphins, Scott parlayed that into a multi million dollar contract with the Lions. In 1998, after being benched for Charlie Batch, the Ravens came calling and gave up a 3rd and a 5th round pick for a guy who started twogames before being benched in Baltimore
29 Buffalo Bills - Rob Johnson
The Bills may have been able to get the upside of trades against the Ravens, but that has not been the case with the rest of the NFL. Rob Johnson started one game for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1997 and played in parts of four others before suffering an ankle injury. Buffalo's front office felt like that was enough and gave up a first round pick (ended up being Fred Taylor) and a 4th round pick in the 1997 draft to get him. Injuries and inconsistency plagued him his entire career. By his fourth year. he had worn out his welcome in Buffalo and they went in a different direction.
28 Carolina Panthers - Sean Gilbert
Unless this is 1986 and your name is Lawrence Taylor, no defensive player is worth multiple first round picks. Carolina thought differently, however, when they traded their 1999 and 2000 first round picks to Washington in exchange for Sean Gilbert. Gilbert was a beast in Washington, after they acquired him in a trade with the Rams, so much so that they placed the franchise tag on him. Carolina swooped in to sign him to an enormous deal and the compensation to Washington was the two first round picks. Of course, Washington was happy with the deal and it became an even bigger deal for them later on when New Orleans got involved (more on that in a little bit). Carolina, however, got one productive season out of Gilbert before injuries took their toll and he was eventually released in 2003.
27 Chicago Bears - Rick Mirer
In what is clearly a case of a front office not paying attention, we give you this baffling trade. Rick Mirer came out of college on fire, winning the 1993 Rookie of the Year award. Then the wheels fell off, as in his fourth year, he completed only 51.3% of his passes and threw five touchdowns against twelve interceptions. So, the Bears took that opportunity to give up their 1997 first round draft pick for him. A first round draft pick for a quarterback who went 20-31 over four years in Seattle. The Bears got one year out of Mirer, where he had no touchdowns and six interceptions.
26 Cincinnati Bengals - Charlie Joiner
Sometimes a player doesn't get a chance or just doesn't have the right kind of chemistry with a team. That was definitely the case with Charlie Joiner when he was a member of the Bengals. After being a third string wide receiver with the Bengals, he was traded to the Chargers for Coy Bacon and a first round pick. Now on the surface that looks like a great deal for the Bengals, but Coy Bacon was gone after two years and the draft pick turned into wide receiver William Brooks who had four uneventful years for the Bengals. Charlie Joiner went on to an eleven year Hall of Fame career with the Chargers.
25 Cleveland Browns - Johnny Manziel/Brady Quinn
A pair of draft day blunders by the Cleveland Browns make this list. The 2007 draft saw the Browns give up a first and a second round pick to grab Brady Quinn at number 22. Then, in 2014, they traded a first and a third round pick to draft Johnny Manziel at number 22. They got three years out of Quinn before shipping him to Denver, while Manziel lasted two before being released. While Quinn showed very little in the ability to play at a pro level, Manziel literally partied himself out of Cleveland. Hopefully the Browns learn from this and don't trade up to grab a free falling QB, especially if it's pick 22.
24 Dallas Cowboys - Joey Galloway
In 2000, the Cowboys sent two first round draft picks to Seattle for Joey Galloway. He was a stud for Seattle, having multiple 1,000 yard seasons. but the four years jr spent in Dallas were highly unproductive and he lost a full season to injury. In 2004, Galloway was traded to the Buccaneers for Keyshawn Johnson. who gave the them two fairly average seasons. Sadly for Dallas, Galloway went on to become a stud receiver for the Buccaneers, posting multiple 1,000 yard seasons once more. The Cowboys initially overpaid for a player, then gave up on that player too soon, creating two really bad trades with the same guy.
23 Denver Broncos - Brady Quinn
Making his second appearance on this list is Brady Quinn. In 2010, the Browns gave up on Quinn and sent him to the Broncos for Peyton Hillis, a 6th round pick in 2011 and a late round pick in 2012. Peyton Hillis wasn't around long but gave them 1,177 yards and eleven touchdowns in 2010 which is three more touchdowns than Quinn passed for in 2009. Brady Quinn, meanwhile, didn't take one snap in a live game in his two years with Denver. Neither player stuck around very long, but Hillis provided a better immediate return for the Browns.
22 Detroit Lions - Bobby Layne
Bobby Layne could arguably be the best and worst trade of all time for the Lions. In 1950, Layne was traded to the Lions for receiver Bob Mann. Layne became a Hall of Fame player for the Lions while helping them win three NFL Championships. In 1957, Layne broke his leg and the Lions deemed him replaceable when his back up had some success. Bobby Layne was then traded to the Steelers for Earl Morrall and a couple of first round picks. On his way out the door, he exclaimed that the Lions "would not win for 50 years." Since the Lions have never been to the Super Bowl, it looks like the Curse of Bobby Layne is still in effect.
21 Green Bay Packers - John Hadl
You know a trade is bad when even the primary piece involved in it openly questions the move. That is exactly what happened when, in 1974, the Packers traded the franchise for John Hadl. He was an incredible quarterback and spent ten years with the Chargers where he was inducted in to their Hall of Fame. Then he spent two years with the Rams, where he won a Player of the Year award. That caught the eye of the Packers, who gave up two first round picks, two second round picks, and a third round draft pick to get him. At the time of the trade, Hadl remarked "I didn't think anyone would be that desperate."
20 Houston Texans - Ryan Fitzpatrick
It's tough to find a bad trade for a team that's only been around for 13 years, so we're going to go with a very recent one. Ryan Fitzpatrick was on pace for a career year before he went down in week twelve with a season ending injury. So, the Texans decided that was the time to trade him and got a 6th round pick in return. Fitzpatrick went on to have a career year breaking the Jets single season touchdown record with 31 and the Texans signed Brian Hoyer, who played six games before being benched. The worst part is Fitzpatrick was signed to a $3.75 million contract for 2015 while Hoyer made $5 million.
19 Indianapolis Colts - Marshall Faulk
A popular bad trade pick for most reporters is John Elway but in all reality he was never signed by them and was going to pitch for the Yankees instead. The fact that they got a couple Pro Bowl offensive lineman for a guy that was never really theirs was a good deal. Instead, we will go with Marshall Faulk being traded to the Rams for a second and fifth round pick because Bill Polian thought he was going to hold out for a new contract. Faulk went on to win a Super Bowl title, three straight Offensive Player of the Year awards and an NFL MVP award. He was selected for the Hall Of Fame in 2011.
18 Jacksonville Jaguars - Blaine Gabbert
If there is anything we are learning from this list, it's that trading up to get a quarterback seems to rarely work out. More often then not, it is an epic failure. 2011 saw one of those epic failures when the Jaguars swapped first round picks and sent a second round pick to the Redskins for what they considered a can't miss prospect in Blaine Gabbert. Three years later, he was traded to the 49ers for a sixth round pick when the Jaguars drafted Blake Bortles. There is hope for Gabbert, since he had pretty decent numbers after replacing Colin Kaepernick, but it just didn't work out in Jacksonville.
17 Kansas City Chiefs - Joe Montana
We admit, this one was tough, as the Kansas City brass has managed to avoid brutal trades. However, in 1993, the Chiefs were looking for a change,and the 49ers needed to end their quarterback controversy. They got together for a blockbuster trade, sending their first round pick in exchange for Joe Montana and safety David Whitmore. Montana was at the tail end of his Hall of Fame career and it showed as he had an injury plagued 1993 season and an average 1994 season for the Chiefs before retiring from football.
16 Los Angeles Rams - First Overall Pick in 2016
It's always fun when you are in the middle of writing an article and a news story comes out that just blows away everything you were doing. That's exactly what happened here. This entry was going to be about Jerome Bettis, but anytime a team trades away two first round picks, two second round picks and two third round picks for an unproven prospect that jumps right to the front of the line. With the first overall pick, they are deciding between Carson Wentz and Jared Goff and neither are really considered to be Andrew Luck-type prospect, so this seems like a huge failure waiting to happen.
15 Miami Dolphins - Daunte Culpepper
The jury is still out on whether trading draft picks to move up and get Dion Jordan was a bad trade or not. So far, it's not looking good, but with a new coach, he still has time to turn it around. With that in mind, the worst trade in Miami Dolphins history has to be the Daunte Culpepper trade. Nick Saban needed a quarterback and, in 2006, he traded a second round pick to the Vikings for Culpepper. Between limited mobility and a much documented disagreement with Saban and the Dolphins front office, he was released from his contract after four games. The part that really stings is that same year, they could have signed Drew Brees as a free agent.
14 Minnesota Vikings - Herschel Walker
Jimmy Johnson once coined this trade "The Great Train Robbery" and no one else knew it at the time, but he had a plan. In 1989, the Dallas Cowboys were in the middle of a horrific 1-15 season. They decided to trade their best player, Herschel Walker, for five players and three picks in the 1990 draft. Johnson made sure that each player he received a clause where they would make the team or the Vikings would give up another pick for each. Since not all of them did, he was able to turn those players into an additional three first and second round picks in the 1991 and 1992 drafts. Hershel Walker, on the other hand, was severely under-utilized in Minnesota and was gone after less than three seasons.
13 New England Patriots - Matt Cassel
Looking back now, a second round pick for Matt Cassel was absolute robbery, but that wasn't the case after the 2008 season. Matt Cassel had a phenomenal year filling in for an injured Tom Brady. He played so well that the Patriots used the franchise tag on him, before the Pats traded Cassel to the Chiefs along with Mike Vrabel for a second round pick. What makes this a bad trade is they should have gotten a lot more for a young QB that threw for 3,693 yards and a Pro Bowl linebacker who was the heart and soul of the Patriots defense . Especially considering they had at least one first round offer from the Buccaneers on the table.
12 New Orleans Saints - Ricky Williams
In Mike Ditka's eyes, Ricky Williams was going to be the next Walter Payton, so he did whatever it took to get him. The Redskins were at number five because of a previous trade with Carolina and were more than happy to give it up when Ditka offered the six picks he had in 1999, plus a first and third round selection in 2000. Ditka was out of New Orleans after one year and Williams was traded after three to the Dolphins for four picks including a couple of first rounders. He had a very successful and colorful career, finishing with over 10,000 yards and a mid career retirement to "find himself," but could never live up to the pressure he had in the Bayou.
11 New York Giants - Craig Morton
Craig Morton played three seasons as a starter for the Cowboys, one of which included a trip to Super Bowl V. He was also part of the weirdest quarterback controversy in history, that saw him alternating plays on every snap with Roger Staubach in a game against the Bears in 1971. Otherwise, he was a back up to Staubach and Don Merideth for his ten seasons is Dallas. The Giants thought enough of him to trade a couple draft picks. One of those picks was a first rounder that ended up being Randy White. He lasted three horrible seasons in New York before being traded to Denver.
10 New York Jets - Mark Sanchez
The Jets traded three players, a first, and a second round pick to move up in the 2009 draft to select Mark Sanchez. Sanchez had one year as a college starter and even his college coach said he was too immature for the NFL. The Jets took him anyway and, after four years of inconsistent play, they released him. His turnover potential and play may have run him out of the New York, but not before giving us great moments like the Thanksgiving day butt-fumble, wiping snot on Mark Brunell before the start of the 2011 AFC Championship game, and eating a hot dog on the bench during a blow out win vs the Raiders.
9 Oakland Raiders - Jon Gruden
This was tough, as the Raiders have made their fair share of terrible trades. They moved Randy Moss for a fourth round pick, only to watch him go on and set an NFL record for receiving touchdown passes in a season for New England. They also traded two draft picks for Carson Palmer, before moving him for a sixth round pick a few years later. But the absolute worst was trading Jon Gruden to the Buccaneers for two first and two second round picks. All Gruden did was go on to embarrass the Raiders in the Super Bowl while helping the Bucs win their one and only title in 2002.
8 Philadelphia Eagles - Sonny Jurgensen
After two fantastic seasons as a starter for the Eagles, Sonny Jurgensen went through an injury plagued 1963 season. Eagles figured he was done and sent him to the Redskins for QB Norm Snead and CB Claude Crabb. While Crabb was gone after one season, Snead went on to have six fairly average seasons with the Eagles and one season where he threw 29 touchdowns and 3,399 yards. Jurgensen, however, became a four-time Pro Bowler and Hall of Famer while playing eleven years in Washington. Vince Lombardi has stated that if Sonny was a Packer, they never would have lost a game and called him the best quarterback he had ever seen. That came from the man that coached Bart Starr.
7 Pittsburgh Steelers - Buddy Dial
In 1963, the best wide receiver in the NFL, Buddy Dial, was traded to the Dallas Cowboys for essentially nothing. He had 1,295 yards and nine touchdowns in 1963 but the Steelers needed a defensive lineman. Scott Appleton was fresh off a national championship with Texas and was considered the best in the country. He was drafted by Dallas but refused to sign. The Steelers thought they had a shot, so they sent Dial to Dallas for his rights and Appleton signed with the Houston Oilers of the AFL who also drafted him in the first round. Dial was misused in Dallas and was out of the league three years later, but he was a star in Pittsburgh who was traded for nothing.
6 San Diego Chargers - Ryan Leaf
The Chargers needed a quarterback so bad that they traded up one spot in the 1998 draft to get Ryan Leaf. Moving up that one spot cost them their first and second round picks in 1998 and their first round pick in 1999, along with three-time Pro Bowler Eric Metcalf and linebacker Patrick Sapp. Leaf was an epic failure to say the least, but the more amazing thing is that the Chargers panicked and moved up one spot to select him. Arizona had just drafted Jake Plummer the year before and were set at QB. A panic move that led to a huge bust at QB.
5 San Francisco 49ers - O.J. Simpson
On paper, trading for the league's best running back and a future Hall of Famer is not a bad idea. Looking to make a splash, the 49ers gave up a first round pick, two second round picks, two third round picks and a fourth round draft pick for an aging O.J. Simpson. By 1978, O.J. was a couple years removed from being the best player in the game and there was a lot of wear on those legs. He was a shell of his former self and the 49ers had two straight losing seasons with him.
4 Seattle Seahawks - Ahman Green
Ahman Green was a 1998 draft pick by the Seahawks that struggled for playing time behind Ricky Waters. Seattle was looking for a solid cornerback, so they traded him along with a sixth round pick to the Green Bay Packers for Fred Vinson. Green became a work horse for the Packers, rushing for six 1,000 yard seasons out of the eight he was there and going to the Pro Bowl four times. Vinson never played a down for the Seahawks having sustained a season ending injury playing a pick up basketball game in the preseason. The next offseason, he sustained another injury and was released and never played another game in the NFL.
3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Darrelle Revis
Darrelle Revis is arguably the best defensive back in football. He was looking for a raise and the Jets didn't feel like he was worth the $16 million he was asking for, but the Buccaneers did. After an injury cut his 2012 season short, Revis was traded for a first round pick in 2013 and a 2014 fourth rounder. After one season in Tampa, he was released. He signed on as a free agent with the Patriots, helping them win a Super Bowl, and, after two years away, he resigned with the Jets for $14 million per year. The move cost the Bucs two draft picks, their head coach, their GM and $16 million.
2 Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers - Steve Largent
Steve Largent retired as the most productive receiver in the history of the NFL, holding plenty of records for the position as a member of the Seattle Seahawks. In 1976, the Oilers drafted Largent and were set to release him after just four preseason games, but instead traded him to the expansion Seahawks for an 8th round pick. Largen played fourteen seasons for the Seahawks developing instant chemistry with Jim Zorn and Dave Krieg. With the help of those two quarterbacks, he became the first player in history to catch 100 touchdown passes.
1 Washington Redskins - Robert Griffin III
Robert Griffin III became the second overall draft pick in 2012 thanks to a mind blowing offer and a great second half of his junior year at Baylor. The Redskins traded three first round picks and a second round pick to move up four spots for what they thought was a franchise quarterback. Things looked great his rookie year as RG3 came out of the gates on fire, on his way to winning the 2012 Rookie of the Year award. Injuries curtailed his progression and four years later he was released from his contract. He is still young and has time to turn around in his career. It just won't be in Washington, since he was released earlier this year and has now signed with the Browns.