For better or worse, it takes one blockbuster trade to completely change a franchise. Some work out well, while others are considered to be one-sided deals. While it might be hard to judge more recent trades, we still look at their immediate effects. Older trades matter too. After all, if teams like the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys didn’t pull two major shakeups, neither team would be the dynasty they were of the eighties and nineties.
Chandler Jones To The Arizona Cardinals
Bill Belichick has a long history of trading players in their contract years. For the most part, it’s worked in the coach’s favor. In 2016, the New England Patriots struck a blockbuster deal with the Arizona Cardinals that didn’t follow the trend.
The team traded pass rusher Chandler Jones in exchange for offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper and a second-round pick. Jones has reached three consecutive double-digit sack season in the desert. As for Cooper, he was released by the Patriots in 2016.
Chicago Bears Gave Away Greg Olsen
Most people might not remember that Greg Olsen spent four seasons in the Windy City. He wasn’t able to find consistency with either Kyle Orton or Jay Cutler as his quarterback. That would lead the Bears to send him to the Carolina Panthers for a third-round pick in 2012.
Chicago flipped the pick to the San Diego Chargers. As for Olsen, he found a new life with Cam Newton as his go-to target. He managed to reach three 1,000-yard seasons from 2012-2014.
49ers Hand Over Alex Smith To Kansas City
Alex Smith was concussed in 2012, opening the door for Colin Kaepernick. Coach Jim Harbaugh went with the hot hand, leading to a Super Bowl appearance. Following the season, the 49ers sent the former first overall pick to the Kansas City Chiefs for two draft selections.
The 49ers turned it into four additional picks, including Carlos Hyde. Smith led the Chiefs to five winning seasons. He is credited for quickly transitioning a franchise into a winner that had struggled for most of the 21st century.
Dallas Cowboys Get Amari Cooper
It’s too early to say the Oakland Raiders lost on the Amari Cooper trade. While the team is in rebuild mode, they did get a 2019 first-round draft pick for fourth overall selection from the 2015 draft.
Cooper quickly established himself as Dallas’ new number one wide receiver, working alongside Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. The Raiders, as they did with Khalil Mack, wound up trading another young star in his prime. Hopefully, they can make up for it at the draft.
Colts Send Marshall Faulk To St. Louis
The Hall of Famer was a huge part of the Colts offense from 1994 to 1998. As soon as Peyton Manning came to town, the offense had limitless potential.
However, Faulk would be on the short end of the stick as the team traded him to the Rams for draft picks that would become Mike Peterson and Brad Scioli. Faulk was on “The Greatest Show On Turf” offense with Kurt Warner and Isaac Bruce, eventually winning Super Bowl XXXIV.
New England Patriots Handed The 49ers Jimmy Garoppolo
Jimmy Garoppolo showed his worth in two starts with the Patriots while Tom Brady was suspended. Belichick, always an opportunist, opted to trade the young quarterback at the 2017 trade deadline. He sent the East Illinois alum to the San Francisco 49ers for their 2018 second-round draft pick.
“Jimmy G” would win his first six starts for the 49ers. In return, the team handed him a five-year extension worth $137.5 million. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in Week 3 and he missed most of the 2018 season.
Buffalo Bills Get Shady For LeSean McCoy
The Bills hit a home run when they landed LeSean McCoy in 2015. The Blockbuster trade saw the running back be shipped from the Philadelphia Eagles for linebacker Kiki Alonso. The Eagles rolled with DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews at running back, who both flopped in the City of Brotherly Love.
Meanwhile, the Pro Bowl running back became Bill’s top offensive threat with two 1,000 rushing yard seasons under his belt. But, at least the Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2018.
Miami Dolphins Got Tired Of Jarvis Landry
There’s no denying that the Dolphins haven’t developed superstar players since Dan Marino. At LSU, Jarvis Landry was a nightmare of a matchup for opposing defenses. After a few underwhelming season in the NFL, the Dolphins decided to trade away the flashy playmaker to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a fourth and seventh-round selection.
In Cleveland, Landry produced at a high level, especially with Baker Mayfield as his quarterback. The Browns’ were so happy they even handed him a $75 million contract extension. Meanwhile, the Dolphins seem to be regressing in yet another full-on rebuild.
Chargers Trade Up For Ryan Leaf
This one is a doozy. The 1998 NFL Draft saw Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf as two-franchise changing quarterbacks. The Indianapolis Colts selected the future Hall of Famer while the San Diego Chargers took a chance on Leaf.
Initially, the Chargers swung a deal with the Cardinals to climb up into the second overall position, in exchange for two firsts and a one-second round draft pick. Football fans know Manning’s status, but for Leaf, he became one of the biggest draft busts ever.
Bears Land Khalil Mack For Beans
Khalil Mack was a fan favorite for the black and silver, and this trade was a clear win for the Bears. It drastically improved their defense. The Raiders received four draft picks for Mack, including two first-rounders, but that still isn’t enough.
In Chicago, Mack had over 10 sacks and six forced fumbles, becoming the leader of the NFL’s best defense. All the best to Mark Davis who will have to find his replacement as soon as possible to keep his fans happy.
Atlanta Gets Julio Jones From Cleveland
The Browns made a costly mistake at the 2011 draft. They swapped picks with the Atlanta Falcons, only to miss out on juggernaut Julio Jones. Cleveland received five draft picks in return. Those picks turned out to be non-notables including Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson.
Neither player or the remaining picks would leave a lasting impact. As for Jones, he became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 10,000 career receiving yards, accomplishing the feat in 104 games.
Browns Help Eagles Draft Carson Wentz
In 2016, the Browns had the second overall pick of the draft. But, in true Clevland fashion, they swapped picks with the Eagles. The Browns ended up with Corey Coleman and DeShone Kizer, terrible trade for Cleveland.
As for the Eagles, they selected Carson Wentz with the second pick. The quarterback would emerge as an MVP candidate, and likely would have won had he not torn his ACL late in the 2017 season. It’s a good thing he has so many years ahead of him.
Oakland Lands Mike Haynes
Throughout the seventies and eighties, Mike Haynes was a dominant cornerback. He was one of the few standouts who played for a struggling Patriots franchise. Haynes would be named to six Pro Bowls during his tenure in New England.
However, the team shipped him to the Los Angeles Rams during the 1983 season for two draft picks. Haynes continued to show his dominance with the black and silver, reaching a Super Bowl title along the way. Now, he’s enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Bears Trade For Rick Mirer, Because Of Course They Do
The Seattle Seahawks were in need of a franchise quarterback. They selected Norte Dame alum Rick Mirer with the second selection in 1993. Mirer struggled endlessly in his four years there.
When the Bears saw something in him, they swung a deal with the Seahawks. Chicago acquired the quarterback for a 1997 first-round draft pick. Mirer would play one disastorous season in the Windy City. As for the Seahawks, they used that pick to select future Pro Bowl cornerback Shawn Springs.
Bucs Hand 49ers Steve Young
In 1984, Tampa Bay selected Steve Young in the Supplemental Draft. The lefty never developed in Florida, which is why he was traded to the 49ers in 1987, receiving four draft picks in return.
From that point on, Young became Joe Montana’s understudy and eventually took over the starting role in 1991. He would help the team win a Super Bowl with two MVP awards along the way. Young kept the dynasty going, and eventually was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Herschel Walker Trade
It’s the most historic trade the NFL has ever seen. Dallas sent Minnesota standout running back Herschel Walker along with three draft picks. The Cowboys ended up with four players and eight picks, using one of those picks to draft the legendary Emmitt Smith.
Plus, Dallas got their hands on defensive tackle Russell Maryland and safety Darren Woodson. That would be enough to build a dynasty in the nineties. As for Walker, he only played two and a half seasons with the purple and gold.
Ricky Williams Failed His Teat In The Big Easy
New Orleans had their eyes set on drafting Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams. The Saints gave up all of their 1999 draft selections, along with first and third-round picks in 2000 for him.
After two seasons, the team sent Williams to the Dolphins before the 2002 NFL Draft. Meanwhile, the Redskins move around the draft board and ended up with cornerback Champ Bailey. Plus, they selected a standout linebacker, LaVar Arrington.
Patriots Gift 49ers Jerry Rice
The 49ers knew it was crucial to find Joe Montana another great pass-catcher. At the 1985 Draft, the 49ers made sure to get Jerry Rice when they traded two draft choices to the Patriots to move up.
New England used those picks Trevor Matich and Ben Thomas, none of whom became impact players. As for Rice, he led the 49ers to three Super Bowl championships and retired as the all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
Brett Favre Heads To Lambeau Field
The Atlanta Falcons drafted the Hall of Famer with the 33rd pick in 1991. Then coach Jerry Glanvile was never sold on Favre, though. After his rookie year, the quarterback was shipped to the Green Bay Packers for the 19th pick of the 1992 draft.
The Falcons selected Tony Smith, who totaled over 300 rushing yards in three seasons with the team. Well, for Favre, just about every football fan knows what he did. Even with stops in New York and Minnesota, he’s still one of the greatest of all-time.
John Elway Didn’t Want To Be A Colt
The Baltimore Colts drafted quarterback John Elway with the first overall pick in 1983. Elway’s issue was that he had zero interest in playing for the blue and white. So, the Colts traded away Elway to the Denver Broncos in exchange for Chris Hinton and Mark Herrmann.
The deal would be a significant franchise change for the Broncos while the Colts regressed until Peyton Manning came along. Elway would go on to win two Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998.
Antonio Brown Never Played A Down For The Raiders
The now Las Vegas Raiders thought they had found a difference-maker trading multiple picks to the Steelers for Antonio Brown. What they really got was one of the craziest stories in recent NFL history.
Brown appeared to have a mental breakdown after the trade, barely showed up to training camp, and refused to wear a new helmet as deemed necessary by the league. The Raiders released Brown before the start of the season.
The Bears Baffled Everyone To Get Mitchell Trubisky
The Bears were desperate for a franchise quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft when they traded up one spot with the 49ers to select Mitchell Trubisky. The 49ers never planned to draft a QB, and acquired the Bears’ 1st, 3rd, and fourth-round pick as well as another pick in 2019.
Trubisky has had one good season in Chicago, but has been mostly mediocre, leading fans to cry for the team to start fresh again in 2020.
The Panthers Sold High On Kelvin Benjamin
After a 1,000 yard season that made him look like an elite receiver, Kelvin Benjamin was traded by the Panthers to the Buffalo Bills for two draft picks. In Buffalo, Benjamin was a no-show, playing in 18 games over two seasons.
The Bills released Benjamin, who then signed with the Chiefs, but was a non-factor for the playoff-bound team. Currently, Benjamin is a free agent, but we expect it will be a tough road to find a new team.
The Browns Weren’t A Match For Jamie Collins
Jamie Collins was a Pro Bowl player for the New England Patriots that was going to demand more money as a free agent then they were willing to pay. To make sure they got value off him, the team shipped him to the Cleveland Browns for a third-round pick.
Cleveland awarded Collins with a nice contract extension which they quickly came to regret. Two years into the regrettable deal, Collins was released and returned to New England where he returned to his previous Pro Bowl form.
Trent Richardson Was Never Worth A First-Round Pick
Originally a first-round draft pick by the Cleveland Browns, less than two years into his career, Trent Richardson was traded to the Indianapolis Colts. Indy gave up their first-round pick for the running back in one of the league’s most shocking trades.
In two seasons with the Colts, Richardson was not good. After the team released him, he bounced around the league to the Raiders and Ravens, but never played another down again.
Redskins Bet The Future On RGIII
The Washington Redskins placed all their chips in for Robert Griffin III in 2012. They gave up three first-round picks to trade up in the draft to land the signal called. His rookie season was magical as he led Washington to the playoffs, but an injury late in the season ended his run.
After the injury, RGIII was never the same. Although his talent is undeniable, the Redskins were forced to move on to Kirk Cousins, who eventually forced his own way out of town.
Roy Williams Didn’t Live Up To The Hype
In 2008, the Dallas Cowboys traded away a first, third, and sixth-round draft pick to acquire Roy Williams from the Detroit Lions. Williams was coming off a career year with the Lions, and the timing was perfect to send him away.
With the Cowboys, Williams was a bust, never reaching more than 600 yards in a season. After the 2010 season, Williams was released by the team, leaving the Lions the clear winners of the trade.
Wes Welker Turned His Career Around In New England
For the first three seasons of his career in Miami, Wes Welker was used mostly as a return man, rarely finding snaps as a slot receiver. The Patriots liked what they saw, though, and gave up a second and seventh-round pick to get him.
Welker became a star in New England. He led the league in receiving three times while catching passes from Tom Brady, and he made the Pro Bowl for five consecutive years.
The Raiders Thought Randy Moss Was Washed Up
Randy Moss spent two very expensive seasons as an Oakland Raider. In those years, he failed to live up to the money being paid, so Oakland gave him to the Patriots for a fourth-round draft pick.
In New England, Moss proved his career was far from over. He had a career year with Tom Brady, and totaled 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns in his first season. The Raiders probably regret making this deal.
The Rams Let Jerome Bettis Get Away
For modern-day football fans, it’s hard to remember Jerome Bettis playing for any team besides the Steelers. Surprisingly, he started his career with the Los Angeles Rams and even made the Pro Bowl twice there.
When Los Angeles moved to St Louis, though, they didn’t bring Bettis along. Instead, they traded him to the Steelers for two draft picks. Neither pick worked out for the Rams, and Bettis went on to have a Hall of Fame career in Pittsburgh.
Lawrence Phillips Replaced Bettis Thanks To Another Trade
To replace Jerome Bettis, the Rams wanted to draft Lawrence Phillips, but needed to move up in the draft to do so. To get their man, the Rams gave the Redskins defensive end Sean Gilbert.
At college, Phillips was noted as having character issues that would make him a liability in the NFL. The Rams looked past the issues, and handed the running back the starting job. After one season his tenure with the team was over.
Ki-Jana Carter Barely Played For The Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals gave the Carolina Panthers just about everything they had to move up in the draft and select running back Ki-Jana Carter. The trade set the club back years, as the ball carrier barely saw the field.
In his rookie training camp, Carter hurt his knee. In four seasons as a Bengal, he totaled 227 carries, about 100 less than you would expect for one season as a three-down back.
The Problem With Jeff George
Before Peyton Manning came to Indianapolis, the team went through a series of starting quarterbacks. One of the worst was Jeff George, a player they paid a hefty price for in 1990.
In total, The Colts traded away Chris Hinton, Andre Rison, and two consecutive first-round picks to move up and take George. He was the team’s starting quarterback for four seasons, and ended his tenure there with 14 wins and 35 losses.
The Steve Largent Trade Never Would Have Happened Today
In 1976, the Seattle Seahawks traded away their eighth-round draft pick to get Steve Largent from the Houston Oilers. Today, there are only seven rounds in the draft, showing just how little Largent meant to his original team.
With Seattle, Largent flourished and finished his career as one the best wide receivers in franchise history. He was also inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after retiring thanks in no small part to his over 100 career touchdown catches.
The Packers Gave It All For John Hadl
The Green Bay Packers were desperate for a QB in 1974. They were so desperate, in fact, that they traded five draft picks to the Rams for John Hadl. On his new team, Hadl started 19 games, only winning seven.
After his uneventful two seasons with the Packers, Hadl finished his long career with the Houston Oilers. Overall, he won 82 games, lost 76, and had 9 ties. That means that before going to Green Bay he was actually pretty good.
Michael Vick Was Troubled
This trade has to be taken in context. When Michael Vick was on the field for the Falcons he was electrifying. Unfortunately, his off-field issues ended up landing him in prison, making the large haul Atlanta gave up to the Chargers to draft him look bad.
And who did the Chargers get? The Chargers drafted LaDainian Tomlinson, who would go on to have a Hall of Fame career and no off-field issues.
Randy White Finds A Home In Dallas
The New York Giants were looking for a QB in 1975 when they gave the Dallas Cowboys a first-round draft pick for Craig Morton, Roger Staubach’s back-up quarterback. Morton won a single game, and the Cowboys ended up with the number two overall pick.
The Cowboy took Randy White with the pick, and he went on to have an incredible career. For years he was the staple of the Cowboys defensive line, and was even named the co-MVP of Super Bowl XII, a game the Cowboys lost!
Martavis Bryant Was Another Raider Bust
During the start of his career with the Steelers, Martavis Bryant wasn’t very good. Still, the Raiders decided he was worth a third-round draft pick. At the time, the Raiders knew there was a chance Bryant would be suspended by the league.
The team pulled the trigger anyway. Bryant was indeed suspended indefinitely by the NFL, proving that sometimes talent alone isn’t worth the cost. Bryant might have been his own worst enemy, but he was full of talent.
The Cardinals Gave Up On Josh Rosen
The Cardinals traded up in the 2018 NFL Draft to take UCLA signal-caller Josh Rosen. The QB barely played for the team, and when he did he was largely ineffective. At the end of the year, the Cardinals fired their head coach and started fresh.
That meant trading Josh Rosen just one year after taking with their first pick. The deal semi-worked out for the Cardinals. The Dolphins gave them a second-round pick and Arizona drafted Kyler Murray to be their new franchise QB.
No One Has Been Paid More For Less Than Sam Bradford
Over the course of his career, Sam Bradford has made $130 million. If he was a franchise quarter that number would make sense. Instead, he’s an oft-injured journeyman who ended up the prize of this lopsided trade.
The Vikings gave up a first-round pick in 2017 to Sam Bradford from the Eagles. Bradford barely lasted two seasons in Minnesota, eventually giving up the starting gig to Kirk Cousins. The Eagles turned the draft pick into a cornerstone defensive end.