Early this week the trade deadline day came and went with little fanfare; a far cry from the histrionics and massively hyped transfer deadline day for the Premier League every September/January. Aside for some speculation over the future of Jared Allen in Minnesota, very little happened.
So why is this? A major factor is that NFL teams regard their draft picks as slightly more precious than gold; things to be held onto for dear life as they look to build or maintain their franchise. But every draft pick is a gamble – players can be scouted and put through the combine and grilled to within an inch of their life, yet until they step on that field and compete even the most confident of scouts will admit that it’s a trip into the unknown. If every draft pick worked and scouting was spot on then there is no way that we would have seen so many busts from high (and even top) draft picks. It is equally unfathomable to think that players such as Joe Montana and Tom Brady (2 of the best QBs to play the game!!) could slip as low down the draft boards as they did.
With the draft being such a lottery, surely it makes sense to trade for players who are known commodities, especially if you think as a General Manager that the player you are giving up a pick for could be the missing piece in the jigsaw that takes your team to the Superbowl?!
Yet mega trades happen much more rarely in football than in other sports. Why is this? Perhaps we need to look at some high profile trades of the past to see if they really do offer better ‘value’ than waiting for that potential next big thing in the draft.
In our post on the Cowboys dynasty of the 1990s, fiftystatefootball.com has already touched upon the trade that is regarded by many as the worst of all time; Herschel Walker from Dallas to Minnesota. The Vikings gambled and lost big time. Walker was a bust in Minnesota and the Cowboys picked up many vital pieces of their triple Superbowl winning jigsaw with the draft picks they acquired, including Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland, Alvin Harper and Darren Woodson.
Another poor trade saw the Chargers trade a host of picks for the overall No 2 slot in the 1998 draft to select Ryan Leaf. Leaf was a complete bust in the NFL and, although the Cardinals wasted their picks too, you have to think the Chargers ultimately would have done better had they simply waited their turn.
In 1999 the Saints traded their entire section of draft picks (plus extra picks in 2000) for the chance to draft RB Ricky Williams. Although he played reasonably well in New Orleans, he was eventually traded away again. The Saints got some picks back, but not enough to compensate them for what they gave away to get him!
Many other trades have backfired, but primarily for the team doing the trading! HoF QBs Steve Young (Tampa Bay to San Francisco), John Elway (Baltimore to Denver) and Brett Favre (Atlanta to Green Bay) were all traded early in their careers – in each case the compensation players and picks received by the trading franchises fell a long way short of what they traded away. The Rams picked up star running back Marshall Faulk from the Colts in 1998 and in 2006 the Patriots traded a low draft pick for impact wide receiver Randy Moss.
Currently we await to see how some big trades play out in today’s NFL. Percy Harvin was traded by the Vikings to the Seahawks in the offseason. Harvin has yet to play in Seattle due to injury, whereas the players the Vikings picked up to replace him have yet to have a major impact on the season. Earlier this year Trent Richardson was traded to the Colts by Cleveland for a first round pick next year. Richardson has flattered to deceive in his NFL career so far and the trade represents a big gamble of behalf of the Colts.
The Redskins bet the bank on Robert Griffin III being their franchise QB for years to come, trading away 4 picks (including 1st round choices in 2013 and 2014) for the right to select him second overall. He had a brilliant rookie year until injury cut him short; whether he can be as dynamically effective again since remains to be seen and will ultimately show if this trade was a boom or a bust.
Ultimately, every trade brings with it risk; exactly the same as a draft pick. For every trade there is a winner and a loser; a gambler for whom the trade pays off and a franchise that is left disappointed with the decision it has made. For big trades to happen midseason, General Managers either need to be prepared to take that risk or be offered the chance to pick up a big name player that would massively improve their chances of making the postseason.
As fans it can be frustrating not to see your team trying to make those moves, but in the world of Free Agency discretion can sometimes be the best policy. As always hindsight is a wonderful thing; given their time again many of the trades and choices made above would certainly never have happened!!
With deadline day now passed, that just leaves us wondering: what kind of trades can we expect this offseason?!