The NFL is a completely different beast in terms of the trade deadline compared to baseball and basketball. Rarely are trades made that affect a team’s season or, for that matter, their long-term prospects. Over the years, there have been trades made at the deadline, but few have really made that much of an impact.
Last year, the Oakland Raiders sold the farm to acquire Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer. In 2008, the Dallas Cowboys gave away their future on then-Detroit Lions wide receiver Roy Williams.
As an agent, the trade deadline in the NFL is barely a blip on the radar. Unless a player is extremely unhappy with their current team, a trade is very unlikely to occur.
Last year, when the trade deadline was after Week 6 instead of Week 8, I had a player who had been inactive for the first five games of the season. This player was not happy with not being able to play and was not given any direction by his coaches or personnel as to the reason for him not playing.
He called me late into Week 5 and demanded I get him traded. Frustrated by the lack of playing time and lack of communication, he said he no longer wanted to be a part of his current team and would not play for them again.
This is a slippery slope for an agent. I work for the player and will do everything in my power to make sure they are happy. But to simply call up a general manager for an NFL team and demand a trade for a player they do not even see fit to dress can have negative consequences as well.
The key is to find a happy medium for both the team and the player. Many times, a simple call to the head coach, the head of personnel or even the position coach will open up a line of communication that was not there before. Being the mediator between egos is what an agent needs to be, especially when it comes to trades.
After explaining all the rules, salary cap implications and other issues that come with a trade to my client, I picked up the telephone and dialed the team’s general manager. After an hour on the phone going back and forth about the future of my client, the general manager simply stated the obvious. “I will not get fair market value for your client and he is too good of a player to just release.”
Therein lies the rub.
The old trade chart that the Dallas Cowboys made famous does not exist in terms of the trade deadline and is out of date for the draft now as well. Teams may float a name of a player on their roster to other teams as a possible trade, but to get back the right compensation makes most talked-about trades impossible.
Unless a player is retired—like Palmer was last season—or holds out, there is not much leverage on the side of the player. Injuries to key stars may force a team’s hand, but most teams feel good enough about the players they have as backups to keep from mortgaging the future on the here and now.
The trade talk did open up a new line of communication with the player and the team. Both realized there was a middle ground and learned to work together. The player was able to vent his frustrations and concerns and the team was able to explain why the player was not seeing the field. In the end, my client realized a trade was not going to happen and took ownership of his current position.
There is exactly a week until the NFL trade deadline is upon us, and even though the NFLPA and NFL moved the deadline back to spur the likelihood of trades, history has shown that on average only one to two trades occur each year.
So while the media and fans will have fun speculating on what their team would look like with a wide receiver like Dwayne Bowe or Mike Wallace, the chances of winning the lottery are probably a better bet.