2023 NFL Trade Grades

I’ll be keeping track of the various NFL trades that occur throughout 2023 on this page (most recent first). For every trade, I will list the assets each team received, analyze the trade, and provide trade grades for each team. Unless a specific trade is really notable, I’ll only be grading trades involving players, not just draft picks. For free agent signings and extensions, see this page.

October 31, 2023—TRADE DEADLINE DAY

Packers Trade CB Rasul Douglas, 2024 5th-Round Pick to Bills for 2024 3rd-Round Pick:
Buffalo HAD to do something about their CB position. Since Tre’Davious White tore his Achilles, the Bills have had trouble replacing him. 2022 1st-round pick Kaiir Elam has fallen out of favor, and he has only been active for 3 games this year. Taron Johnson and Christian Benford were doing alright, but an upgrade was sorely needed with the Dolphins, Bengals, and Chiefs in their way. That’s where Douglas comes in. The now-former Packer has 15 career INTs, so he’s exactly the kind of ball hawk that Buffalo wanted (White is one as well). He’s actually under contract for another season, albeit an expensive one, so he comes with a bit of team control. I think Douglas was playing his best ball in GB, but this isn’t a cheap trade. Moving down 2 rounds from the 5th to the 7th is no big deal. When the base pick is in the 3rd round, that’s a little more costly. That said, quality corners aren’t easy to get. Douglas is 6’2″, so he also has great length, which is something Buffalo’s other CBs lack. Green Bay did well here because they’re going nowhere with Jordan Love. It’s time to stock up on picks and rebuild, and this is where it starts.
Grades: Packers: A-; Bills: B+

Browns Trade WR Donovan Peoples-Jones to Lions for 2025 6th-Round Pick:
I hadn’t planned on grading the Browns for trading away a player today, but here we are. The team is giving up on Peoples-Jones, who had 839 yards last year but just 97 this year. His decline in production coincides perfectly with Deshaun Watson’s arrival, so Detroit rightly believes they can revive his career. Watson, for better or worse (the latter), is locked into Cleveland due to his contract. That means if someone had to go, it would be Peoples-Jones. This isn’t a BAD return for a former 6th-round pick, but it’s well below what Cleveland would have received if they traded him before week 1. Moving on from an unused player for a day 3 pick is fine. I’m not sure why Detroit wants him though. They have Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, and Kalif Raymond already at WR. Perhaps the key here is their 4th receiver: 2022 1st-round pick Jameson Williams. Due to injury and a gambling suspension, the youngster hasn’t really settled into the NFL yet. Detroit might be protecting themselves in case Williams doesn’t figure things out this year. When you’re a contender, acquiring veteran depth is perfectly reasonable, and Peoples-Jones is worth the price.
Grades: Browns: B-; Lions: B

Commanders Trade DE Chase Young to 49ers for 2024 3rd-Round Pick:
I was wondering if the Commanders would completely tear down their defensive lines. Previously constructed with 4 first-round picks, that line is down to just DTs Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne with the trade of Montez Sweat earlier and the move with Young now. I understand this one more than the Sweat deal, though Young being out of the way is all the more reason to have extended Sweat instead of trading him. Young had lofty expectations as the #2 overall pick in 2020, but injuries have severely limited his production and playing time. Things became so uncertain that Washington declined his 5th-year option, which is why his contract expires this year just like Sweat’s. Receiving a low 3rd-round pick for Young has to be painful given the pick used to acquire him, but that’s really all Young is worth. It’s better for Washington to get something now I suppose, but a 3rd-round compensatory pick might have been in the cards if they simply let him walk later. San Francisco has a very different plan. They want to win now, and they’re trying different things to create a potent pass rush on the side of the line not occupied by Nick Bosa. First they traded for Randy Gregory, and now they’re making a more substantial move. Young’s upside is clear. This was a Heisman candidate who is currently in the midst of his best season (5 sacks already). I don’t know if SF can afford to keep him long-term, but this is as good as a rental as you can find. The Niners aren’t absorbing the risk of Young’s knee, which caused him to miss both of the last two seasons. If the team wins a Super Bowl with a resurgent defense, this is all worth it.
Grades: Commanders: B-; 49ers: A-

Vikings Trade G Ezra Cleveland to Jaguars for 6th-Round Pick:
I guess Minnesota wanted that 6th-round pick back. I don’t blame them for that, but I do blame them for how they went about doing it. Cleveland is not some random backup guard who is there just to fill a roster spot. He started 6 games on Minnesota’s good offensive line, and he has improved throughout his rookie contract. That deal is expiring at season’s end, but I would’ve extended him instead of trading him. Kirk Cousins went down, so now Minnesota is downgrading the line for his substitute? That doesn’t make sense to me. Jacksonville has to be thrilled with their work here. The offensive line has been a weak point, and although I imagine they wanted a tackle, getting a good guard for peanuts is a great consolation prize. Boosting the interior of the line will help against AFC DTs such as KC’s Chris Jones and Miami’s Christian Wilkins while assisting the run game. Guards continue to be undervalued in the NFL, and I’m going to keep praising teams that think otherwise.
Grades: Vikings: D-; Jaguars: A+

Cardinals Trade QB Joshua Dobbs, 2024 7th-Round Pick to Vikings for 2024 6th-Round Pick:
The 7th-rounder in this deal may be conditional, but that’s pretty irrelevant. This is basically your standard 7th+player=6th swap. It goes without saying that I like the move for Arizona. Dobbs played admirably in his first few starts but has been a train wreck as of late. The Cardinals are now 1-7, and Dobbs has been benched for rookie Clayton Tune. With Kyler Murray nearing a return, a 3rd QB was superfluous, so they moved a guy they got right before the season for cheap to jump up a bit in the draft. Minnesota’s side of this is more complex. On the one hand, I get not wanting to start rookie Jaren Hall in place of the injured Kirk Cousins. Backup Nick Mullens is out for several more weeks, so the Vikings needed someone to start this Sunday. Why Dobbs? As polarizing a guy like Carson Wentz can be, he’s certainly better than Dobbs and could be had without surrendering draft capital. Granted, this isn’t much to give up, but it’s more than zero. Dobbs does not make this team significantly more competitive than it would be with Hall, so they should’ve either signed someone like Wentz or just let Hall learn and see what they have in him.
Grades: Cardinals: A; Vikings: D+

Commanders Trade DE Montez Sweat to Bears for 2024 2nd-Round Pick:
Sweat’s draft stock rose after he tore up the Combine in 2019, but he proved to be more than a workout warrior. Despite the drafting of Chase Young #2 overall the following season, Sweat has been Washington’s most consistent pass rusher. He has never produced less than 5 sacks in a season and is off to his best pace yet, earning 6.5 sacks though 8 games in 2023. Sweat might have more room to grow, and he’s still young enough to get there. This is a miscalculation by Washington. They might still trade Young as well, but he should’ve been moved first. Sweat needs to be extended, not traded. For Chicago, this move is well worth a 2nd-round pick. Compared to last year’s deadline deal, when they shipped a 2nd-rounder for WR Chase Claypool, this is the exact opposite. I love the value, but I have two questions. 1. Why Chicago? This team is going nowhere this year and probably won’t next year either. I assume the team made this trade for the future, which leads me to the next question. 2. Why am I not reading about an extension as part of this deal? By trading premium draft capital for a player in the final year of his contract without extending him as a condition of the trade, you’re handing that player a ton of leverage. Sweat will be very expensive now, and while he may be worth it, the Bears cost themselves unnecessary cash and cap space (though they have plenty). I’m not knocking Chicago for potentially damaging their draft pick because Sweat can help them win more. Coaches don’t think like that, and GM Ryan Poles needs to win now or he won’t be making that pick anyway.
Grades: Commanders: C-; Bears: B+

Eagles Trade DL Kentavius Street, 2025 7th-Round Pick to Falcons for 2025 6th-Round Pick:
Atlanta didn’t waste a moment replacing Grady Jarrett, the excellent DT who tore his ACL on Sunday. Philadelphia, meanwhile, has the best and deepest defensive line in football, so they could afford to give up a bit of depth. While Street was a depth piece who had just 4 tackles for the Eagles, he might start some games now in Atlanta. Over his prior two seasons, Street tallied 6.5 sacks and 56 tackles (11 TFLs). Similar to Jarrett, he is a pocket-pushing DT who is also adequate against the run. The Falcons believe they can win now, and given the sorry state of the NFC South, why shouldn’t they. Well, their QB situation would give anyone pause, but that’s not the issue at hand. This is a low-cost addition that maintains Atlanta’s solid defense. For Philly, GM Howie Roseman loves his late-round crap-shoots. They have landed him players like LT Jordan Mailata, so moving up a round for Roseman is a bit more meaningful than it would be for another GM. This is a fair trade on both sides but not a very impactful one.
Grades: Eagles: B; Falcons: B

October 30, 2023

Giants Trade DT Leonard Williams to Seahawks for 2024 2nd-Round Pick and 2025 5th-Round Pick:
I didn’t see this trade coming, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Williams is in the last year of his contract, and the Giants are going nowhere. They’re already paying big money to another DT in Dexter Lawrence, so Williams probably didn’t fit into the team’s long-term plans. In recovering 2nd- and 5th-round picks, they’re actually doing better than the Jets did when THEY traded Williams to NYG in his last contract year (3rd- and 5th-round picks). I love this for New York because as good as Williams is, the team is getting a premium pick and a lottery ticket for a player they weren’t going to keep and some cash. For Seattle, this is interesting. The Seahawks finally seem to have fixed their run defense, so it’s funny that they’ve decided to add a defensive lineman NOW. You can never have too many good linemen though, and NY is paying most of Williams’ remaining salary. A good pocket pusher, Williams’ sack production has been in decline for years since his peak 2020 season (11.5 sacks). Does this move really help Seattle? It seems like offensive inconsistencies have been the bigger issue in 2023. Regardless, I don’t like paying a 2nd-round pick for a likely rental (someone good would have to be cut to fit in Williams’ next contract) unless it definitely gives you a championship-caliber roster. Seattle is a tier below, and someone else should’ve made this trade.
Grades: Giants: A+; Seahawks: C

October 23, 2023

Titans Trade S Kevin Byard to Eagles for S Terrell Edmunds, 2024 5th- and 6th-Round Picks:
Trader Howie Roseman always does this. The Eagles’ GM somehow extracts great value out of trades with unsuspecting teams. Byard wanted a trade this offseason because Tennessee wouldn’t extend him. The Titans held onto him, but now that their season is spiraling, they are moving their free agent to be. Back in 2022, I ranked Byard as my #1 safety. He might not be THE best today, but he’s up there still. Byard already had 47 tackles through 6 games, and he plays a great center field role in the passing game. This is exactly what the Eagles needed. After losing CJ Gardner-Johnson in free agency, they signed Edmunds, but he hasn’t played super well. With an elite front seven, Philly knows that their opponents want to attack them on the back end: their injured secondary. Byard instantly shores that up. The late-round picks aren’t worthless, but for a Super Bowl contender, they’re chump change in exchange for a star like this. Tennessee did alright here, getting 2 picks and a player who was once a first-round pick, but I’d rather have Byard around for my rebuild. Byard is the big winner here, finally getting a chance to win a ring.
Grades: Titans: B- ; Eagles: A+

October 18, 2023

Jets Trade WR Mecole Hardman, 2025 7th-Round Pick to Chiefs for 2025 6th-Round Pick:
Hardman was acquired by the Jets in free agency to give new QB Aaron Rodgers some weapons. Who knows how Hardman would have performed with the Hall of Fame signal caller, but he has done next to nothing with Zach Wilson. In fact, he has just 1 catch this year, so it was an easy choice for NYJ to move on from him and his $4M salary. Any draft compensation would have been good for them. Kansas City is the ideal destination because that’s the only team Hardman has ever played for. The self-described “best [player] in the league in space”, Hardman has chemistry with Patrick Mahomes and has produced explosive plays with him. He had a 693-yard season in 2021, and the Chiefs’ current WRs have woefully underperformed. Oddly, KC’s offense has been stagnant at times, so I don’t blame them for trying to find a spark. Hardman is a fine acquisition at this low cost, especially since he already knows the system and can hit the ground running, but he has been maddening in the past.
Grades: Jets: A-; Chiefs: B+

October 10, 2023

Rams Trade WR Van Jefferson, 2025 7th-Round Pick to Falcons for 2025 6th-Round Pick:
Another trade involving 6th- and 7th-round pick swaps! This one doesn’t feel very consequential at all. Jefferson has barely played for the Rams this year, and that was even more glaring with Cooper Kupp’s return. Two snaps and 0 targets summed up Jefferson’s day, and he has been shipped out two days later. Getting a return, even as minor a pick upgrade as this one, is fine for a player on an expiring contract who you aren’t going to use or re-sign. I’d normally say this is a cheap flier for the other team in the deal as well, but Atlanta is not a normal team. QB Desmond Ridder is not very good, and he already isn’t using the weapons has has now, including WR Drake London and TE Kyle Pitts. Both of those players are better than Jefferson, so why would the latter suddenly start catching passes? He’ll be on the field and run more routes in Atlanta, but I don’t expect many receptions unless his chemistry with Ridder is magically great. The price paid here was pretty much nothing at least.
Grades: Rams: B+; Falcons: C+

October 6, 2023

Broncos Trade OLB Randy Gregory, 2024 7th-Round Pick to 49ers for 2024 6th-Round Pick:
When the Broncos announced earlier in the week that they were releasing Gregory, I knew that they were simply trying to drum up trade interest. They have indeed found a taker, sending him to the 49ers. Crucially given SF’s cap constraints, Denver is paying $10.89M of Gregory’s remaining salary this season. The 3 subsequent years are all unguaranteed aside from $5M. Gregory had not lived up to his deal in Denver, with whom he signed after nearing a deal to re-up with Dallas. His time in Dallas was marred by injuries and suspensions for substance abuse, but he had been playing the best football of his career under Dan Quinn when he became a free agent. The player Denver hoped for didn’t appear, and Gregory had been replaced in recent weeks by younger players. That youth movement is why the Broncos wanted to move on, and I get that. Finding someone willing to eat around $8M and give them a minor draft asset was good work. This also makes sense for SF. The team could really use a potent edge rusher opposite Nick Bosa. As the #2 option, Gregory will draw easier assignments. He’ll also be coached better by SF DC Steve Wilks than he was under Vance Joseph. There’s little risk here, so I like the move from SF’s perspective as well.
Grades: Broncos: B+; 49ers: B+

Bears Trade WR Chase Claypool and 2025 7th-Round Pick to Dolphins for 2025 6th-Round Pick:
The Chase Claypool saga in Chicago is finally over. Acquired last year during the season for what became the very first pick of this year’s second round, Claypool was an abject failure for the Bears. He totaled a mere 18 catches during his time there and sparred with the coaches. They said he wasn’t giving enough effort, especially as a blocker, whereas he claimed that he wasn’t being used properly or sufficiently. This relationship had to end, though this pick swap isn’t nearly enough compensation despite the declaration of a sunk cost. The surprising part is the trade partner. I did not have “Miami trades for a WR” on my bingo card. Yet that’s what they’ve done in the wake of injuries to Erik Ezukanma and River Cracraft. I guess Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Cedrick Wilson, and Robbie Chosen Anderson weren’t enough. I wonder if Mike McDaniel plans to use the big-bodied Claypool more like a TE. His blocking is very good when he commits to it, and that’s a must in McDaniel’s SF offense. The team might also like what they saw during Claypool’s first 2 years in Pittsburgh, where he had 850+ yards each season. That said, two teams have now soured on him, though I can’t blame Miami for taking a flier on a good talent.
Grades: Bears: D; Dolphins: B

October 4, 2023

Chargers Trade CB JC Jackson, 2025 7th-Round Pick to Patriots for 2025 6th-Round Pick:
This move felt almost inevitable didn’t it? Jackson rose from UDFA to star with the Patriots, earning a 5-year, $85M contract with the Chargers last year in free agency. Known as both a ballhawk and a shutdown cover man, Jackson was expected to greatly upgrade LA’s pass defense. That…never happened. Jackson has been an absolute disaster. Some of it, like his torn patellar tendon, wasn’t his fault. Most of it though has simply been poor play. He has been nothing like the guy who dominated the Patriots’ secondary, and he was even arrested for a home invasion. The Chargers had to get away from his contract and unload him, but who would take on his deal? His former team! New England replaced Jackson this draft with rookie Christian Gonzalez, who had been playing well but just tore his labrum and is likely done for the year. That’s now 3 injured corners for New England. With all that attrition, Bill Belichick decided to go back to someone he knows well. I think Jackson will be at his very best with NE. He fits the scheme better there, and Belichick clearly keeps him under much better control. I only wonder why they’d take the contract and trade a draft asset considering the offense ensures that this team is going nowhere. Jackson has 3 years left on his deal after 2023, so it’s probably a long-term move. I love this even more for LA. This signing was a terrible mistake, and they’re somehow evading most of the consequences. The money will be off the books, and they move up 1 draft round. I consider this a win-win, but New England needs to wait a year or two for the benefits. The Bolts win now.
Grades: Chargers: A+; Patriots: A-

September 20, 2023

Rams Trade RB Cam Akers, Conditional 2026 7th-Round Pick to Vikings for Conditional 2026 6th-Round Pick:
I’m not waiting to read what the conditions are regarding these picks. We’re talking about a 1-round swap on day 3 in the 2026 draft. Not 2024, not 2025, but 2026. The tiny return is indicative of how far Akers has fallen, along with the Rams’ leverage. The former 2nd-round pick never really exploded in LA’s backfield, and the team tried to trade him last year. He was inactive while they looked for a deal, but none came. Akers surprisingly rejoined the team and rattled off 3 straight 100-yard games to end the season. That momentum did not carry into 2023, and he ran for 29 yards on 22 carries in week 1 before being made inactive for week 2 in favor of Kyren Williams. Clearly, the Rams are done with Akers, so getting anything is a pleasant surprise. Minnesota has not gotten good production from new starter Alexander Mattison, but I blame the injured offensive line. Akers won’t find much more running room, but there’s nothing wrong with kicking the tires on a guy with 2nd-round talent.
Grades: Rams: B+; Vikings: B-

August 30, 2023

Raiders Trade DT Neil Farrell to Chiefs for 6th-Round Pick:
This trade actually happened yesterday, but nobody mentioned the year in which the pick conveys. I realized it doesn’t really matter. At worst, it’s valued 1 round worse. Intradivisional trades don’t happen often, and they usually never involve anyone helping out KC. The Raiders must not think they’re helping by sending a player they took in the 4th round just last year to their division champions. Farrell barely played for the Raiders, earning just 158 snaps. After starting this season on the NFI list, the team gave up. That feels a bit premature to me, especially considering he was just the 3rd player drafted by this regime. Declaring him a bust so soon reflects terribly on Dave Ziegler, and you have to ask: is Farrell already a bust? He has had little to no chance to prove himself, one that he might get with the Chiefs while Chris Jones holds out. A better scouting department thinks he has talent that’s worth a flier, and I’d bet on KC over LV when it comes to evaluating players lately.
Grades: Raiders: C-; Chiefs: B

August 29, 2023

Bills Trade DE Boogie Basham, 2025 7th-Round Pick to Giants for 2025 6th-Round Pick:
Count Basham among the failed 2nd-round picks made by Buffalo in recent years. Cody Ford and AJ Epenesa are two others. The former was traded last year, and the latter would’ve been traded if not for this Basham trade. With savings of only $1.1M, this wasn’t about cap space. The team simply doesn’t think Basham is going to be a good player, because a 1-round jump in 2025 is almost as low a price as you can receive. It’s especially interesting when you consider that Von Miller will start the season on the PUP list, so edge rusher figures to be a need. You can’t fault Buffalo for cutting bait when something isn’t working, but it’s a weak return nonetheless. For New York, this is a direct replacement for Oshane Ximines, as the latter was released within minutes of this trade being announced. As a rusher, Basham definitely offers more. From a run-stopping perspective, I’d rather have Ximines, but not by a lot. The Giants are taking almost no risk here, and this is much like the Isaiah Simmons trade: DC Wink Martindale is going to try to maximize a good athlete who flopped elsewhere. There are definitely worse strategies.
Grades: Bills: C; Giants: B

Dolphins Trade CB Noah Igbinoghene to Cowboys for CB Kelvin Joseph:
For the first time in a while, we’ve got ourselves a trade with no draft picks involved! This can happen when two players with high pedigrees disappoint the teams that drafted them but seem more appealing to another club. Miami selected Igbinoghene 30th overall in the 2020 draft, and he has not developed as the team hoped. He was a healthy scratch on many occasions, only playing when injuries forced the team’s hand. The Dolphins declined his 5th-year option, and even with Jalen Ramsey injured, the team wanted to move on. Dallas drafted Joseph in the second round of the 2021 draft due to his physical tools. However, the Cowboys were endlessly frustrated by Joseph’s poor technique, causing him to get burned by many WRs. He did perform better during this preseason, which is probably what caught the Dolphins’ attention. I give Miami the edge in this trade; Joseph is more physically talented, and he has 2 years remaining on a 2nd-round rookie deal. Igbinoghene has just 1 year remaining on a 1st-round contract, so he comes at a higher cost and would need to be re-signed sooner. It’s a close call though, because both Vic Fangio and Dan Quinn are DCs that are skilled enough to extract the most out of their new projects.
Grades: Dolphins: B+ ; Cowboys: B-

Steelers Trade C/G Kendrick Green to Texans for 2025 6th-Round Pick:
The Steelers apparently weren’t done shipping out last year’s linemen. Kevin Dotson was traded yesterday, and now it’s Kendrick Green’s turn. This one makes less sense to me. What did the Texans see in him? He was the Steelers’ center in 2021 as a rookie but was quickly replaced the following year. Green then competed for a guard spot, but Dotson beat him out, and he was inactive for the ENTIRE season. Houston needed to trade Tyrone Wheatley, who was swapped for an RB, but this isn’t an upgrade. If anything, it’s a downgrade. Pittsburgh has to love this. They get a nontrivial pick for someone they definitely would have cut. It’s also a player they didn’t even feel was worthy of being a backup! Houston is evidently back to making dumb moves, and that’s to Pittsburgh’s benefit.
Grades: Steelers: A+; Texans: F

Patriots Trade K Nick Folk to Titans for 2025 7th-Round Pick:
Folk was as good as gone once New England drafted Maryland K Chad Ryland in the 4th round this April. They didn’t cut Folk though, instead sending him to Tennessee for a 7th-rounder. I’m not entirely sure why the Patriots drafted a kicker; Folk was very good for them if not perfect. It seems as though they wanted someone cheap with a bit more range, so I guess I can understand the move (I’m not grading the actual kicker pick here, which is good news for NE). Tennessee is the big beneficiary. The Titans have cycled through kickers all preseason, most recently signing Michael Badgley for the third game, watching him fail, and then cutting him right after. Folk will stabilize the position. Tennessee thinks they can compete if QB Ryan Tannehill and RB Derrick Henry stay healthy. That might be a stretch, but to have any shot, they need a quality kicker. Now they have one.
Grades: Patriots: B-; Titans: A-

Broncos Trade TE Albert Okwuegbunam and 2025 7th-Round Pick to Eagles for 2025 6th-Round Pick:
It’s been an interesting week for Albert O. The large TE had the game of his life on Saturday, earning 7 catches for 109 yards and a TD and looking completely unguardable. Even coach Sean Payton noticed. Then it was announced that the team was cutting him anyway. That is, they were cutting him until the Eagles gave them a call. Apparently Howie Roseman actually liked what he saw, offering a late-round pick swap in 2025 for Okwuegbunam. I get why Denver gave up. Albert O was with the team for several years and hadn’t really improved, especially as a blocker. The Broncos have since drafted and signed other TEs, creating a crowded room. Getting something back for a player who had literally been announced as cut is fine. I think the upside is better for Philly though. Jalen Hurts loves big weapons, and you can’t teach Okwuegbunam’s 6’5″, 258-lb size. His receiving ability is also undeniable. This acquisition could amount to nothing if he regresses, but what the Eagles gave up is pretty much nothing as well. It’s a great gamble.
Grades: Broncos: C+; Eagles: A-

Saints Trade K Wil Lutz to Broncos for 2024 7th-Round Pick:
New Orleans has selected their kicker, and it’s not their mainstay. Rookie Blake Grupe has been named the starter, making Lutz superfluous. Rather than cut him, the Saints sent Lutz to his old coach, with Sean Payton and the Broncos sending back a 7th-round pick. Denver clearly wasn’t satisfied with Bill Maher but was planning to keep him. When Lutz became available, Payton pounced. It’s a wise decision. Maher had a couple meltdown for Dallas and hadn’t been amazing this preseason. Lutz is coming off a down year himself, but he was perfect during the preseason and had been injured the year before. He also has a track record of great success. This solidifies the position for Denver, but why would NO do this. Grupe was very good, but he didn’t “beat” Lutz (as Lutz’s agent loudly pointed out). A team with designs on winning their division wants a reliable veteran kicker. Grupe is a complete unknown, especially when it comes to how he’ll perform in pressure situations. This wasn’t the right decision, so the team doesn’t get the “we got a pick for a player we were going to cut anyway) defense.
Grades: Saints: D-; Broncos: A+

Chiefs Trade WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette to Panthers for Conditional Swap of 2025 7th-Round Picks:
I don’t really know what the conditions are for this pick swap, but it doesn’t matter. We’re talking about a movement of 20-40 spots in the 200s of a draft in 2025. So the compensation isn’t much, but Smith-Marsette is interesting. He really showed up for the Chiefs in the preseason. Poor QB Blaine Gabbert had almost every one of his receivers dropping passes this past weekend. The one guy who didn’t fail him was Smith-Marsette. He earned 4 catches for 103 yards and a TD in that game. Smith-Marsette also comes with good blocking ability and return experience. I thought KC might keep him, but they clearly felt they had enough depth at WR. This is a really underwhelming return though. Carolina continues to add quality weapons for rookie QB Bryce Young, which must always be smiled upon.
Grades: Chiefs: C; Panthers: A

August 28, 2023

Chargers Trade K Dustin Hopkins to Browns for 2025 7th-Round Pick:
In my Hall of Fame game article, I dedicated one of my takeaways to discussing the Browns’ kicking situation. I mentioned that Cade York had been terrible and might be fighting for his job despite being a 2022 4th-round pick. Today, he was released as soon as Cleveland found a replacement. Hopkins is a good kicker and a clear upgrade. Since Cleveland hopes to contend for a playoff spot, sending a pick in the last round 2 years from now for a kicker is a fine move. LA had 2 good kickers, with Hopkins and Cameron Dicker competing for the starting job. The incumbent Dicker won the battle by a hair and is the cheaper option, though neither player did anything to lose it. Instead of simply cutting Hopkins, the Bolts picked up an asset for him. That’s smart business, even if the pick amounts to nothing. We’ve got a rare trade where both teams are in the A range.
Grades: Chargers: A-; Browns: A

Vikings Trade OT Vederian Lowe to Patriots for 2024 6th-Round Pick:
I told you yesterday that these pre-cut day trades are things New England likes to do. For the second time this week, they’re acquiring a tackle. Lowe was a 6th-round pick last year, but it’s hard to tell how much he has developed since he only played in 4 games for the Vikings in 2022. Going to back to his college days at Illinois, Lowe came into the league as a 4-year starter and the ability to play multiple positions. I think NE is trying to find someone to play RT, with Trent Brown manning the left side. This is another lottery ticket with the aim of finding that player. Minnesota, whose line isn’t the best, clearly saw enough to move on from Lowe, earning a new 6th-rounder. That tells me that the Patriots aren’t getting a very impactful player, just depth. Thus, the Vikings win this trade for picking up a nontrivial asset.
Grades: Vikings: A-; Patriots: C+

August 27, 2023

Steelers Trade G Kevin Dotson, 2024 5th-Round Pick, 2025 6th-Round Pick to Rams for 2024 4th-Round Pick, 2025 5th-Round Pick:
Dotson was originally a 4th-round pick intended to help Ben Roethlisberger’s protection. He was average at best, but that was enough to start all 17 games last year on Pittsburgh’s porous line. The Steelers wisely replaced him with Isaac Seumalo and James Daniels in free agency, and 7th-round rookie Spencer Anderson makes Dotson unnecessary. The Rams also have line problems and presumably believe Dotson to be an upgrade. LA can’t afford to send out any more picks, so they had to do a swap. In this trade, they’re moving down 1 round on day 3 in each of the next 2 drafts. Dotson is not a bad player, and truthfully, he may be the upgrade the Rams think he is. This is good work by both teams; the Rams get someone they need, and the Steelers gain assets for someone they don’t. There’s just not much changing hands here.
Grades: Steelers: B+; Rams: B+

Patriots Trade RB Pierre Strong to Browns for OT Tyrone Wheatley Jr:
This is a rare player-for-player swap that doesn’t involve any draft picks. These tend to occur most commonly around cut day, where a player on one team who is likely to be cut is exchanged for a player on another team that they were going to cut. Additionally, these trades often involve New England. That’s precisely what we have here. Wheatley didn’t have a chance to make Cleveland’s roster given their depth at offensive line. The Patriots have been searching for linemen, especially after letting Isaiah Wynn walk in free agency. The surprise here is that Strong is on his way out. NE drafted 2 RBs last season: Strong in the 4th round and Kevin Harris in the 6th round. Strong seemed to be the different type of back the team needed with his great speed. Instead, Harris has gotten more work this preseason. Now that Ezekiel Elliott is a Patriot, Bill Belichick didn’t need both Harris and Strong. This trade reflects better on Cleveland. NE is giving up on a player selected just last year, whereas the Browns are moving a free agent pickup who didn’t even crack a regular season roster prior to 2023.
Grades: Patriots: C+; Browns: B+

August 25, 2023

49ers Trade QB Trey Lance to Cowboys for 2024 4th-Round Pick:
We can now close the book on a disaster of a trade. For those who don’t recall, SF initially traded up from #12 to #3 in the 2021 draft to get Lance, sending the Dolphins two additional 1st-round picks and a 3rd-round selection. Lance was always going to be a project. He started just 1 season of FCS football. Although that 1 season was pretty magical, he came into the NFL with no quality experience, just physical tools. Kyle Shanahan looked like a great coach to develop him, but developing a young QB doesn’t fit a contending team’s timeline. After an expected red-shirt rookie season, Lance was handed the job in 2022. He struggled but worse still, he broke his ankle in just his 2nd game. Once Jimmy Garoppolo also went down, Brock Purdy emerged. This is the biggest vote of confidence GM John Lynch can give Purdy. He won’t have to look over his shoulder anymore. That alone is worth something, but a 4th-round pick? At the rate 49er QBs get hurt, it feels like Lance was worth more to keep around. Regardless, this has to go down as one of the biggest draft whiffs ever, especially when you consider who those other picks turned into (CBS wrote a stellar article on this topic). Moving Lance was a kind gesture for the QB, but it’s not great for SF.

Now let’s talk about Dallas. I understand that a 4th-round pick for a physically gifted QB who remains just 23 years old is extremely cheap. But why Dallas? Is there some uncertainty about Dak Prescott? The unquestioned QB1 did lead the league in picks last year, and he melted down in the playoff game against these 49ers. However, he’s expected by the team to bounce back, and his contract makes it prohibitive to move him within the next couple of years. This move seems to invite unnecessary speculation (as I am doing right now) and puts pressure on Prescott that he doesn’t need. Even if you want to call Lance as a developmental backup, Cooper Rush performed admirably filling in last season, so Dallas didn’t even need that. I’m very curious to see if Jerry Jones says anything, because as much as he loves drama, he shouldn’t want THIS drama. In the present, Lance doesn’t help Dallas. Because of the reasons described above, he’s not ready to play now. With only 1 more year after this on his contract (the Cowboys almost certainly will decline his 5th-year option), Lance might not get a chance to prove himself outside of practice. There’s merit to the philosophy of acquiring as many good QBs as possible, but we don’t even know if Lance qualifies as one. I suspect Dallas doesn’t either, which makes this move, though economical in a vacuum, a potentially costly blunder.
Grades: 49ers: C+; Cowboys: C-

August 24, 2023

Browns Trade QB Joshua Dobbs, 2024 7th-Round Pick to Cardinals for 2024 5th-Round Pick:
I JUST finished writing about the Jones trade, and that 5th-round pick is already on the move! These low-level trades are common before cut day because teams are trying to secure players without fighting over them on waivers or the free agent pile. We’ll start with Cleveland here. Apparently the Browns have seen enough to hand 5th-round rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson the backup job behind Deshaun Watson. I agree that he was the 2nd-best QB on the roster prior to this trade, but I’d like one more veteran there to mentor him, because Watson isn’t that type of teammate. Still, Cleveland can find someone like that off the street. I love that they’re moving up 2 rounds in exchange for a QB that is on his 3rd team in a year and isn’t anything above a replacement-level player. Arizona…what are we doing? Is this a deliberate tank job? Kyler Murray won’t be back until midseason, but Arizona seems to be eyeing Caleb Williams or Drake Maye to replace him. That’s fine, but what does Dobbs do that Colt McCoy and Clayton Tune can’t? If McCoy isn’t doing enough, I’d rather see what the team has in the rookie Tune than go with Dobbs, who wouldn’t get Tennessee into the playoffs last year with a massive margin for error. The grade isn’t an F because the Cardinals get points for tanking. To sum up today’s moves, Arizona has essentially swapped Isaiah Simmons and Josh Jones for Joshua Dobbs and a 7th-round pick. I said ouch before; this is now an even deeper failure. They’re lucky I grade these trades independently.
Grades: Browns: A-; Cardinals: D-

Cardinals Trade OT Josh Jones, 2024 7th-Round Pick to Texans for 2024 5th-Round Pick:
The Cardinals are busy today making their team worse! This isn’t inspiring confidence in Arizona’s 2020 draft class, but I dislike this trade less because the return is better and it’s a former 3rd-rounder being shipped out, not a top-10 selection. Jones started 9 games at LT in 2022, but he was obviously being kicked out of his spot with the drafting of #6 overall pick Paris Johnson Jr this April. Still, Jones has developed into a nice swing tackle or right guard, so I thought a poor time like Arizona would have room for him. Houston is prioritizing the protection of rookie QB CJ Stroud, as both his tackles (Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard) are on long-term deals. Now, Jones is being added to the mix at a cost of moving down two rounds on day 3. For Arizona, assuming that this is the 7th-round pick they got earlier from NYG (or that their own is equivalent), the team basically traded Jones and Isaiah Simmons for a 5th-round pick. Ouch.
Grades: Cardinals: D+; Texans: A

Cardinals Trade LB/S Isaiah Simmons to Giants for 2024 7th-Round Pick:
What a fall from grace for the 8th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Like many tweeners, Simmons entered the NFL with tantalizing athleticism (as evidenced by his 4.39-s 40-yard dash) but never found a concrete position on defense. A bit small to play LB, Simmons was thought to have new life when HC Jonathan Gannon experimented with him at safety this offseason and training camp. Evidently, those experiments did not go well. Just a couple of months later, Simmons has been traded to NYG for peanuts. The Giants are reverting him to linebacker, but that’s pretty irrelevant. Simmons has shown incremental improvement over the past 3 seasons, and he’s still supremely talented from a physical standpoint. He’s clearly more gifted than any prospect NYG could obtain with a 7th-round pick, making this a steal for them. Simmons will be a fun pet project for DC Wink Martindale, who will get the most out of him. I don’t know what Arizona is thinking. Their talent drain continues, and they’re getting next to nothing in return. I guess they’re increasing their chances of earning the #1 pick, but this roster is even worse than before. I wonder if they thought they were trading Lachavious Simmons instead?
Grades: Cardinals: F; Giants: A+

Update: Lachavious Simmons has now been waived, so the answer to my snarky question is a definite “maybe.”

July 19, 2023

Jets Trade WR Denzel Mims, 2025 7th-Round Pick to Lions for Conditional 2025 6th-Round Pick:
Just like our last trade, we’ve got a minor swap involving the Lions. But it’s been a while! Anyway, we knew Mims was on the move. He wanted a trade last year, but NYJ refused. Then it came out today that the team would release Mims if a trade couldn’t be completed. Several hours later, we have our swap. I’m not sure what the conditions are on the pick, but they’re not too consequential. The pick is likely to convey as at least a premium 7th rounder given that the Jets are sending a pick back. Mims did not do much to justify the team’s use of a 2nd-round pick, but he flashed talent. When new HC Robert Saleh brought in his staff though, Mims seemed like he was on the way out. His dissatisfaction with his lack of playing time only hastened his exit. New York is lucky to get anything for a disgruntled, unused WR. Detroit needed depth with Jameson Williams suspended, so Mims can be the speed receiver while Amon-Ra St. Brown and Marvin Jones are the possession receivers. There’s upside here, so I don’t mind Detroit doing this at all. The Jets barely got a return, but it’s a nonzero return, and that’s all they could ask for.
Grades: Jets: B; Lions: A-
UPDATE: The Lions released Mims due to injury, so the picks have reverted to their original teams.

May 25, 2023

Jaguars Trade K Riley Patterson to Lions for Conditional 2026 7th-Round Pick:
Though it appeared that Patterson was getting cut once the Jags signed former Bronco Brandon McManus (I’ll grade that signing once I get contract details), the team has found a trade. Patterson, who originally signed with Detroit off the NE practice squad in 2021, is back with the Lions. I really don’t know why. He isn’t an accurate kicker beyond 50 yards. While he had his best (of two) seasons in 2022, he still didn’t feel like a reliable kicker to me. Losing to Austin Seibert in camp was proof enough. Is he better than Michael Badgley, the incumbent in Detroit? Absolutely. Is he better than XFL signee John Parker Romo? I’m really not convinced. I think the team could have put in a waiver claim and gotten Patterson just as easily. It’s hard to be too mad though considering this might be the lowest pick compensation I have ever seen. That also makes it harder to cheer Jacksonville, but they upgraded at kicker and at least got SOMETHING (maybe; it is conditional after all) for their old one. So they win the deal.
Grades: Jaguars: B+ ; Lions: C+

May 12, 2023

Vikings Trade OLB Za’Darius Smith, 2025 6th- and 7th-Round Picks to Browns for 2024 and 2025 5th-Round Picks:
Smith requested his release a couple of months ago, but Minnesota would not honor that wish. They knew they could obtain assets for the talented pass rusher, and so they did. The compensation isn’t staggering due to the veteran’s high salary and the team’s lack of leverage, but it’s not insignificant. As part of the deal, Smith reworked his contract. He will now be paid $11.75M guaranteed in 2023, after which the pact will void. He wasn’t happy in Minnesota, but he was very productive during his one season with the team. Smith tallied 10 sacks, 44 tackles (15 TFLs), and 5 PBUs. Aside from an injury-marred 2021 campaign, Smith had reached double-digit sacks the last 3 times he played more than 1 game in a year. Cleveland’s Jadeveon Clowney experiment failed, but they have gotten a major edge threat to pair with Myles Garrett now. The Browns’ hopes still live or die with Deshaun Watson, but the pass rush will be stellar. Minnesota can enjoy the upgraded picks, but losing your best edge rusher is a way to NOT repeat as NFC North champs. I don’t like this at all for a win-now team with playoff aspirations, even if the team needed cap space. Edge rushers are simply too important.
Grades: Vikings: D; Browns: A

April 29, 2023

Saints Trade TE Adam Trautman, 2023 7th-Round Pick to Broncos for 2023 6th-Round Pick:
Sean Payton was the Saints’ head coach when the team drafted Trautman in the 3rd round out of Dayton. The athletic TE never reached his potential though with a carousel of QBs, topping out at 263 yards and 2 TDs in 2021. Payton clearly still likes him, as he acquired Trautman from Denver for a late-round pick swap. The risk is very low for the Broncos, who are obtaining the last year of a cheap rookie contract to kick the tires on Trautman. I doubt he does much in his new home because last year’s 2nd-round TE, Greg Dulcich, showed promise. New Orleans decided that Trautman wasn’t worth a roster spot, so they made a minor move up in the draft while parting with him. Neither team really got much out of this, but I think both sides are reasonably happy.
Grades: Saints: B; Broncos: B

Lions Trade RB D’Andre Swift, 2023 7th-Round Pick (No. 249) to Eagles for 2025 4th-Round Pick, 2023 7th-Round Pick (No. 219):
I’m only including the pick numbers for the 7th-rounders to differentiate between the two, as otherwise they’d appear identical. The writing was on the wall for Swift as soon as Detroit drafted Jahmyr Gibbs in the first round of this weekend’s draft. Swift, a former 2nd-round pick out of Georgia, is entering the final year of his contract after 3 mostly underwhelming years with the Lions. He never reached 650 yards in a season, but his average yards per carry of 4.6 was good. Mostly, the team limited his opportunities because Jamaal Williams was such an effective goal-line back and because Swift’s pass protection and hands were inconsistent. He was also occasionally injured. Philadelphia wants him as a pure runner, and he is very good at that. A delayed 4th-round pick plus a minor pick swap feels like a small price for the potential upside that Swift provides. He’s also great insurance for another Rashaad Penny injury. For Detroit, Swift was clearly expendable, and they recouped a significant portion of their investment to put this largely forgettable experiment behind them.
Grades: Lions: B+; Eagles: A-

April 24, 2023

Packers Trade QB Aaron Rodgers, 2023 1st-Round Pick (#15), 2023 5th-Round Pick to Jets for 2023 1st-Round Pick (#13), 2023 2nd-Round Pick (#42), 2023 6th-Round Pick, Conditional 2024 2nd-Round Pick:
FINALLY! We can all stop talking about when Rodgers is going to be come a Jet…after I grade this trade of course. I’m putting the pick numbers on the significant picks in this trade. What we have here is a minor 1st-round pick swap in Thursday’s draft, a minor pick swap on day 3 of this draft, and the important stuff. The second rounder is the earlier of their two back-to-back selections. That 2024 picks escalates to a 1st-rounder if Rodgers plays 65% or more of the snaps in 2023. This is honestly way more than I thought Green Bay would get. I didn’t think they would receive #13 straight up, so that makes sense, but the second rounder AND likely next year’s first. That’s a lot given their lack of leverage. I thought that the entire swap should’ve been composed of conditional picks that were based on when Rodgers retires. Green Bay wanted sooner and more definite compensation, and they used the Jets’ desperation to make it happen.

Despite all of that, you still can’t dislike the deal as a Jets fan. Aaron Rodgers was a back-to-back MVP in 2020 and 2021, and though he didn’t have the 2022 season he wanted, his play greatly improved once his injured thumb healed. I don’t think he’s yet in decline, so the Jets are paying for a top-3 QB. This is something they haven’t possessed since Joe Namath, and you can’t really put a price on that. New York was a playoff team last season if their offense had been even mediocre. Now, they replace Zach Wilson with Rodgers, get RB Breece Hall back from injury, and still have the 15th pick to maybe grab another lineman. I think they could’ve waited Green Bay out and paid less, but they wisely decided not to risk their chance to obtain arguably the best QB in franchise history. It’s Super Bowl or bust now for NYJ.

Green Bay doesn’t earn a perfect grade regardless of the impressive haul because this a situation of their own making. Had the team communicated better, drafted a pass catcher in the first round ONCE during his entire career, or (most importantly) NOT traded up during the 1st round of the 2020 draft to select Jordan Love, he might be a career Packer. Instead, they treated him like Brett Farve only to witness the exact same result: a trade to the Jets. I have to factor in the fact that Green Bay’s Super Bowl window has completely slammed shut. Love is probably not a franchise QB (to be fair, we can’t say anything about him with certainty yet given his limited playing time), and the weak roster no longer has Rodgers to carry it. The Packers will have to learn what it’s like to be a normal franchise without a legendary QB for the first time since the early 90s.
Grades: Packers: B+; Jets: A-

April 18, 2023

Rams Trade WR Allen Robinson, 2023 7th-Round Pick to Steelers for 2023 7th-Round Pick:
This is a surprisingly minor deal for a big-name WR, with LA moving up 17 spots in the 7th round of next week’s draft. In addition, Pittsburgh will only be paying $5M of Robinson’s salary for 2023, and the Rams will pay the remaining $10.25M. The reason this trade is so minimal in terms of assets is that Robinson was a major bust of a signing for the Rams. He had a career-low 339 receiving yards last year, his first with the team, and seemed to have no chemistry with QB Matthew Stafford. In desperate need of cap space, the Rams were bound to move him. Pittsburgh is buying at the nadir of his value to try and give Kenny Pickett another weapon. It’s too early to say whether Robinson has lost a step (he’s only 29, but he has had a couple of injuries) or if the scheme fit in LA was just terrible. Given the low financial and draft costs incurred by the Steelers, I say that this is an excellent gamble. There’s no long-term risk, and the upside is a true WR1. I like this for the Rams as well. Ordinarily I wouldn’t, but it’s clear that the player and team just don’t fit. Acquiring a tiny draft upgrade and $5M in cash savings is good enough for a player that the team wanted to move on from.
Grades: Rams: B+; Steelers: A+

April 11, 2023

Lions Trade CB Jeff Okudah to Falcons for 2023 5th-Round Pick:
Detroit had high hopes for Okudah when they drafted him 3rd overall in 2020. In fairness to them, 5 of the 6 CBs taken in the first round of that draft were busts, with Atlanta’s AJ Terrell as the lone exception. Now the Falcons have both players, as they have acquired Okudah from the Lions. Honestly, we don’t know how good Okudah can be yet. His first 2 years were marred by injuries and ineffectiveness, but he seemed to show signs of life in 2022. He made 73 tackles, earned a pick six, and defended 7 passes. Okudah was still prone to coverage busts, but that might just be a young player still finding his way. Detroit is now trying to contend though, so the team’s priorities have changed, and they’ll be looking for a high-level corner that can start right away. Atlanta is not contending, so they can take a low-risk chance on Okudah to see if he has more upside. They also won’t force him to play as the CB1 given the presence of Terrell. I love this for Atlanta because it’s all reward. I understand why Detroit decided to move on, but I wish they would’ve been a little more patient or at least gotten a better return.
Grades: Lions: C-; Falcons: A+

March 25, 2023

Panthers Trade K Zane Gonzales to 49ers for Conditional Late-Round Pick Swap:
The picks involved here are both 2025 selections, and when reporters say “late-round pick swap”, that usually means a 6th for the traded player plus a 7th. I’ll be operating under that assumption for now and will update this post later if things change. I am not at all fond of this move for SF. Robbie Gould is a free agent who would definitely cost more, but why part with him? His range is a bit limited, but he has NEVER missed a postseason kick in his career. I feel like that’s incredibly important for a contending team that can easily find themselves competing for a Super Bowl. The compensation isn’t much, but it’s not like Gonzales is even a good kicker. His FG accuracy was below 80% in 3 of his 5 NFL seasons. Given that his salary isn’t guaranteed, he might not make the roster, and the pick swap may not even convey. SF’s poor grade is purely based on their thinking with Gould. For Carolina, this is really easy. You get an automatic A if you get anything at all for a player you were fully willing to cut hours earlier for nothing.
Grades: Panthers: A; 49ers: F

March 22, 2023

Jets Trade WR Elijah Moore, 2023 3rd-Round Pick to Browns for 2023 2nd-Round Pick:
Moore asked for a trade last season after expressing dissatisfaction with his role, but the team refused to move him. After signing Mecole Hardman earlier today, their stance seems to have changed. Cleveland needed a quick slot receiver to complement Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones on the outside, so the two teams worked out a deal. This compensation is more significant than the normal pick swaps we see, as this one involves 2nd- and 3rd-round picks instead of 6th and 7th rounders. Still, it’s a far cry from the 2nd-round pick used to draft Moore just 2 years ago. He had 538 receiving yards and 5 TDs as a rookie before dropping to 446 yards and just 1 TD in 2022. However, you can probably blame a lot of that on the Jets’ putrid QB play. I’d be higher on this for Cleveland if they had a first-round pick. As it stands, the Browns won’t be picking until the middle of the third round due to the Deshaun Watson trade. However, this is a weaker receiver draft, so Moore is likely better than whoever the Browns were planning to take in the 2nd round. New York needed to clear out their glut of receivers, and Moore wanted out anyway, so it made sense to move him. Poor Denzel Mims has to keep waiting.
Grades: Jets: B+; Browns: B

March 19, 2023

Texans Trade WR Brandin Cooks to Cowboys for 2023 5th-Round Pick, 2024 6th-Round Pick:
Houston certainly had a busy morning. After signing LT Laremy Tunsil to a massive extension, I guess the team wanted some cap space back, and they’ve done it by finally trading Cooks. Cooks was supposed to be unloaded at last year’s trade deadline. He wanted out of Houston because he had no desire to be part of a rebuild, and the Texans tried to accommodate him, but they weren’t satisfied with the offers. The speedy wideout didn’t have his best year in 2022 with 57 catches and 699 yards, but I actually think those numbers are good considering the train wreck that was the QB position for the Texans. Somehow joining his 5th team now, Cooks has posted at least one 1000-yard season for each of his previous 4 squads, showing that he can produce in any situation. That should include Dallas, where he’ll be a great complement to CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup. He should be able to torch #2 CBs, and the Cowboys (especially Dak Prescott) will be better for it. Houston is paying $6M of Cooks’ $18M salary, so acquiring him at $12M number for two late round picks is a great move for a contender. For the Texans, this return is not very good, and I would’ve preferred keeping Cooks to help out the team’s incoming rookie QB, but the team had little leverage given the contract situation and the fact that Cooks wanted to be moved.
Grades: Texans: C+; Cowboys: A

March 14, 2023

Colts Trade CB Stephon Gilmore to Cowboys for 2023 5th-Round Pick:
The Colts are in full tank mode as you can see. They hope to draft a QB in the upcoming draft, but they just sold their top corner to acquire more capital. Gilmore suffered a bad knee injury in New England before returning and being traded to Carolina. At the end of the 2021 season, he had surgery to repair his torn meniscus and put his knee troubles behind him. His 2022 was back to his typical level of play, making him desirable to the Cowboys. At $10M, he’s underpaid and now becomes a perfect complement to Trevon Diggs. Dallas’ already excellent defense just got even better for a paltry cost. I don’t really know what the Colts are doing. I get that Gilmore doesn’t do a lot for them in their rebuild, but is this the best offer they had? Indy might have done better even by just letting him walk next year and grabbing a compensatory pick. Unless this new 5th rounder becomes part of a trade to move up in the draft at some point, I fail to see the plan here.
Grades: Colts: D; Cowboys: A+

Raiders Trade TE Darren Waller to Giants for 2023 3rd-Round Pick:
This pick is ironically the compensatory pick acquired from KC as part of the Kadarius Toney trade. Supposedly, Waller was nearly sent to Green Bay as part of the Davante Adams deal. They should have done that, as that would have valued Waller as a 2nd-round pick. However, that won’t be part of this grade. Waller is often hurt, but when he’s on the field, he’s one of the best pass-catching TEs in the league. Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to fit Josh McDaniels’ scheme, which emphasizes blocking. If you’re a Giants fan, don’t take that fact into account; McDaniels is a poor coach, and Brian Daboll was once a TE coach, so he will know how to use Waller. Prior to his injuries, Waller topped 1100 receiving yards in consecutive seasons, and he will be a big boon to Daniel Jones. His contract is also middling, so a 3rd-rounder is a low price. From LV’s perspective, tight ends are not being signed right now. The draft is deep at the position as well, so this compensation is actually pretty good for a player with his injury history. We’ve got a rare win-win swap on our hands!
Grades: Raiders: B+; Giants: B+

Buccaneers Trade G Shaq Mason, 2023 7th-Round Pick to Texans for 2023 6th-Round Pick:
Tampa’s cap woes are really hurting them right now. Just a year after trading a 5th-round pick FOR Mason, the team is shipping him off to Houston in an attempt to clear cap space. This move should save them a little more than $5M. Without Tom Brady around, I guess having quality linemen is no longer important? Actually, it should be the other way around, especially if the young Kyle Trask is going to start. I understand the need to become cap compliant by tomorrow, but this is a poor return for a quality guard. Houston is correctly putting offensive pieces around their incoming rookie QB, who needs to be properly protected if another David Carr situation is to be avoid. Dropping 1 round in the draft on day 3 for a good lineman on a fair contract is well done by Nick Caserio (who also knows Mason from his time in New England).
Grades: Buccaneers: D; Texans: A+

March 13, 2023

Patriots Trade TE Jonnu Smith to Falcons for 2023 7th-Round Pick:
Belichick does not fail to own up to a mistake. In this case, he guaranteed a lot of money to two TEs (Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith) during a free agency binge. Henry has clearly been the better performer, so the team designed to move Smith. The compensation here is unimportant for New England. All they care about is the cap savings (Smith’s contract was going to take $17.2M in space). This trade is independent of the bad deal that got them to this point, so I like it a lot. For Atlanta, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. I will need to see the reworked contract to fully judge it (that will come in the next few days), but Smith will be a #2 TE at best with Kyle Pitts around. New England just showed that you shouldn’t invest a lot in two TEs, but the cost to acquire a talented pass catcher is minimal here. The Falcons have very little at WR, so I at least appreciate them finding what weapons they can for whatever QB they build around.
Grades: Patriots: A; Falcons: C+

March 12, 2023

Rams Trade CB Jalen Ramsey to Dolphins for 2023 3rd-Round Pick, TE Hunter Long:
I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a team go so quickly from a Super Bowl winner to a complete fire sale. After cutting Leonard Floyd and allowing Allen Robinson to seek a trade, Ramsey is the latest Ram to be sent packing. This is a bit more nuanced though. Supposedly, Ramsey was terrible in the locker room and the Rams felt like they had to get rid of him. He remained a Pro Bowler last year, but some analysts believe he lost a step. I sense it was more a lack of motivation though because Ramsey is not even 30. Besides, he’ll only have to be CB2 in Miami with Xavien Howard on the other side. As the Rams were seeking a 1st-round pick, the package Miami gave up is dirt cheap. They sent a seldom-used tight end and a 3rd-rounder for a shutdown corner. I think Ramsey will be very happy in Miami (he wanted to go there) playing for Vic Fangio, so this should work out great for the Dolphins. My only knock is the $20M salary eating their cap, but if he continues to play at a high level, that’s alright. For LA, you have to be disappointed with this return. I get that their cap problems, lack of draft capital, and desire to send Ramsey packing gave them almost no leverage, but there HAD to be a more robust market for this player. A third-rounder doesn’t do a whole lot for a rebuild.
Grades: Rams: C; Dolphins: A

March 10, 2023

Bears Trade #1 Overall Pick to Panthers for WR DJ Moore, #9 Overall Pick, 2023 2nd-Round Pick, 2024 1st-Round Pick, 2025 2nd-Round Pick:
I’ve been itching to write on this trade. We didn’t know when the trade would be made or who the trade partner would be, but we knew it would come. This is quite a haul. Moore is perennially underrated, having never caught more than 788 yards worth of passes in a season in his career and posting 3 1000-yard campaigns. He is the #1 target the Bears have been lacking. The 9th pick isn’t too far to move down, and the extra 1st and two 2nds round out the deal. I don’t think the Colts would have offered this type of package, and given my doubts about the QB class, I would never have even offered this much. Thus, Chicago did a great job parlaying a pick they didn’t think they needed into a treasure trove. Given my opinion of Moore, this might be better value than what the 49ers surrendered for Trey Lance in 2021. I still don’t think Chicago has its QB, but they smartly realized that this draft wasn’t going to be the answer. Carolina’s side is a bit more suspect. Owner David Tepper has been very transparent in his desire for a game-changing QB, whiffing on Deshaun Watson, drafting Matt Corral, and trading for Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield. It’s fair to say that this is his biggest gamble yet. You can’t say with certainty that any rookie QB will work out, and this is a steep price to pay. Obviously, the team doesn’t believe in Corral, while they do believe in Bryce Young or CJ Stroud. It must also be noted that the team has deprived their new QB of his top target by including Moore in the deal. This is not a move I’d ever have made, but I can understand why the Panthers feel like they had no choice.
Grades: Bears: A; Panthers: C-

March 9, 2023

Ravens Trade S Chuck Clark to Jets for 2024 7th-Round Pick:
For all of Baltimore’s secondary injuries over the past few years, trading one of their best seems to be a foolish decision. However, when the team selected Kyle Hamilton in the first round last year (I wasn’t crazy about that by the way), Clark probably knew he was playing his final year in Baltimore. Rather than cut him though, the Ravens have traded him for peanuts. The main draw for Baltimore is that they save over $4M in cap space. The pick is a throwaway lottery ticket. The Jets are the clear winners here. New York picks up a quality defender that logged 102 tackles in 2022 (a career-high number) for next to nothing. I won’t fail Baltimore because it’s better to get SOMETHING than nothing, though I feel Clark was worth more in compensatory pick terms if the team planned to wait until 2024 for the pick to convey anyway.
Grades: Ravens: D; Jets: A

January 31, 2023

Saints Trade HC Sean Payton, 2024 3rd-Round Pick to Broncos for 2023 1st-Round Pick, 2024 2nd-Round Pick:
It’s not every day that you see a head coach get traded. Most think of the Jon Gruden trade when they view compensation, and this deal is largely in line with that. This is a rather hefty haul, though the first-rounder isn’t high. The pick came from the Dolphins in the Bradley Chubb trade, but it was originally the 49ers’ pick used in the Trey Lance deal, so it slots in at #29. This grade has to overlap a bit with my head coach hiring grade for Payton, whereas that grade can be viewed without considering the draft compensation. Denver had to know that their job came with some downsides. Most of them relate to Russell Wilson. It’s been well documented that he was a colossal failure last year, but you also have to consider the picks they’re without. Three first-rounders have now been devoted to him and Payton, which seriously short-circuits any roster replenishment efforts. This division is also very challenging, with Kansas City running the West and the Chargers hanging tough. This feels like a serious win-now move for a team that quite possibly cannot win now. That said, the hope is that this is their coach for the next decade or so, and they really needed a steady hand to right their sinking ship. I think this is quite a haul for a head coach, but you could argue that it’s reasonable. The right coach can make all the difference. For the Saints, how can you not love it? They got two premium picks for a guy that was no longer a part of their team and get to part ways with him on extremely amicable terms. You can quibble over whether they should have gotten more, but leverage was fading. This is a nice package.
Grades: Saints: A; Broncos: B

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