Bleacher Report NFL Trade Deadline Grades and Analysis
There were plenty of fireworks in the weeks leading up to today's NFL trade deadline, which means that the next 12 hours or so are likely to be jam-packed with last-minute action. And Bleacher Report Gridiron has you covered with all the grades, insights and analysis you need to keep pace with all the wheeling and dealing.
Check back here throughout the day as trade news breaks.
Rams Trade Aqib Talib to the Dolphins
The Rams trade injured 33-year-old former Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib, plus a fifth-round pick, to the Dolphins for an undisclosed future draft pick, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Impact level: Low to moderate
This trade hurts the Rams a little bit in the present and might help the Dolphins a teensy bit in the future, but it’s not exactly a blockbuster.
Rams Grade: C-
The Rams placed Talib on IR with a rib injury in mid-October, and trading him frees $4.2 million in cap space, some of which is probably earmarked for an extension to newly acquired cornerback Jalen Ramsey’s contract. The only real risk the Rams are incurring by dealing Talib is the possibility that they find themselves without veteran secondary depth against top opponents during a playoff run or the Super Bowl, when Talib might be healthy enough to play. That is a massive risk for a contender like the Rams to take in exchange for some budget maintenance and draft-pick shuffling.
Dolphins Grade: C-
The only way this deal makes any sense for the don’t-call-it-tanking Dolphins is if they are doing the Rams the favor of eating Talib’s salary in exchange for that fifth-round pick. Sounds great in theory, but once a team starts playing galaxy-brain Moneyball in exchange for draft picks that are likely to turn into future special teams gunners, it’s time to brace yourself for two more years of sheer misery, followed by a year of whatever the heck the former tanking poster children Browns are currently going through.
Jets Trade Leonard Williams to the Giants
Details: The Giants acquired 2015 first-round defensive tackle Leonard Williams from the Jets for a third-round pick in 2020 and a fifth-rounder in 2021.
Impact level: Low
Neither New York team is going anywhere this year. Williams is a quality run-stuffer but not someone who will turn a franchise around.
Giants grade: C
On the one hand, Williams is only 25 years old and is a better player than the Giants will likely find in the third round next season, and they have the money to offer him a contract extension if they choose. On the other hand, defensive tackle may be the only position at which the Giants are fairly good, young and deep.
General manager Dave Gettleman loves "hog mollies" in the trenches, of course, but he tends to get into trouble when he tries to build a whole team out of them.
Jets grade: C
The Jets remain dedicated to always being in Phase 1 of their rebuilding program, which is why players who looked like they would be part of the nucleus last year must be traded so the team can start building a whole new nucleus next year. That way, the coaching staff and front office can put off winning indefinitely while assigning all the blame to the previous coaching staff and front office.
In summary, this is a deal that hurts both teams, but not very much. So by the standards of these organizations, it's not that bad of a trade.
Dolphins Trade Kenyan Drake to Cardinals
Details: The Cardinals, facing an injury crunch at running back, acquired Kenyan Drake from the Dolphins on Monday in exchange for a conditional 2020 draft pick.
Impact level: Low
Drake has always been a bigger deal in fantasy leagues than on the field.
Cardinals grade: C+
Drake is talented but also one of the worst pass protectors in the NFL. Neither Adam Gase nor Brian Flores' staff was comfortable giving him a full-time role even as a third-down back, because third-down backs must block when not catching short passes.
Drake could flourish in the wide-open Cardinals system and will get plenty of opportunities with David Johnson and Chase Edmonds banged up. He could also be one more reason why Kyler Murray spends so many Sunday afternoons running around in circles.
Dolphins grade: C+
Drake got plenty of opportunities, and getting anything of value for him at this point is a plus. The Dolphins' commitment to deep-tissue tanking is impressive, but Mark Walton and Kalen Ballage are similarly inconsistent talents, so Drake's absence will not matter much.
Jaguars Trade Jalen Ramsey to the Rams
Details: The Rams acquired disgruntled All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey from the Jaguars in exchange for first-round picks in 2020 and 2021 and a fourth-round pick in 2021.
Impact level: Very High
This deal affects both the balance of power in the NFC and the future of the AFC.
Rams grade: B+
The marginal cost of improving when a team is already the defending conference champion can be astronomical, and carping about mortgaging the future in a team's Super Bowl window is missing the point. The primary issue for the Rams is whether the upgrade from Marcus Peters to Ramsey is worth the cost. Ramsey covered Julio Jones well enough to allow the Rams to blitz more aggressively in his debut. That's the type of ripple effect he must have on the defense to make this deal worth it.
Ramsey's looming contract situation (a deal that expires after the 2020 season) adds another variable to a complex equation, but the Rams have been shrewd about both paying their young stars and keeping them comfortable through the negotiation process (see: Aaron Donald) in the past.
Jaguars grade: C
The Jaguars entered the season trying to win now with their defense and Nick Foles but now may be rebuilding under Gardner Minshew II, or they may be doing a little of both with some Tom Coughlin "get off my lawn" traditionalism mixed in. All of those cross purposes are a recipe for endless 6-10 seasons, no matter how many first-round picks you add to the broth: draft capital is only valuable if a team has a coherent plan for using it.
That said, at least the Jaguars held out until they received the absolute maximum for Ramsey, which was the second-smartest thing they could do, just below being grown-ups and working things out with their young All-Pro.
Falcons Trade Mohamed Sanu to Patriots
Details: The Patriots bolstered their injury-and-Antonio-Brown-depleted receiving corps by acquiring veteran Mohamed Sanu from the Falcons in exchange for a second-round pick in 2020.
Impact level: Moderate
This is your basic role-player-for-Day-2-draft-pick trade that earned a lot of extra attention because the Patriots are involved and they make everyone louder and sound sillier.
Patriots grade: B
Sanu is a versatile receiver who blocks well on the perimeter (an important attribute in an offense full of screen and swing passes), handles the sort of "heavy slot" duties the Patriots used to assign to tight ends, provides a trick-play threat and doesn't expect the ball much. It sounds like the Patriots paid more than the MSRP by parting with a second-round pick, but that will probably be the 61st-to-64th overall pick, and the Patriots know how to invest wisely to extend their Super Bowl window.
Falcons grade: A-
This is how rebuilding trades are done: The Falcons get a draft pick that will help them much more than it will a contender in exchange for a veteran who won't be much use to them as they transition to a new era.
Rams Trade Marcus Peters to Ravens for Kenny Young and PIcks
Details: The Rams sent inconsistent cornerback Marcus Peters to the Ravens in exchange for linebacker Kenny Young and an undisclosed 2020 draft pick. This trade was the precursor to the Rams' acquisition of Jalen Ramsey.
Impact level: Moderate-to-high
The Rams and Ravens are both in the thick of the playoff chase. Peters always makes his presence on the field known, for better or worse.
Ravens grade: A-
The Ravens made a bold price-is-right move to upgrade a secondary that was expected to be among the league's best in the preseason but was racked by injuries. Peters has already shown the Ravens his good side with a pick-six against the Seahawks. He'll show them his bad side soon enough when he starts gambling or napping in coverage at the worst possible moments.
Rams grade: B
This trade only makes sense in conjunction with the Ramsey trade. It's a sound housecleaning deal: Young adds depth, the draft pick takes a little sting out of the haul they sent the Jaguars for Ramsey, and inking the more talented/effective Ramsey to a new deal makes more sense than handing a big check to the inconsistent Peters.
Raiders Trade Gareon Conley to Texans
Details: The Texans acquired cornerback Gareon Conley, a first-round pick in 2017, from the Raiders in exchange for a third-round pick in 2020.
Impact level: Low
This projects to be the least-read segment of this year's edition of Trade Deadline Grades.
Texans grade: C-
The Texans keep trading future draft picks for former first-rounders, which is usually a sign of a general manager (or a coach with the power of a GM) who's collecting players he was once high on during the scouting process like they are coveted Yu-Gi-Oh cards. Conley broke up a pair of passes in his Texans debut against his former team but was a disappointment throughout his Raiders career, right up to a rough outing against the Packers before the trade. Bill O'Brien is mortgaging the future for an 11-5 season, although J.J. Watt's season-ending injury means the Texans will probably end up 9-7 again anyway.
Raiders grade: C
The third-round pick is nice, but a team only deserves so much credit for cutting losses.
Lions Trade Quandre Diggs to Seahawks
Details: The Seahawks acquired veteran safety Quandre Diggs and a 2021 seventh-rounder from the Lions for a 2020 fifth-round pick.
Impact level: Low
The most interesting element of this deal may be the effect it has on the Lions locker room.
Seahawks grade: B
Bradley McDougald and Tedric Thompson aren't exactly Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. The Seahawks have been searching for the best combination at safety, and Diggs gives them a versatile, experienced option who can handle a variety of roles.
Lions grade: D
This deal might make some Moneyball sense. After their Week 7 loss to the Vikings, the Lions had just a 14.4 percent chance of reaching the playoffs (per Football Outsiders; their odds dipped to 12.3 percent after Week 8 wins by the Vikings, Packers and others), so why not peer down the road just a bit?
There's a tipping point at which the risk of angering the locker room by trading a popular, affordable young veteran outweighs the rewards that might be reaped on Day 3 of some future draft. If any franchise has identified that precise tipping point, it's probably not the one that has gone 28 years without winning a playoff game
Broncos Trade Emmanuel Sanders to 49ers
Details: The 49ers acquired veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and a fifth-round pick from the Broncos in exchange for 2020 third- and fourth-round draft picks.
Impact level: High
An undefeated team gets a starter and former Pro Bowler. What more can you ask for from a trade-deadline deal?
49ers grade: A
This is the sort of high-leverage trade a contender must make to keep pace in the hotly contested NFC. The 49ers cannot rely solely on their running and short-passing games for the rest of the season and playoffs. Sanders, who scored a touchdown in his 49ers debut, adds talent and experience to a thin receiving corps.
Broncos grade: B+
The big news here is that the Broncos made a legitimate and smart rebuilding deal. If they had won one or two of their close losses, John Elway might have talked himself into being a buyer instead of a seller and set the team back two more years. The Broncos are the team that could benefit most from a veteran fire sale because their veterans remain valuable. They should make another trade or two just like this one. The only reason this deal didn't earn an A is because it was so long overdue.
Patriots Trade Michael Bennett to Cowboys
Details: The Cowboys acquired soon-to-be 34-year-old former Pro Bowl defensive lineman Michael Bennett from the Patriots for a conditional sixth- or seventh-round draft pick in 2021.
Cowboys grade: B+
Bennett provides low-cost depth and versatility for the Cowboys. While he has been used mostly as an edge-rusher over the last two seasons, he can still move inside on occasion and be a disruptor on passing downs. The Cowboys needed a 30-snap contributor, not a starter, and that is precisely what they got.
Patriots grade: C
Bennett is the sort of player the Patriots usually acquire late in the playoff chase, earning lots of fawning praise for the personnel masterstroke, and then quietly allow to move on during free agency. They're a little off schedule this season, and their "grab a controversial dude" tactics aren't paying the dividends they used to. Fortunately, they are also facing a Conference USA schedule.
• Browns trade Genard Avery to the Eagles for a 2021 fourth-round pick.
Here is what I wrote about Avery at the 2017 draft: "Genard Avery is big and nasty, and he can pitch a tent in the opponent's backfield. He disengages well from blocks, sifts and strafes effectively and does all the dirty work you can ask for from a run defender. He's alert in zone coverage, but his first instinct when covering a Dion Lewis type is to try to eat him."
Avery had some impact as a pass-rusher (4.5 sacks) last year, and the Eagles needed more options off the edge. A fourth-round pick in two years is a fair price for a young role player.
Grades: Eagles: B+, Browns: B