Tuesday was not your typical NFL trade deadline day.
A flurry of action saw some contenders shore up their ranks while others made puzzling moves on an active day that looked more like something seen from MLB or the NBA.
Let’s take a look at who looks better and who looks worse after Tuesday’s transaction action.
With a new city, a new approach and a new stadium in the wings, the Los Angeles Rams went all in during the offseason, determined to keep the attention of a fickle fanbase by building a champion.
So far, those moves that included adding receiver Brandin Cooks, defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh and defensive backs Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib have paid off splendidly in terms of an 8-0 start. The Rams that looked like a juggernaut on paper have become one on the field.
On Tuesday they added another pass rusher to the league’s most intimidating defensive line by trading for Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., a high-upside player who has not yet lived up to his billing as the No. 3 pick in the 2015 draft.
The good thing for Fowler is that he doesn’t have to dominate the line of scrimmage in L.A. He just needs to be another dangerous threat for blockers to worry about.
The Rams sent a 2019 third-round pick and 2020 fifth-round pick to Jacksonville, reiterating that this year is Super Bowl or bust. It’s a worthy gamble, as irons don’t get much hotter than the one in L.A. right now. It’s time to strike.
Nelson Agholor has been a letdown, and Mike Wallace is on injured reserve, leaving Carson Wentz without a reliable stable of receivers in Philadelphia. Insert Golden Tate, one of the league’s best route runners and most dependable receivers, and the Eagles have filled a glaring hole as they look to win another championship.
It’s reminiscent of last year’s trade for running back Jay Ajayi, who found new life after struggling in a stagnant Miami Dolphins offense and proved to be a valuable weapon during the Eagles’ Super Bowl run.
Alshon Jeffery has shown flashes of his old self after having offseason shoulder surgery and should only benefit from the arrival of Tate. The Eagles dealt a third-round pick to the Lions for Tate, showing that they, like the Rams, are focused on this year. At 4-4 and looking up at the Washington Redskins in the NFC East, they needed to make a move. It may not pay off, but staying aggressive was the right move for a championship contender.
Speaking of Washington, the Eagles’ NFC East rival decided to buy while sitting at 5-2 and firmly in first place in the division. While we’re not yet buying Washington as a threat in the NFC, we do respect their aggression while in the driver’s seat for the playoffs.
Washington dealt a fourth-round pick to the Green Bay Packers for safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, filling a void it has struggled to address for years. Washington sent 2016 second-round pick Su’a Cravens to Denver in the offseason after he appeared to not want to play football any more. Now Washington gets a known commodity in 2016 Pro Bowler Clinton-Dix, who has proven to be a difference maker in the secondary since the Packers drafted him in 2014.
Washington already owns a top-five defense in terms of yardage and points allowed. If that unit can prove to be one of the league’s best for a full season, maybe Washington will be worth watching in the playoffs.
The Jaguars are a mess. They’re off to a 3-5 start after coming up just short of the Super Bowl last season and are in limbo at quarterback after the totally predictable collapse of Blake Bortles. But they still have an elite defense and play in a mediocre division.
Changes needed to be made, but Tuesday’s changes were not the answer. The Jags hit the sell button on Fowler in their trade with the Rams and received nothing in return to help them this year. Future draft picks are nice, but Jacksonville is trying to contend now. Those picks won’t replace Bortles, who was never a reliable starter, an issue that should have been addressed in the offseason.
Unless they plan to shock the word by signing Colin Kaepernick (hint: they won’t), they’re stuck with a disaster at the game’s most important position. Meanwhile, the AFC South-leading Houston Texans got better by adding receiver Demaryius Thomas on Tuesday.
Green Bay Packers
Ty Montgomery had to go. After defying orders and denying the game’s best quarterback a shot at a comeback win over the Los Angeles Rams with a late fumble Sunday, he lost the trust of Aaron Rodgers and the rest of his teammates.
But dealing Clinton-Dix without a reliable option behind him doesn’t make much sense. At the end of the day, the Packers let two contributors go for a fourth- and a seventh-round draft pick. While the Packers have been negligent in surrounding Rodgers with talent for most of his career, they actively shipped talent away on Tuesday. It continues the trend of criminally failing to build a team around one of the game’s all-time greats.
Nothing the Packers did Tuesday helps them this season. While their NFC rivals added weapons, the Packers added a pair of late-round draft picks that history suggests they’ll screw up on draft day. It’s beyond a shame how this franchise has not capitalized on Rodgers.
The Cowboys stood pat on Tuesday. But watching Demaryius Thomas go for a fourth-round pick and Golden Tate for a third-round pick had to burn Dallas fans.
The Cowboys foolishly gave up a first-round pick to the Oakland Raiders for Amari Cooper, an inferior player to both Thomas and Tate under the guise that he’s still young and can turn things around in a new system. That new offensive system in Dallas just happens to be as mediocre as the one Cooper left in Oakland if only slightly less dysfunctional.
The Cooper trade didn’t make sense on the surface when it went down. The market confirmed Tuesday that Dallas gave up way too much for a player who doesn’t resemble a difference maker.
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