By Brien O’Donal
Follow me on Twitter @ODonalsVanguard
Back in April I wrote an article about NFL teams becoming more interested in trading players and that I felt it wasn’t a healthy option for the salary cap. While I still stand by that, NFL teams don’t listen to me and are doing whatever it takes. That is evident in the big deals being made before today’s trade deadline, which has been one of the most active ever in the NFL. So far the three big transactions have helped some teams now, but most long term.
The Eagles and Seahawks—two teams already in contention—got players that fit immediate need in running back Jay Ajayi and left tackle Duane Brown, respectively. The Texans sent Brown off to Seattle for their own reasons and in return got some help in the form of draft picks and cornerback depth with Jeremy Lane. The Dolphins received only a 4th round draft pick for Ajayi who has fallen off a bit in his 3rd year.
These will probably be the most impactful deals this season because the Eagles and Seahawks have already established themselves as playoff ready. The Eagles lost Darren Sproles for the season and with Carson Wentz playing in MVP form it was necessary to add a better compliment to the bruising LeGarrette Blount than Wendell Smallwood. They currently rank 5th in the league in rushing but if Jay Ajayi can get back to his pro bowl form from last year; the Eagles should roll into the playoffs as the favorite to win it all.
The Seahawks have known all along that their offensive line wasn’t where it needed to be. Currently tied for 1st place in their division with the surprising Rams, they needed to do something big to help the offense that is currently 10th in the league in total offense but 21st in rushing. A big all-pro left tackle fits the bill perfectly. They proved this past week that they are capable of putting up points in a shootout but not every defense will allow Russell Wilson to pass for over 450 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Giving up Jeremy Lane—one of their starting cornerbacks—seems a small price to pay when the rest of the secondary is Richard Sherman, Cam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas. This wasn’t their first big trade of the season though. In September they bolstered their defensive line by trading wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and a 2018 second round pick to the Jets for defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. For them, it appears they are really in a win now mindset.
Maybe the biggest move, in terms of headlines, is the Patriots’ trade of Jimmy Garappolo to San Francisco for a 2018 second round pick. There was talk of the Patriots moving him this off season due to his expiring contract and high value, but now it appears that they were working harder than ever to get him to stay long term as Tom Brady’s understudy. Those talks failed and they were able to find a suitor by the bay. This also throws cold water on the idea that Kirk Cousins would rejoin his former offensive coordinator and current 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan this offseason when the Redskins decide to stop franchise tagging him, a cost that would be nearly $30 million in 2018.
Garappolo will not be joining a winning team and will get to enjoy a no pressure situation while learning the offense. It also gives the 49ers a potential long term option at the position and a reasonable number of games to decide that. They will have a high draft pick and plenty of young quarterback options to choose from, so renting Garappolo for the rest of the season might be a pretty savvy move at the cost of a draft pick. On the other side, the Patriots get what should be a high second rounder rather than lose Garappalo for nothing in the offseason.
The day isn’t over yet and there could still be more trades being worked out before the bell tolls. I will be checking my twitter feed often for anything exciting but these first three big ones will be hard to top.
First point of order: a late report has indicated that cornerback Jeremy Lane has failed his physical, forcing the trade to be amended. The Texans will now send Duane Brown and a 5th round pick to Seattle for the Seahawks 2018 3rd round pick and their 2019 2nd round pick. Still good, but disappointing because the Texans could use the help in their secondary.
As stated above, the trade deadline had not arrived when this article was originally written. Just minutes before it did, the Carolina Panthers shipped wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to the Buffalo Bills for 2018 3rd and 7th round picks. The Bills currently sit at 5-2 and tied for the division lead despite an inconsistent passing game. If Benjamin can do better than the receivers currently on their roster, by the end of the season they can have someone other than running back LeSean McCoy or tight end Charles Clay as the leading receiver.
I don’t really know how much damage this will do to the Panthers offense this season because Benjamin was their receiving yards leader while they sit with a 5-3 record, but I suspect there will be some fallout. This leaves them thin at the position while they still have a chance at a playoff push.
And for your amusement…
It appears the Browns are still doing Browns things. They were able to negotiate a last minute deal with the Cincinnati Bengals to acquire quarterback A.J. McCarron and maybe stabilize the position for them, but sadly it was not to be. Word is that they failed to inform the league of the deal until after the deadline had expired. The NFL–sticking to principle–rejected the trade and the Browns were left to look a fool yet again.
I was one of those people who thought the Browns might win 3-5 games this year. I was one of those people who thought the new front office was making strides to bring them out of the doldrums. Now I am left to look a fool yet again. I can’t believe what a bone-headed move the made this afternoon. Lines of communication to the NFL headquarters should have been opened as soon as the deal looked close to being done. When working against a tight deadline you can’t leave anything to chance. Until the Browns learn to act like an NFL franchise when it comes to player personnel they will continue to not look like an NFL franchise.