Every year in the middle of July, the rumblings begin around the MLB as to which teams will be "buyers" and which teams will be "sellers"—or to put it another way, which teams will be looking to acquire talent in order to make runs at the playoffs and which teams will attempt to bleed the "buyers" of prospects in return for their veterans.
Or to put it yet another way, which teams feel like they are just a piece or two away from making serious runs to October and which teams will be giving up on the season completely.
This annual tradition has brought about the phenomenon of the—cover your eyes, Marlins fans—"fire sale."
The fire sale is when one of those selling teams just starts shipping their guys to the highest bidders at an alarming rate. More often than not, what they're getting in return are prospects who are most likely making very little.
Well, comparatively speaking, of course.
So that selling team is getting back inexpensive players and is clearing a ton of salary off the books. The selling point to the fans is that money will be reinvested in the years to come in order to be competitive once more, but that is a 50-50 proposition most of the time.
About now you're wondering what this has to do with the NFL, right?
Be patient, I'm getting there.
Under the old trade deadline that fell in between Weeks 6 and 7, teams had likely not gotten themselves into such holes that they would consider shipping their guys off and playing for next season. Even a 2-4 start is not so deflating that a team would simply pack it in, so the fire sale has never really been prevalent in the NFL.
However, with the new trade deadline now falling between Weeks 8 and 9 (h/t NFL.com), we could start to see teams willing to take whatever they can get for whatever trade pieces they might have and start looking towards the next season, satisfied that they're freshly stocked with young talent or even draft picks.
While a 2-4 start might not be enough to convince a franchise that its season is a lost cause, a 2-6 start could be enough to make some general managers think about blowing the whole thing up and telling themselves they'll get head starts on next year.
And if bad teams want to start selling, good teams will certainly be in line to buy.
For instance, if a team is sitting at five, six or seven wins at the trade deadline but has recently lost its starting quarterback, it might be tempted to offer a king's ransom to a team willing to part ways with its veteran quarterback, who is simply stuck in a situation where there isn't a ton of talent around him.
Because, let's not forget, a bad record does not automatically mean the team's quarterback is worthless, contrary to popular opinion.
Even with the deadline two weeks earlier, we've seen this exact scenario play out—just last year in fact.
Remember the Carson Palmer trade? Sure, there were some odd circumstances, with Palmer sitting out and what have you, but it just goes to show this is not an outrageous scenario.
And this obviously doesn't apply only to quarterbacks. This could happen at any position. Perhaps a team like the Denver Broncos totally falls apart early in the year and is so far behind in its division race that it decides to sell.
A team still in the playoff hunt loses a cornerback. That's a breeding ground for a team to ridiculously overpay for a guy like Champ Bailey because it believes it will be worth it in the end when it's hoisting the Lombardi.
It's something that plagues the MLB every season and totally dilutes the competition during the season's home stretch. One of the great things about the NFL is that even the most inept teams will continue to fight for wins at the end of the year (see: 2011 Indianapolis Colts), but if guys see that their teams are giving up and auctioning their teammates off, that fight could leave them very quickly.
It's not uncommon to see between 10 and 12 teams from each conference still in the playoff race all the way down to the last couple weeks, but a few bad trades from desperate teams on either end of the spectrum could mean a drop-off in competing teams during the back end of the year.
With all that said, I do not believe we will ever see NFL teams going crazy at the trade deadline, as we see in the MLB.
But the first team we see a team dump a high-priced veteran in the middle of the season simply because it got off to a bad start, I'm going to shake my head and wonder if this was really such a good move, after all.
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