With all the trade talk surrounding Antonio Brown i got to thinking, what were the biggest trades in NFL history? After some some research, hear are the top ten deals in the league over the last forty years:
JEROME BETTIS (1997)
Steelers get – Jerome Bettis, 3rd round pick (1997)
Rams get – 2nd, 4th round pick (1997)
For all my Steelers fans reading this post I had to throw you a bone. Pittsburgh is not very well known for making splash trades over the years. This one however, worked out great for the Pittsburgh Steelers. None of the picks exchanged amounted to much, but Jerome Bettis’ career took off after joining Pittsburgh.
10. STEVE LARGENT (1977)
Seahawks get – Steve Largent
Oilers get – 8th round pick 1977
It didn’t take long for the Houston Oilers to realize the mistake they had made. Largent became the first Pro-Bowler in Seahawk’s history in 1978. Largent went to six more Pro-Bowl selections along with being a three time All-Pro. This has to go down as one of the worst trades in NFL history.
9. STEVE YOUNG (1987)
49ers get – Steve Young
Buccaneers get – 2nd, 4th round picks (1983)
Needless to say Tampa Bay didn’t do very well in this deal. They had just drafted Vinny Testaverde with the number one overall pick, and had a surplus of quarterbacks. In all fairness any quarterback would, and did struggle for Tampa during those years. Young went on to win a Super Bowl in San Francisco once he got out from under the shadow of Joe Montana.
8. BRETT FAVRE (1992)
Packers get – Brett Favre
Falcons get – 1st round pick (1992)
Imagine trading Brett Favre away after just one season. I’m sure Falcons fans want no part of rehashing this trade. On the other hand, acquiring Favre finally got the once proud Packers back on the map after years of futility.
7. JOHN ELWAY (1983)
Broncos get – John Elway
Colts get – 1st round pick (1984), Guard Chris Hinton (4th overall 1983), QB Mark Hermann
The backstories and intrigue that go along with this trade could be made into a book. Long story short, Elway forced a trade from the Colts by threatening to hold out or to choose baseball as a career. As is usually the case when you trade a franchise quarterback away, the Colts did not fair well in this deal. The Broncos got multiple Super Bowls and a Hall of Fame quarterback in what was a very lopsided deal.
6. KHALIL MACK (2018)
Bears get – Khalil Mack, 2nd round pick (2020), 5th round pick (2020 conditional)
Raiders get – 1st round pick (2019), 1st round, 2nd round, 6th round picks (2020)
This trade will be debated for some time as to who got the better of it all. The Bears acquired the premier pass rusher in the NFL, but paid a steep price for him. How the Raiders use those picks will ultimately decide how good or bad they did in this deal. In the short-term, the Bears have gotten exactly what they hoped for as Mack has taken their defense to an elite level.
5. ROBERT GRIFFIN III
Redskins get – Number two overall pick (2012 – Robert Griffin III)
Rams get – Number six overall (2012), 2nd round pick (2012), 1st round pick (2013), 1st round pick (2014)
This was a blockbuster deal in which neither team came out better in the long run. Early on, it looked like the Redskins won the deal as Griffin’s rookie season was very promising. Unfortunately for the Redskins, Griffin never became the franchise quarterback they had hoped for and was later replaced by Kirk Cousins. The Rams turned some of those draft picks into decent players (Micheal Brockers, Jenoris Jenkins, Alec Ogletree), but none were able to lead the team to any winning seasons.
4. RYAN LEAF
Chargers get – Number 2 overall (1998 – Ryan Leaf)
Cardinals get – Number 3 overall (1998), 2nd round pick (1998), 1st round pick (1999), WR Eric Metcalf, LB Patrick Sapp
The Cardinals win this deal alone by not having to deal with Ryan Leaf for one second. Not to mention the haul they got for moving down one spot. Ryan Leaf turned into the poster boy for first round busts after his rocky tenure in San Diego. Just think how happy the Colts are for choosing Peyton Manning over Leaf.
3. ERIC DICKERSON (1987)
Colts get – Eric Dickerson
Bills get – Cornelius Bennett
Rams get – 1st round pick (1988 from Buffalo), 1st round pick (1988 from Indianapolis), 2nd round pick (1988 from Indianapolis), 1st round pick (1989 from Buffalo), 2nd round pick (1989 from Indianapolis), 2nd round pick (1989 from Buffalo), RB Gregg Bell, RB Owen Gill
Would you believe with all the things that went on in this trade that the Buffalo Bills may have made out the best in this deal? Bennett went on to be a five time Pro-Bowl linebacker, while none of the draft picks the Rams received turned out to be much of anything. Dickerson had three thousand yard rushing season for the Colts, then began a steep decline.
2. RICKY WILLIAMS
Saints get – Rickey Williams
Redskins get – 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th round picks (1999), 1st, 3rd round picks (2000)
Yes you read that right, Mike Ditka and the New Orleans Saints traded basically their entire draft for running back Ricky Williams. There are many subplots to this incredible trade including the Bengals turning down this same offer in order to draft the immortal Akili Smith. The Saints somewhat redeemed themselves by flipping Williams to the Dolphins for two first round picks years later. For all the draft choices the Redskins received, only Hall of Famer Champ Bailey is worth noting.
1. HERSCHEL WALKER
Vikings get – Herschel Walker, 3rd 5th 10th round picks (1990), 3rd round pick (1991)
Cowboys get – 1st, 2nd, 6th round picks (1990), 1st, 2nd round picks (1991), 1st, 2nd, 3rd round picks (1992), LB Jesse Solomon, LB David Howard, CB Issiac Holt, RB Darren Nelson, DE Alex Stewart
Wow, just wow. In what will forever be known as the greatest heist in NFL history, the Cowboys built a dynasty on this trade. Players like Emmit Smith, Russell Maryland, and Darren Woodson all came from the draft picks acquired from the Vikings. Meanwhile Herschel Walker turned out to be a major disappointment in Minnesota. This is one of the rare cases where the star player in the trade doesn’t tilt the trade in his favor.