Before we get to the NFL trade deadline “Winners and Losers,” let’s pause for a second to consider that we’re all winners here. The NFL’s decision a couple of years ago to move the trade deadline back two weeks has turned it from a big nothing into a fun something.
There are a bunch of reasons we’re seeing more trades in recent years. Teams are more cognizant of how to take advantage of the compensatory pick formula — trading mid-round picks for players but later recouping mid-round picks when those same players are not re-signed as free agents. (Plus, teams are now allowed to trade compensatory picks, which was not the case until a couple of years ago). Teams in danger of falling short of the 89 percent cash-spend threshold mandated by the 2011 collective bargaining agreement can add salary in trades as a means of getting there. And of course, all the stuff you hear about young GMs being aggressive and forward-thinking, yada, yada.
But the biggest thing is the moving back of the deadline to the middle part of the season, by which time more teams are able to decide whether they’re in or they’re out as contenders. There are people in the league who’d like to see the deadline pushed back even further, to offer teams even more information on that front and unlock even more deals. But for now, we’ll take this.
There may not have been as many deals as many thought there would be in advance of Tuesday’s deadline, but there were plenty, and they included some big names.
So let’s take a look at who came out ahead and who fell a little short when the smoke cleared and the deals were done at 4 p.m. ET.
Every NFC East team except the Giants
Remember, the Cowboys kicked this whole thing off a week early when they traded a first-round pick for some badly-needed wide receiver help in Amari Cooper. The Eagles, who tried to get Cooper but wouldn’t give up the first-rounder, pried Golden Tate away from the Lions on Tuesday for a third-round pick. And we were all set to list Washington among the “losers” here because they needed receiver help and didn’t get Tate or Demaryius Thomas and the teams that did are both on their second-half schedule (including the Eagles twice). But then Washington swooped in at the deadline and added safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who’ll help them at least limit the production of opposing receivers while theirs get healthy. Pro Football Focus’ top two graded safeties so far this year are Washington’s D.J. Swearinger and … you guessed it, Clinton-Dix. As for the Giants, they’re in the other section.
I don’t know whether the deal that sent Fowler from the Jaguars to the Rams is a “win” for the Rams, because Fowler hasn’t shown himself capable of sustaining consistent production in spite of his talent. I don’t know if it’s a “win” for the Jaguars, who are deep on the defensive line and didn’t pick up Fowler’s 2019 option because they’ve been frustrated that he hasn’t lived up to his draft slot. But I know this is a “win” for Fowler, who goes from a reeling 3-5 team to the league’s only undefeated team and gets a chance to play alongside Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh for his final eight-plus games before free agency.
The Jaguars poked around but ultimately didn’t trade for a quarterback, meaning they remain all-in on Bortles. Jacksonville believes it will be better if Leonard Fournette comes back healthy in the second half and the defense gets on track, meaning they won’t have to ask as much of Bortles as they have been. Last year convinced them they could be a Super Bowl contender with Bortles at QB. By not adding a QB at the deadline, they doubled-down on that belief.
Bell continues to exercise all of his leverage. He told our Jeremy Fowler a couple of weeks ago that he didn’t want to be traded. He had control over that. By not signing his franchise tender before the trade deadline, he rendered the Steelers unable to trade him. I don’t know if he comes back this week, next week, or on Nov. 13 — the last day he can report and still be eligible to play this year (i.e., the day his leverage runs out). But if one of Bell’s goals was to set the NFL’s team/player control dynamic on its ear, he seems just about fully committed to it.
Everyone involved in the Texans-Broncos trade
You have to like this trade for the Texans, who needed receiver help after losing Will Fuller to injury last week. They got an experienced guy known as a strong locker-room presence who will help keep at least some attention away from DeAndre Hopkins. You have to like it for Denver, who drafted two receivers this year (Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton) knowing they weren’t bringing back Thomas for $14 million in 2019. And you have to like it for Thomas, who goes from a Broncos team that’s four games behind a first-place Chiefs team that’s beaten it twice to a first-place Texans team that’s won five games in a row. Everybody wins here.
Field Yates breaks down the Washington Redskins’ acquisition of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix from the Green Bay Packers.
NFC North parity
This looks like it’s about to turn into a two-team race now between the Vikings and the Bears. The Packers traded away a couple of key pieces (including Ty Montgomery in an obvious spite-move for a 2020 seventh-round pick) and the Lions trading Tate, who was the target of 27 percent of Matthew Stafford‘s passes this season, one week after acquiring Damon Harrison in what looked like a win-now move. On one hand, if Green Bay wasn’t re-signing Clinton-Dix and Detroit wasn’t re-signing Tate, you can understand why they wanted to get picks for them now. But the Packers are a half-game out of first and the Lions only a game out. Each made its current roster perceptibly worse Tuesday.
While their division rivals were all adding players to help them try to win the division, the 1-7 Giants spent Tuesday dealing with the arrest of backup quarterback Kyle Lauletta following a bizarre traffic stop. What makes this worse is that Lauletta was on his way to a practice where he’d have received a considerable number of reps, since the Giants were giving Eli Manning a rest day, and that the Giants were planning to use this bye week to lay out ways to get Lauletta some game action in the second half of their lost season. Now, who knows whether they’ll get to take a look at him? The Giants also stopped mid-fire sale, failing to get value for cornerback Janoris Jenkins or safety Landon Collins. The latter decision will look fine if they don’t lose Collins in free agency after the end of the season, but that’s far from certain. This franchise is a total mess.
Teams that need quarterback help were calling around in recent weeks about the Bucs’ Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Jets’ Josh McCown, the Browns’ Tyrod Taylor and the Eagles’ Nick Foles. None of them got moved, mainly because none of those teams wanted to give away a reliable backup option behind their starter (or, in Tampa Bay’s case, its current starter!).
The Steelers, Eagles and Chiefs were among the contending teams sniffing around for cornerback help in the days ahead of the deadline, but with Patrick Peterson, Bradley Roby, Janoris Jenkins and Gareon Conley staying put, no one who needed help at that position got it this year. They’ll have to continue searching for answers internally.