The NFL trade deadlines is very easily the least exciting/entertaining among the NFL, NBA and MLB. Big names don’t typically change teams and most trades involve a player for draft picks. Well, I guess this year Lord Sidious Roger Goodell sent out an email mandating the NFL pick up entertainment value around the trade deadline. And maybe, just maybe, NFL teams obliged as a polite way to say goodbye to the commissioner.
Bills Receive: WR Kelvin Benjamin
Panthers Receive: 2018 third round pick, 2018 seventh round pick
The Bills continue to play hot potato with receivers from the 2014 draft class. After shipping out Sammy Watkins for a second round pick and E.J. Gaines, and then bringing in Jordan Matthews, the Bills were accused of attempting to tank this season. Well, at the trade deadline the Bills found themselves sitting at 5-2 and firmly in the playoff race. As of this writing the Bills leading receiver is Charles Clay, with 258 yards. Yes, the same Charles Clay that has not played since leaving the week 5 matchup against the Bengals due to injury. Now the Bills bring in Benjamin who is under contract through the 2018 season. I find this similar to when the Raptors shipped off Rudy Gay in an effort to shed salary and tank, only to accidentally make their team better and end up the 3 seed in the East. Buffalo was equipped with an extra third round pick and extra seventh round pick for the upcoming draft and cashed that in for a massive receiver upgrade. You can’t find too much fault with the Bills for making an aggressive move to push for the playoffs, considering even the Browns have made the playoffs more recently than Buffalo.
The Panthers, also in the midst of a playoff race, have shipped out their #1 receiver as they appear to find Benjamin and Funchess repetitive, and this team is attempting to morph into more of a speed offense by utilizing McCaffrey and Samuel. The loss of Benjamin will be less apparent once Olsen returns from injury but I simply do not understand this trade from the Panthers perspective. This isn’t a Belichick special where they sold off a talent mid-season ahead of that player’s looming free agency because Carolina had exercised the 5th year option on Benjamin’s rookie contract. If they wanted to add some draft ammo and use Benjamin to do it they could have made the same trade in the offseason and kept Benjamin to increase their chances at making the postseason this year. And what are the odds that the guys they draft with these selections add up to someone as good as Benjamin?
Bills – A
Panthers – D
Jets Receive: CB Rashard Robinson
49ers Receive: 2018 fifth round pick
The Jets just traded for the most penalized player in the NFL since 2016. Robinson joined the NFL in 2016. He has graded out poorly in each of his two seasons, according to Pro Football Focus. Robinson is still under contract for two seasons beyond this year and the future at the cornerback position for the Jets looks rather grim. Claiborne is on a one-year deal and will surely be looking for a big money deal after consecutive seasons of quality coverage. Buster Skrine is an absolute sieve in coverage and the Jets can get out of his contract after this season for only $2.5 million of dead cap in order to save $3.5 million. The Jets must feel they shipped off a fifth round pick for someone they can develop into a starting caliber corner in the NFL, and having Claiborne and Adams, other LSU alums, to help guide Robinson was likely part of the appeal as well.
On the flip side, the 49ers spent a fourth round pick on Robinson in 2016 and recouped a fifth round pick for him in this trade. The 9ers must have viewed him as a sunk cost and decided to get whatever they could in exchange for Robinson. If that is the case, I can’t quite blame them. They also could use the extra pick since this trade came after the Garoppolo trade. In the end, I can’t fault either team for this deal but I don’t think it moves the needle for anyone.
Jets – C
49ers – C
Dolphins Receive: 2018 fourth round pick
Eagles Receive: RB Jay Ajayi
It is interesting to see two AFC East teams with winning records, in the thick of the playoff race, move in opposite directions at the deadline. While the Bills made a move to increase their 2017 on field performance, the Dolphins have decided that their only-better-than-the-Browns offense can stink it up without Ajayi. Specifically, the Dolphins rank as the 31st run offense by DVOA. It would appear that the Dolphins are bailing on Ajayi’s knee injury, believing Ajayi will never be the guy he was in 2016 and decided to take a deal from the highest bidder. Gase has also expressed frustration that his running backs continue attempting to hit home runs instead of keeping the offense on schedule. Despite the 4-3 record the Dolphins sit with a -60 +/-, are 31st in DVOA (behind Cleveland and San Francisco!), and have the 4th most difficult schedule remaining. Perhaps Gase saw the writing on the wall and the organization decided to take what they could get now before Ajayi suffers a major knee injury.
The Eagles, in contrast, have stated they only care about the medical reports they have received regarding Ajayi’s knee. It is fine if you trust your own medical staff, but I still don’t understand this move for the Eagles. Ajayi was very boom or bust in 2016, averaging 30 yards per game in losses and 91 yards per game in wins. You can say that game script makes this obvious since the Dolphins would be throwing to catch up in games they lost, but such a drastic swing is alarming. Ajayi became famous after ripping off three separate 200-yard games in 2016, but that accounts for half the yards he had the entire season last year in fifteen games. The offensive line has always been an issue for Ajayi but he simply isn’t the special running back we all wanted to believe he was coming into this season. I don’t get why the Eagles shipped out a draft pick in a year where they are light on picks to duplicate what they have in Blount.
Patriots Receive: 2018 second round pick
49ers Receive: QB Jimmy Garoppolo
Well, it took an entire five days for Belichick to completely destroy my 2018 QB predictions.
Every team in the AFC East made a move ahead of the trade deadline and the most intriguing in a landslide is this move by the Patriots. After absolutely refusing to trade Garoppolo ahead of, or during, the 2017 NFL Draft, the Patriots seemed intent to keep Garoppolo in case of emergency, aka Brady getting injured this season, and hope to sign him long term to eventually take over as the starter. Apparently the Patriots finally realized they were not going to be able to agree to a contract extension with Garoppolo, which to me is baffling. It took this long to realize Jimmy wouldn’t want to be a backup for the next 3-5 years? It appears the Patriots just abandoned their plan mid-season to get some draft compensation come April 2018. I don’t understand why the Patriots didn’t just make this move in April 2017 with either the 9ers or Browns, and have young talent contributing to the team right now. Every other move the Patriots made ahead of the 2017 season was a win-now maneuver aimed at maximizing the Tom Brady-Super Bowl window. They halted, however, at trading Garoppolo.
There are conflicting reports on if the Browns ever in fact offered a first round pick for Garoppolo back in April. If they did, the Patriots handled this situation all wrong. If they did not, the Patriots are essentially getting the same second round pick from the 9ers that the Browns were offering at the draft. High second round picks have proven to be the most valuable selections in the draft in terms of surplus value. In a vacuum, the trade compensation the Patriots received for Garoppolo is alright, but I don’t understand not doing this trade six and a half months ago.
I am going to take this opportunity to speak about how I simply do not understand how NFL executives are calibrating the NFL QB trade market. The other piece of the Garoppolo trade I fail to comprehend is why this was the best offer. I have previously spoken about how much draft capital teams are willing to relinquish for a chance at a quarterback prospect that may one day turn into a franchise guy. In addition, we have seen Sam Bradford traded twice now. The first trade sent Bradford and a fifth round pick out the door for a second round pick, fourth round pick, and Nick Foles. The second Bradford trade saw the Vikings gift the Eagles a first and fourth round pick. Sam Bradford, the middling, injury prone quarterback with no upside has twice been traded for a larger haul than what the Patriots just received for Jimmy Garoppolo.
In a very limited sample size against two bad defenses, Garoppolo looked like a very viable NFL quarterback. Garoppolo is 25 years old, and has spent the past three and a half years of his life learning from the best possible trio in the NFL he could have ever asked for; Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and Josh McDaniels. If Garoppolo had been available for trade at the draft, considering you would have been swapping draft capital to acquire him, he must have been viewed as the best prospect in the draft. Yes, I am sure hindsight and regency bias are going to make you now think I am an idiot considering how Watson has light the world on fire, but I implore you to remember that everyone and their kid brother said no quarterback in the 2017 draft was worthy of a first round pick. So then, wouldn’t the guy with at least some NFL game experience, years of NFL practice experience, and years of Brady/Belichick/McDaniels tutelage be the best prospect available?
Apparently the order of how the NFL values quarterback commodities is:
- 1. Completely unknown college prospect having received college coaching previous 3-4 years
- 2. Middling, injury prone veteran with no upside
- 3. Mostly unknown NFL prospect having received the holy trinity of coaching previous 3.5 years.
Anyone with a microphone seems to be applauding the 9ers for making an aggressive move to get their quarterback of the future and obtain team control over his future with the franchise and transition tag options. Yes, those are the positives. How about the negatives? The 9ers just gave up a high second round pick for a guy they could have gotten in free agency. Now, they were not going to be the only bidder, but they just paid a premium for those team control options. They are also putting themselves at risk of blowing their top two draft pick if Garoppolo wins enough games. The 9ers next two games are at home against the Drew Stanton Cardinals, and home against the Giants. Those teams currently sit 10th and 3rd in the draft order, respectively, and the Cardinals got there with mostly Carson Palmer under center. These are the two most winnable games left on San Francisco’s schedule. They have their bye week following these two games. I hope, for their sake, they play Beathard in a shameless tanking effort for the two games ahead of the bye before rolling out Garoppolo for the final six weeks of the season (it has already been reported Garoppolo will not play against the Cardinals). I am assuming the 9ers are not going to care too much about losing that second round pick if they can sell off the Rosen/Darnold consolation pick to the highest bidder. The return they will get is going to far exceed what they surrendered for Garoppolo.
Seahawks Receive: LT Duane Brown, 2018 fifth round pick
Texans Receive: 2018 third round pick, 2019 second round pick.
The Seahawks’ biggest weakness by far was the offensive line. Jadeveon Clowney was simply a man amongst boys in the Seahawks Texans game on Sunday. This line ranked 28th in the NFL in adjusted line yards, 30th in stuffed percentage, and 30th in second level yards. Specifically on runs behind the left tackle, the Seahawks ranked 30th in adjusted line yards.
This is a very win-now trade as Seattle is very low on 2018 draft picks. They do have seven picks, but five of those picks are in the fifth and seventh rounds. They have zero selections in the second and third round. Based on history it is a good bet Seattle will trade down from their first selection to recoup these picks, but the Seahawks are clearly chasing an opportunity to win the Super Bowl this season. The NFL, and specifically the NFC, is wide open. I also think the brain trust for the Seahawks has the foresight to see that this collection of talent will not remain in tact for too much longer. The first signal of this was the fact the Seahawks spent four draft choices on defensive backs in 2017, three of which were in the third or fourth round. Earl Thomas is 28, Richard Sherman is 29 and Kam Chancellor is 30. The combined cap hit for those three in 2018 is $33.4 million. Bobby Wagner has an out on his contract after this season, though I don’t see the Seahawks cutting him. He has a $13.6 million 2018 cap hit. Michael Bennett has an $8.237 million cap hit for 2018. Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin and now Duane Brown will combine for a 2018 cap hit of $45.68 million (Duane Brown has 1 year left on his deal after this season for a cap hit of $9.75 million). All of this before making decisions on Jimmy Graham, Sheldon Richardson and Luke Joeckel (although I’d be shocked if they brought back Joeckel). The end is coming. It may not be next season or the season after that, but there are changes looming. The Brown deal coupled with the Richardson trade show a clear signal that Seattle is gunning for a Super Bowl run in 2017.
The Texans, on the other hand, have ranked 13th in adjusted line yards thus far and 14th in adjusted line yards behind the left tackle, but come in 31st in adjusted sack percentage. The Texans and Brown were at a disconnect regarding Brown’s contract so I assume the Texans didn’t envision him as part of their future anyway. The Texans individual offensive lineman, specifically tackles and guards, grade among the worst in football according to Pro Football Focus. This will be an area the team will look to address in the offseason, but they decided trading away their best lineman for draft capital was the direction they wanted to go. The team is light on 2018 draft picks since the Browns own both the Texans’ first and second round picks. It would appear the front office decided recouping some picks is more important than keeping around Brown, considering how explosive this offense has been so far without Brown even playing. Personally, I would rather keep the proven lineman to help protect my young quarterback, but the Texans did receive solid compensation.
Bills Receive: 2018 sixth round pick
Jaguars Receive: DT Marcell Dareus
Marcell Dareus has only played 82 run defense snaps this season and the Bills still rank as the 8th best run defense by DVOA. Buffalo essentially gave away Dareus for free to the Jaguars. I really don’t know why. Maybe they grew tired of him from a character standpoint; he was sent home from a preseason game in August for violating a team rule and was arrested on seven charges in 2014, including a felony drug possession charge. The Bills still handed him a $96.5 million contract after the arrest situation had been cleared up. Perhaps they regretted that $96.5 million contract and were just looking for cap relief. I just find it hard to believe that they could not have gotten a higher offer for a former All-Pro. Maybe I’m wrong, since apparently Buffalo shopped him during the preseason but no deal was made. Dareus appears to be the latest member of previous Buffalo regimes that Brandon Beane has purged from this roster.
The Jaguars, on the other hand, rank 32nd in run defense DVOA as of this writing. They essentially gave up nothing for a former All-Pro they are hoping can help improve their run defense, and Dareus’ contract has an out after the 2018 season with $0 of dead money that would remain on the cap sheet. This is low risk, high reward at its finest. The only negative I can think of is the Dareus’ $10.175 million 2018 cap hit possibly hindering the Jaguars pursuit of a quarterback in the offseason. The Jaguars are projected to be $1.235 million over the cap next year but can get out of the Chris Ivory and Malik Jackson contracts after this season for only $9 million in dead money, saving $10 million dollars. So, that’s a start.