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NFL: 10 Low-Key Trades That Turned out to Be Significant

Bryan DietzlerSenior Analyst IOctober 20, 2016

NFL: 10 Low-Key Trades That Turned out to Be Significant

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    Have you ever wondered how some of the trades in the NFL that started out small and ended up being very big began?  Have you ever wondered just how some of your favorite players got to their teams through a trade?

    There are many trades that have come up in the distant past as well as the recent past that have looked as if they are insignificant at the start but in the end they turned out to be some of the most important trades in NFL history. 

    The following is a list of some of the most significant trades in NFL history that started off small but eventually turned out to be some of the best ever.

    (Note: This list is in no particular order).

The Trade for Jerry Rice

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    Jerry Rice was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the 1985 NFL Draft. 

    In order for the 49ers to get Rice, a wide receiver out of the Mississippi Valley State, they had to trade their first-round pick, (the 32nd pick overall) to the New England Patriots (for their number 16 pick).  The rest, of course, is history.

    Rice has turned out to the best wide receiver in NFL history and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Pittsburgh Gets Jerome Bettis

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers were looking for a running back who could pound the ball between the tackles and had veteran experience.  The Rams were a willing trade partner and so the Steelers gave up a second- and a fourth-round pick for Bettis.

    Bettis ended up winning the Steelers MVP awards in 1996 and 1997 and also earned a trip to the Pro Bowl.  He earned his first and only Super Bowl victory with the Steelers against the Seattle Seahawks.

Brett Favre Goes from Atlanta to Green Bay

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    There are many trades that are talked about as being the best trades in NFL history but this one doesn’t get mentioned as much as some of the other big ones.  This trade deserves to be considered as one of the most important trades in NFL history. 

    Brett Favre was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the second round of the 1991 NFL Draft.  After not doing much during his time with the Falcons, they traded him away to the Green Bay Packers for a first-round selection in the 1992 NFL Draft.

    History was made with that trade, and Favre is destined to be a Hall of Famer and will be known as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.

The Trade for Steve Young

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    The 49ers were looking for someone to replace the aging Joe Montana and they had a big interest in Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Steve Young. 

    Young had played some games with the Buccaneers and showed a lot of promise.  The 49ers saw this and decided to bring him to the West Coast.

    San Francisco traded a second-round and a fourth-round pick to the Bucs for Young and those picks were used in the 1987 NFL Draft. 

    During his career with the 49ers Young led the team to the NFC Championship four times as well as to a Super Bowl victory.  He has since been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Bobby Layne to Detroit

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    Reaching deep back into history, the trade of Bobby Layne to the Lions (from the New York Bulldogs) may have been one of the biggest trades of the NFL past. 

    It’s hard to believe it, but the Lions ended up winning three NFL Championships with Layne at the controls as their quarterback. 

    Detroit traded defensive end Bob Mann to the Bulldogs in 1950, and the rest is history.

Marshall Faulk Heads to St. Louis

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    The St. Louis Rams were in the process of building one of the best offenses in NFL history and bringing in a guy like Faulk essentially was one of the last few pieces of the puzzle. 

    That piece helped lead the Rams to the Super Bowl.  The Rams traded Indianapolis a second- and fifth-round pick for Faulk and clearly got the better end of that deal.

    Faulk has since been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Randy Moss to New England

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    The Vikings had a lot of success with Randy Moss, but when things became too tenuous between him and the Vikings, they traded him to Oakland. 

    After a couple of seasons in Oakland, Moss decided that he wanted to play for a winner and started making waves in order to get out of Oakland.

    The Raiders ended up trading Moss to the New England Patriots in 2006 for a fourth-round pick.  All Moss did was help the Patriots return to the Super Bowl and caught 23 touchdown passes (an NFL record).

    Granted, Moss ended up leaving the Patriots this past year and technically wasn’t there that long, but he still established himself as one of the best wide receivers in NFL history.  And he would have never been able to do that had he not been traded to New England.

The Redskins Get Clinton Portis

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    The Broncos were cranking out top quality running backs at the time Portis was playing with them but didn’t have the cornerback that they needed to seal up a leaky pass defense. 

    The Broncos ended up trading their star running back to the Washington Redskins for cornerback Champ Bailey.

    Bailey ended up being an All-Pro and a regular at the Pro Bowl every season.  Portis did well but has since broken down enough that the Redskins will probably not have him back again in 2011.

The Patriots Grab Wes Welker

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    Hopefully through this you are seeing that just one player can make a big difference in helping the team that they are traded to get to where they want to be. 

    The Patriots had struggles with their wide receivers and back in March 2007, they made a move to acquire Welker.

    The Patriots traded their second- and seventh-round draft picks in the 2007 NFL Draft to Miami for Welker.  They got him signed to a five-year contract shortly after that securing him as a Patriot.

    Welker’s presence was very much welcome and he helped become an important part of the passing game and ended up being quarterback Tom Brady’s most reliable receiver.

New England Gets a New Head Coach

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    Its may be hard to believe that some of the more interesting trades in NFL history have involved a head coach.  Most people don’t think that head coaches can be traded to another team for draft picks but this has happened before. 

    And it happened in 2000 when the New England Patriots, in need of someone to bring their team back to life and make it a winner decided to bring in former Jets coach (he had resigned from the New York job in order to take the New England job) Bill Belichick.

    The Jets didn’t want to let him go without getting some kind of compensation for him and they demanded that the Patriots give them something for him. 

    New England decided to give the Jets their first round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft after the NFL’s Commissioner (Paul Tagliabue at that time) made them give up the pick.

    The rest is history as the Patriots went on to become a dynasty and end up as one of the best teams in NFL history. 

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