That the NFL has become more of a trade-heavy league in recent years was confirmed on November 1, right up to the 4:00 p.m. EST trade deadline. As ESPN’s Adam Schefter pointed out, the 10 trades made on deadline day marked a record.
There were a couple of major deals, and a few sleeper trades that could rise up over time. There were also teams that did nothing by the deadline, to the frustration of their fanbases.
Who are the winners and losers of this trade deadline day? Let’s take a look.
Winner: The Miami Dolphins
(Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)
Through the first eight weeks of the season, the Dolphins ranked 11th in blitz rate at 28.4%. They ranked 28th in pressure rate at 14.8%. Less than ideal for a team that rightly believes it’s in playoff contention. So, Miami did what they should have done, and sent their remaining 2023 first-round pick (the one they have left after the other one was removed by the NFL for tampering) to the Denver Broncos for pass-rusher Bradley Chubb. The Broncos also got a 2024 fourth-round pick and running back Chase Edmonds.
This trade is really about the Dolphins, as the Broncos are in Unexpected Rebuilding Mode. Jaelen Phillips had been Miami’s top edge defender, with four sacks, five quarterback hits, and 23 quarterback hurries. Add Chubb’s six sacks, five quarterback hits, and 15 quarterback hurries, and all of a sudden, the Dolphins don’t have to sell out to get pressure. That turns their defense into an entirely different animal.
Miami also traded a 2023 fifth-round pick for running back Jeff Wilson Jr., who represents a fairly major upgrade to their backfield. The Dolphins are in it to win it, and both deals reflect that in a positive sense.
Loser: The Green Bay Packers
(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)
Perhaps the rumors that Green Bay was in on the idea of former Steelers receiver Chase Claypool are true, and if so… well, losing out on Claypool to the Bears is a problem on the surface. It’s hard to know how well a random receiver like Claypool would fit in Matt LaFleur’s highly-structured passing game, but the Packers did nothing to improve their receiver corps at the deadline, and that is indeed a major issue. Against the Bills last Sunday, the Packers were incapable of running a functional two-minute offense, and while injuries to Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard didn’t help, we’re now dealing with a 3-5 team with major holes on both sides of the ball, talent that isn’t matching up to the results, and the inevitable conclusion that 2022 is a waste year at this point. Not at all what we expected.
Winner: The Pittsburgh Steelers
(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
Not that Mike Tomlin’s team is in contention after their 2-6 start and an offense that should be relegated to the Mid-American Conference, but when Tomlin is your head coach, you’re always looking for an edge. The Steelers got two edges for the future on Tuesday. They offloaded the aforementioned Chase Claypool to the Bears for a 2023 second-round pick that will be a high second-round pick. That’s a nice haul for a receiver who, to put it kindly, has been a bit inconsistent throughout his career.
Then, after getting their heads chopped off against the Eagles in Week 8 by Jalen Hurts and A.J. Brown in their preferred Cover-1 stuff, the Steelers got cornerback William Jackson III for a low-round pick trade. The Washington Commanders were reportedly set to release Jackson by the deadline if there wasn’t a willing trade partner, which just goes to show how poorly the Commanders deploy their assets. They never used Jackson as he should have been used — as a top-tier press-man cornerback — but the Steelers were just waiting to plug a guy like Jackson in to a set of schemes that they already had going.
The Steelers aren’t great. They may not even be good. But they got better on this particular day, which is the most you can do in a disappointing season.
Loser: The Chicago Bears
(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
So, to the other side of this. The Bears had already traded defensive stalwarts Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith, which had the look of a rebuild. Then, they gave their own second-round pick to the Steelers for Claypool, which will certainly be a higher pick than the one they got from the Baltimore Ravens for Smith.
What did they get for all this? Claypool is a player with incredible physical gifts, but outside of his 11-touchdown rookie season of 2020, he’s struggled to make that into something special on the field. What did we say about Claypool not working well in the Packers’ highly-structured offense? Well, Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy was Matt LaFleur’s quarterbacks coach & passing game coordinator in 2020 and 2021. So, unless the Bears want to go total schoolyard with their passing game (which might be the best answer at this point), this smacks of impulse buying for a team that had started to tear its own defense apart.
Winner: The Buffalo Bills
(Syndication: The Indianapolis Star)
You may want the Buffalo Bills to grab a power runner to perfect their offense. I may want the Buffalo Bills to grab a power runner to perfect their offense. At one time, the Buffalo Bills wanted to grab a power runner to perfect their offense in the person of Zack Moss, who they selected out of Utah in the third round of the 2020 draft. Moss was never able to take the elements of that game he showed in college to the pros, and the Bills punted on his potential on Tuesday by trading him to the Indianapolis Colts, along with a conditional sixth-round pick, for running back Nyheim Hines.
Like Devin Singletary and James Cook, Hines is more of a speed/slasher back with pass-catching skills than a guy who’s going to bust up any defensive fronts. But that’s okay, because it’s working pretty well for Ken Dorsey’s offense. Hines does have some after-contact juice, but the only power guy in the backfield is still Josh Allen. Which is also working pretty well for Ken Dorsey’s offense.
Loser: The Detroit Lions
(David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports)
You’d think that as a former tight end, Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell would understand the value of a true game-changer at the position. Alas. If Campbell does understand such things, the Ford family probably had to lock the exuberant coach in a box when Detroit traded T.J. Hockenson, a 2023 fourth-round pick, and a 2024 conditional fourth-round pick to the Minnesota Vikings for a 2023 second-round pick, and a 2024 third-round pick.
Yes, you can say that Hockenson, who the Lions selected eighth overall in the 2019 draft, was coming up on a big playday. But it could also be said that even in Detroit’s regressive Jared Goff-led offense, Hockenson has earned it. Now, and for very little in return, the Lions have one more thing to worry about when rebuilding, as they are always seeming to do.
Winner: The Minnesota Vikings
(Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports)
What does this trade do for the Vikings? Well, they already had one of the NFL’s best (sneaky-good) offensive lines, a great lead running back in Alexander Mattison, perhaps the league’s best receiver in Justin Jefferson, and above-average No. 2 and No. 3 receivers in Adam Thielen and K.J. Osborn. What they did not have was an explosive tight end to open up that passing game, and they certainly have it now. Irv Smith Jr. wasn’t the answer, and that was before Smith was sidelined in Week 8 with a high ankle sprain.
Last season, when the Vikings put two tight ends on the field, that turned Kirk Cousins into the NFL’s most efficient quarterback. Per Sports Info Solutions, Cousins completed 60 of 81 passes with two tight ends for 561 yards, 247 air yards, six touchdowns, no interceptions, and a league-high passer rating of 117.4. You add Hockenson to that list of weapons, and defenses have to get pretty nervous about who they’re dealing with. It’s an outstanding all-in move for this 6-1 team, and they didn’t have to pay an all-in price to do it.
Winner (eventually): The Jacksonville Jaguars
(Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)
It may be too late for the 2-6 Jacksonville Jaguars to save their 2022 season, and the extent to which Trevor Lawrence has not grown to expectations in Doug Pederson’s offense is kind of a big deal. But kudos to the Jags for betting on their future and acquiring a low-cost elite receiver whose future is still in doubt. Jacksonville sent a complicated package of picks to the Atlanta Falcons for the future services of receiver Calvin Ridley.
Here’s how the compensation might work for Atlanta.
There are conditions attached to this trade for Calvin Ridley. If he gets reinstated bye a date, it’s worth a 2023 5th, otherwise it's for a 6th. If he makes the team in 2024, it’s at least a 4th. If he hits play-time milestone, it’s a 3rd. If Jax get a long-term done, it’s a 2. https://t.co/RThnpL1ioO
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 1, 2022
Why is it a shocker, and why is the potential compensation so complicated?
Back in March, the NFL suspended Atlanta Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley from the league for a period of at least one year due to Ridley betting on NFL games in the 2021 season. Per the NFL’s statement, Ridley’s bets took place during a five-day period in late November, 2021, when Ridley was away from the team’s facility on the league’s non-football illness list.
The league investigation revealed no instances in which Ridley used any inside information on any of his bets (which reportedly included bets on the Falcons), nor was there any evidence of staff, coaches, teammates, or any other players of Ridley’s gambling activity.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote this to Ridley in the letter notifying him of the suspension:
“There is nothing more fundamental to the NFL’s success — and to the reputation of everyone associated with our league — than upholding the integrity of the game. This is the responsibility of every player, coach, owner, game official, and anyone else employed in the league. Your actions put the integrity of the game at risk, threatened to damage public confidence in professional football, and potentially undermined the reputations of your fellow players throughout the NFL.
“For decades, gambling on NFL games has been considered among the most significant violations of league policy warranting the most substantial sanction. In your case, I acknowledge and commend you for your promptly reporting for an interview, and for admitting your actions.”
Roger Goodell is also the same guy who will welcome Deshaun Watson back to the NFL with open arms in a few weeks, so there’s that.
In any event, before the suspension happened, Ridley was one of the NFL’s best receivers. And if he can maintain that status once he returns to the field (whenever that may be), even a second-round pick is a fine investment. If not, the lowball comp is a decent risk.
And yes, it’s still a hypocritical farce that Ridley was punished to this degree.