NFL Trade Deadline: What Does History Tell Us?

Marc LillibridgeContributor IOctober 18, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 14:  John Abraham #55 of the Atlanta Falcons forces a fumble and turnover by Carson Palmer #3 of the Oakland Raiders at Georgia Dome on October 14, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

At the NFL owners meetings in August, the NFL trading deadline was moved back from the Tuesday after Week 6 to the Tuesday after Week 8.  The owners and NFL personnel are hoping to have a better grasp of their injury situation as well as playoff chances the extra two weeks will afford them.

But with history as a teacher, those extra two weeks still will not shake up the NFL landscape too much.  Deadlines do spur more talks and negotiations, but rarely in NFL history has there been a blockbuster trade at the deadline.

The big deals, like last year’s trade by the Oakland Raiders to acquire Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, are made out of desperation.  The Raiders gave away their future by trading a first-round selection in 2012 and a second-round pick in 2013 to land a 31-year old player on the downside of his career.

Granted, Palmer is a decent starter, but the pick the Raiders gave up in the 2012 NFL draft was the 17th selection overall.  New Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie would have gladly traded that pick to acquire someone Ryan Tannehill or used it to select a rookie quarterback like Brandon Weeden or Brock Osweiler.

Besides Palmer, only two other players were traded at the 2011 deadline.  Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd went from the Denver Broncos to the St. Louis Rams, and running back Ronnie Brown went from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Detroit Lions in a trade was voided when trading-piece Jerome Harrison failed his Eagles physical.

Another historically poor trade at the deadline was in 2008 when the Dallas Cowboys acquired Detroit Lions wide receiver Roy Williams.  The Cowboys gave up their first, third and sixth-round selections in the 2009 draft and rewarded Williams with a $54 million extension.  Williams never produced for the Cowboys and is now out of the NFL.

Smart general managers understand how to work the salary cap and tweak the roster with trades that may not make the front page, but benefit the team in the short and long term.  Since the inception of the salary cap era, three smaller deadline deals worked out well for the team receiving the player, even if only for the rest of that season. 

In 2006, the savvy Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian, looking to shore up his defensive front, traded a second-round selection in the 2007 draft to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for embattled defensive tackle Anthony “Booger” McFarland.  The trade helped solidify the Colts defense and McFarland was a key piece of the Colts winning the Super Bowl that season.

In 2007, wide receiver Chris Chambers was dealt by the Miami Dolphins to the San Diego Chargers for a second-round selection.  That season, the Chargers were desperate for wide receiver help after losing Eric Parker to injury.  Chambers gave quarterback Philip Rivers a deep threat to compliment tight end Antonio Gates, and the result was one of the best offensive second halfs of the 2007 season for the Bolts.  The addition of Chambers helped catapult the Chargers to the AFC West crown as well as a spot in the AFC Championship game.

Another team that added an impact player at the trade deadline and made the AFC Championship Game as a result is the 2009 New York Jets.  The Jets acquired wide receiver Braylon Edwards from the Cleveland Browns for two players and two draft picks. 

Edwards gave the Jets a viable deep threat and a chance at the NFL title.  The Browns in turn received wide receiver Chansi Stucky, linebacker Jason Trusnik and selections used on offensive tackle Shawn Lauvao in the third round and safety Larry Asante in the fifth-round.

Names like receivers Dwayne Bowe, Wes Welker and Mike Wallace are getting bantered around because they are playing on one-year franchise tags.  But with the new rookie salary cap in place, trading away selections at a fair cost/benefit ratio will be even harder for most personnel staffs to agree on.

There may be some trade action in the terms of the back end of the roster, like when the Kansas City Chiefs traded defensive end Alex Magee to the Buccaneers in 2010.  But with 18 total trades since 2000 at the deadline, do not hold your breath for a blockbuster move in 2012.