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Re-Grading the 10 Biggest NFL Trades of Last 10 Years

Gary Davenport

There was a time when trades were not especially common in the NFL. Playing Let's Make a Deal was reserved for Major League Baseball, the NBA and Monty Hall. Trades happened in the NFL, but they were relatively infrequent and rarely involved star players.

However, over the past 15 years or so, NFL general managers have become more aggressive. They are more willing to trade up in the draft to acquire a player they covet. More willing to push their chips to the center of the table to land the veteran they think can put their squad over the top.

They may not have played Monty Hall much. But more and more NFL teams are fine with a little Wayne Brady action.

As time has passed, some of the trades have been highly one-sided, pushing one team all the way to a Lombardi Trophy while the other's gains were modest at best. Some have been unmitigated disasters for at least one club.

The jury is still out on some—there's no denying that the New York Jets trade for four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers was a blockbuster, but given that the veteran quarterback made it one series into his first game in green and white before tearing his Achilles last year, it's impossible to assess the deal's impact for the Jets and Green Bay Packers yet.

One trade appears to have been that rarest of rarities—a big-time win for both sides. And one—well, one completely changed the face of the NFL and paved the way for the league's newest dynasty.

They say that hindsight is 20/20. So, with the benefit of that clarity of vision, here's a look back at the 10 biggest trades of the past decade—and how teams who were all smiles when the deals were struck actually fared once the dust settled.

10. Chicago Bears Trade No. 1 Pick in 2023 Draft to Carolina Panthers

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This isn't an easy trade to re-grade—because much remains unsettled regarding how both sides of the blockbuster deal that landed the Carolina Panthers the first pick in 2023 will work out in the long-term.

The Panthers used that first pick on Alabama quarterback Bryce Young—the player Carolina planned to build their franchise around for years to come. The cost was steep—first-rounders in 2023 and 2024, second-rounders in 2023 and 2025 and wide receiver D.J. Moore.

Young's first season with the Panthers was—let's be nice and go with uneven. Young won just two of 16 starts, completed less than 60 percent of his passes and managed just 11 touchdown passes against 10 interceptions. Young's QBR of 33.4 ranked 30th in the NFL.

Per ESPN's David Newton, new Panthers wide receiver Diontae Johnson believes that Young will be a much improved player in Year 2.

"He's a great quarterback," Johnson said. "Accurate. Smart. He knows how to get his guys in position. Whenever we're out there, you can always count on him to get us in the right spot and make sure everybody knows what they're doing.''

Even if he is, it's hard to see this deal as anything but a win for Da Bears. Moore set career highs across the board last year in Chicago, topping 1,300 receiving yards. The Bears traded back yet again last year before selecting offensive tackle Darnell Wright at No. 10 and traded up in Round 2 to choose cornerback Tyrique Stevenson. Both are penciled in as starters in 2024.

Chicago also landed the first overall pick in 2024 and used that to draft USC quarterback Caleb Williams—a prospect most regard as superior to Young entering the NFL.

That's four starters for one. The fact that the Houston Texans picked 2023 Offensive Rookie of the Year C.J. Stroud one pick after Carolina took Young is just salt in the wound.

And the Bears still have a second-rounder coming.

Bears: A+

Panthers: D

9. Denver Broncos Trade EDGE Von Miller to Los Angeles Rams in 2021

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This won't be the last time you see the Rams mentioned here—Los Angeles general manager Les Snead was a very busy man in 2021.

This trade is also a rarity on this list, in that the player the Rams acquired in the deal wasn't even with the team a full season.

But while Von Miller was in La-La Land, he made the kind of impact that gets you included among the top 10 most impactful deals of the last decade.

By this point in his career, Miller was considered one of the league's best at rushing the passer. He made six straight Pro Bowls from 2014-2019 before missing the entire 2020 season with an injured ankle. But since being the MVP of Super Bowl 50, Miller and the Broncos had fallen on hard times as a team. And with a rebuild underway in the Mile High City, Miller was dealt to Los Angeles mid-season in 2021 for a pair of Day 2 picks.

Rams head coach Sean McVay was a very happy camper after the deal was struck while talking to reporters.

"If you had told me a couple weeks ago if I thought there was a chance of acquiring Von Miller, I would've said, 'Are you kidding me? Hell no.' And then when it becomes a reality, you say, 'Well, let's look into it,'" McVay said. "Everything we do is what we think is in the best interest of this football team, and there's still a long-term vision in mind as well."

That smile didn't fade. Miller logged five sacks over the final eight regular season games and then four more in the postseason, including two in the Rams win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI.

Miller was off to Buffalo the following offseason, and the players the Broncos acquired with the picks obtained in this deal (headlined by edge-rusher Nik Bonitto and linebacker Drew Sanders) haven't been worldbeaters to this point in their professional careers.

But the deal helped the Rams win a championship. And it's hard arguing against that.

Broncos: C

Rams: A-

8. New York Giants Trade EDGE Jason Pierre-Paul to Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2018

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Back in 2018, Jason Pierre-Paul was regarded as one of the better edge-rushers in the National Football League—in spite of a 2015 fireworks accident that cost him part of his right hand. But after eight seasons, 58.5 sacks, two Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl win, Pierre-Paul was traded from the New York Giants to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a third-round pick. Coming off a woeful 3-13 season, the G-Men were rebuilding, while the Bucs were looking to add pop to their pass rush.

Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht lauded what Pierre-Paul brought to the Buccaneers while speaking to reporters.

"Jason is an elite-level edge rusher who will make an immediate impact on our defense," Licht said. "We are adding a two-time Pro Bowler who is passionate about the game and has established himself as one of the league's premier defensive ends. Jason is an incredibly hard-working playmaker on the defensive front with a unique skill set that allows him to stay on the field in both rushing and passing situations."

It was a trade that paid off immediately for Tampa—Pierre-Paul's 12.5 sacks in 2018 were the second-most of his career in a season. But it was 2020 when the Pierre-Paul trade truly became a home run. That season, Pierre-Paul logged 9.5 sacks and made his third Pro Bowl. In a close NFC Championship Game win over the Green Bay Packers, Pierre-Paul posted a pair of sacks. And in Super Bowl LV, Pierre-Paul contributed to a Buccaneers pass rush that constantly harassed Patrick Mahomes in a blowout win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Giants actually got a good player out of the pick obtained in the trade in defensive tackle B.J. Hill. But Hill was himself traded to the Cincinnati Bengals in 2021 for center Billy Price—a move that was ill-advised in retrospect.

Giants: C-

Buccaneers: A

7. Tennessee Titans Trade WR A.J. Brown to Philadelphia Eagles in 2022

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In 2021, the Philadelphia Eagles rebounded from a disastrous four-win 2020 campaign to win nine games and make the playoffs. Philly was a franchise on the rise—and during the 2022 draft, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman decided to turbocharge that ascent.

That year, the Eagles sent the 18th overall pick to the Tennessee Titans for veteran wide receiver A.J. Brown, who then received a four-year, $100 million contract extension.

At the time. Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni told reporters that he was excited to see what Brown could bring to Philadelphia.

"We're really excited to have [Brown] on this team," Sirianni said. "He's a strong man, he's quick for a big guy and he catches everything. There is no projection. You've seen him do it in the NFL for three years now.''

Sirianni didn't have to wait long—Brown set a record for an Eagles debut by catching 10 passes for 155 yards in his first game with the team. By season's end Brown has set a single-season franchise record with 1,496 receiving yards—and the Eagles were champions of the NFC.

Titans general manager John Robinson stated at the time that the Brown trade was in large part a financial decision.

"At the end of the day, we have to make -- I have to make -- the hard decisions," Robinson said. "And there's a lot of things that impact those decisions. Certainly, the finances impact the decisions and trying to get value when we can. And that's the decision we made today."

Youngster Treylon Burks is inarguably cheaper than Brown. He has also inarguably been a huge disappointment, catching just 49 passes for 665 yards and a single touchdown over two pro seasons. With DeAndre Hopkins and Calvin Ridley now in Nashville, Burks has been mentioned as a trade candidate.

And Robinson, who made that "hard decision?"

He was fired during the 2022 season.

Titans: F

Eagles: A

6. Baltimore Ravens Trade OT Orlando Brown Jr. to Kansas City Chiefs in 2021

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After watching Patrick Mahomes get pummeled by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a lopsided loss in Super Bowl LV, it became clear that the Kansas City Chiefs badly needed to upgrade the left tackle spot.

Chiefs general manager Brett Veach did just that, shipping a package of picks in the 2021 offseason (first, third-, fourth- and fifth-round selections) to the Baltimore Ravens for Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and a pair of picks.

Veach heralded the deal while addressing the media post-trade.

"I'm excited we were able to come to an agreement with the Ravens to acquire Orlando Brown, one of the best offensive tackles in the National Football League." Veach said. "He's certainly a special kid. This guy is a Pro Bowl player with tremendous size, quickness and power. Not only is he physically talented, but he's incredibly bright and will fit in well in our offensive line room. We're thrilled to get him in a Chiefs uniform."

Mahomes would be the next to be thrilled. In each of Brown's two seasons with the Chiefs, he was named to the Pro Bowl. Kansas City lost the 2021 AFC Championship Game to the Cincinnati Bengals, but one year later the team was right back in the Super Bowl. And facing a vaunted Philadelphia Eagles front-seven that had amassed the third-most regular-season sacks in NFL history (70), Patrick Mahomes did not go down once.

In news that should surprise no one, the Chiefs won that game.

Not only did Brown help the Chiefs win a Super Bowl before signing with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2023, but Kansas City used the second-rounder in 2021 obtained in the deal to select Nick Bolton, who enters the last year of his rookie deal in 2024 as one of the best off-ball linebackers in the NFL and a key part of a Kansas City team attempting to make NFL history with a third straight championship.

Things haven't worked out as well for the Ravens. The best player the team selected with the quartet of picks Baltimore got from Kansas City appears to be edge-rusher Odafe Oweh, but while Oweh has shown flashes he has yet to live up to his Round 1 billing.

Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta is very good at what he does. But with the benefit of hindsight, the Brown deal (and what came after) was not one of his best moments.

Ravens: D

Chiefs: A

5. Seattle Seahawks Trade QB Russell Wilson to Denver Broncos in 2022

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Every huge trade seems like a great idea at the time—general managers wouldn't make massive deals if they didn't feel the player they were acquiring would change their teams' fortunes for the better in seismic fashion.

Well, quarterback Russell Wilson certainly shook up the Denver Broncos—just not in the way they expected.

The Broncos surrendered quite the haul to obtain Wilson--two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-round pick, tight end Noah Fant, quarterback Drew Lock, and defensive end Shelby Harris. That Denver got a fourth-rounder in 2022 back in the transaction hardly seemed to matter.

That the Broncos doubled down by giving Wilson a massive extension that included over $120 million in guarantees before he ever played a snap for the team rather did.

The deal was a disaster from the jump. Wilson didn't fit in well with some of the Broncos coaches and players. The 2022 season was arguably the worst of his career—four wins in 15 starts and career-lows in completion percentage and touchdown passes.

The 2023 campaign brought better numbers on the field. But it also brought the arrival of head coach Sean Payton. It was clear from the jump that Wilson was not the quarterback Payton wanted leading "his" team, and a late-season benching after seven wins in 15 starts seemingly sealed Wilson's fate. The following spring, the Broncos cut Wilson, eating an NFL-record $85 million dead cap hit in the process.

Things haven't been great in the Emerald City—Geno Smith led the Seahawks to the playoffs in 2022 on the way to being named Comeback Player of the Year, but after receiving a three-year, $75 million extension in 2023, Smith regressed a year ago.

But $25 million a season is an under-market deal for even an average starter under center, and the Seahawks used the picks obtained in the Wilson deal to add quality young starters in tackle Charles Cross and Devon Weatherspoon.

These franchises have taken very different trajectories since Wilson was dealt.

Looks like Seahawks general manager John Schneider knew when to say when.

Seahawks: A-

Broncos: F

4. Houston Texans Trade QB Deshaun Watson to Cleveland Browns in 2022

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Since re-entering the NFL In 1999, the Cleveland Browns have wandered the quarterback hinterlands. The list of signal-callers who have come and gone is as depressing as it is long.

In 2022, the Browns made an effort to put a stop to the merry-go-round of mediocrity under center by swinging a massive trade for a former Pro Bowl quarterback and then handing that quarterback the first fully guaranteed contract of its size in NFL history.

It may well do down as the biggest boondoggle the NFL has ever seen.

It's not just the matter of the cloud hanging over Watson after 23 lawsuits from women accusing Watson of sexual impropriety and assault during massage therapy sessions. Or the 11-game suspension that resulted from those accusations. Or the five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract Cleveland gave the 28-year-old. Over the first two years of that deal, the Browns have gotten all of 12 games from Watson.

And those 12 games haven't been particularly good.

Watson's completion percentage in Cleveland has been under 60 and a full eight points lower than in Houston. His yards per attempt fell from 8.3 with the Texans to 6.5 with the Browns. After posting a passer rating of nearly 105 in Houston, Watson has barely cleared 80 in Cleveland.

While Watson has floundered in Cleveland, the Texans have used the boatload of picks (including three first-rounders) obtained from the Browns to build a roster that makes Houston the favorites in the AFC South. One pick was used in the trade up for 2023 Defensive Rookie of the Year Will Anderson Jr. Another was used to draft wide receiver Tank Dell, who impressed as a rookie.

The Browns won 11 games last year, but that was more in spite of Watson than because of him. That Cleveland was then boatraced by Houston in the Wild Card Round sums this trade up quite succinctly.

Texans: A

Browns: F

3. Baltimore Ravens Trade Up for QB Lamar Jackson in 2018 NFL Draft

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The 2024 NFL draft was a record-setter, with six quarterbacks drafted inside the top-12 picks. But the 2018 draft was loaded with highly regarded passing prospects as well—four signal-callers (Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen) were all selected inside the top-10.

Despite a standout career at Louisville that included a Heisman trophy, Lamar Jackson had to wait a while longer to hear his name called. In fact former Colts general manager Bill Polian infamously said on Golic and Wingo (via Will Brinson of CBS Sports) that Jackson should consider a position switch to wide receiver.

"Exceptional athlete," he said. "Exceptional ability to make you miss. Exceptional acceleration. Exceptional instinct with the ball in his hand -- and that's rare for wide receivers," Polian said. "[Antonio Brown] and who else? Name me another one who's like that. Julio [Jones]'s not like that. This guy is incredible in the open field. Great ability to separate. Short and a little bit slight and clearly, clearly not the thrower the other guys are."

Well, Jackson did not consider a position switch, and as Round 1 drew to a close the Baltimore Ravens sent three picks to Philadelphia for the right to make the final pick of Round 1.

And what a pick it was. In the years since Jackson has become arguably the league's most dangerous offensive player. He broke the record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a season, topped 1,000 yards on the ground twice and has won 58 of 77 regular-season starts. Jackson has been named the NFL's Most Valuable Player twice—including last season.

The Eagles turned the two second-rounders obtained in the Jackson deal into a pair of solid offensive players in tight end Dallas Goedert and running back Miles Sanders. And Philly found a franchise quarterback in Round 2 in 2020 with the selection of Jalen Hurts.

But the Eagles could have had Lamar Jackson fresh off winning the Super Bowl.

Hard not to view that as a missed opportunity.

Ravens: A+

Eagles: C-

2. Detroit Lions Trade QB Matthew Stafford to Los Angeles Rams in 2021

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Once in a great while, a trade comes along that winds up being a home run for both sides.

The deal that landed Matthew Stafford in La-La-Land qualifies.

It didn't seem that way at first. The Los Angeles Rams had soured on Jared Goff despite a Super Bowl run in 2018—so much so that the Rams were willing to offer a third-rounder in 2021 and first-rounders in both 2022 and 2023 just to get out from under Goff's contract and upgrade under center.

For the Rams, it was a classic Les Snead "win now" move. For the perennially rebuilding Lions, it was an opportunity to stockpile draft capital and get younger (and cheaper) under center—even it if came at the expense of dealing arguably the best quarterback in franchise history.

In the early-going, this was a trade that clearly favored the Rams—in his first season in Los Angeles, Stafford led the team to their first Super Bowl win. The gamble paid off right out of the gate--and no matter what happens from there, that can't be discounted.

Since then though, the pendulum has swung. The previously durable Stafford has missed substantial time with injuries. Goff has resurrected his career, playing a big part in Detroit's resurgence under head coach Dan Campbell. While appearing on the Trading Cards podcast, Goff said the trade to Motown was the best thing that could have happened for his career.

"Being shipped off and being sent to a place to die, essentially, is what a lot of people think it was and I was never going to allow that to happen," Goff said. "I'm fortunate enough to be around a lot of good coaches and players in Detroit that support me and help me reach my potential."

It's not just Goff, either. The Lions used the picks obtained from L.A. (after some more machinations) to add a number of players, including wide receiver Jameson Williams, tight end Sam LaPorta and running back Jahmyr Gibbs. Detroit may well now have the best roster in the NFC.

Both the Rams and the Lions made the postseason last year, with Detroit coming one game away from the team's first Super Bowl.

Make that final step, and this trade will be a massive win for both sides.

Rams: A-

Lions: A

1. Chiefs Trade Up for QB Patrick Mahomes in 2017 NFL Draft

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There's no doubt which trade was going to headline this list—after all, it's not every year that a draft-day trade leads to the creation of a dynasty.

And make no mistake—with four Super Bowl appearances and three Lombardi trophies since he took over as the starting quarterback in Kansas City Chiefs in 2018, the Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs are a dynasty.

Now, at the time, Mahomes was far from a sure thing. As Kevin Patra reported for NFL.com, at least one scout thought Mahomes' penchant for improvisation could lead to trouble in the NFL.

"He has the best arm of the group but he plays crazy," one scout told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Bob McGinn during the draft process. "I don't even think 'gunslinger' is the right word. He's reckless. ... I remember seeing (Brett) Favre in his bowl game his senior year. In that game he had three or four plays you thought were a little off the wall. Mahomes might have 20 plays in a game where you go, 'What are you doing?'"

Um, yeah—about that. Mahomes is one of just two quarterbacks in NFL history to eclipse 5,000 passing yards and throw 50 touchdown passes in the same season. He's a two-time NFL MVP. And he's already regarded by many as one of the all-time greats at the position.

The Buffalo Bills got three picks (two firsts and a third) in the deal for Mahomes—picks that were turned into a Pro Bowl cornerback in Tre'Davious White and a solid off-ball linebacker in Tremaine Edmunds. The team also got their quarterback the following year in Josh Allen.

But White and Edmunds are no longer in Western New York, and to date Allen hasn't been able to get the Bills past Mahomes and the Chiefs and into a Super Bowl.

This trade has come to define the modern NFL—and the Chiefs won it going away.

Chiefs: A+

Bills: C

   

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