Bleacher Report NFL Trade Deadline Grades and Analysis
The NFL trade deadline hit at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, with most of the action coming before Nov. 3 arrived. Only two trades were completed today.
In the two weeks leading up to deadline, 13 veteran players changed teams as part of a dozen different trades.
Here, we've graded every remotely significant deal that went down.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Acquire DL Steve McLendon from New York Jets
Tampa Bay Buccaneers receive: DL Steve McLendon, 2023 seventh-round draft pick
New York Jets receive: 2022 sixth-round draft pick
Assessing the Buccaneers
McLendon isn't the final piece to a Super Bowl puzzle, but he's a well-respected veteran with 90 career starts under his belt who should be able to help make up for the loss of injured defensive tackle Vita Vea. The draft-capital sacrifice is nominal, and they're paying the 34-year-old less than $1 million for the remainder of a walk year.
Critically, he's familiar with Tampa's system as he worked with Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles when they were both in New York. This is low risk, low reward.
Buccaneers grade: A
Assessing the Jets
McLendon means very little to a winless Jets team that is rebuilding, but a small gain in draft stock might not have been the optimal return. Gang Green should have waited until closer to the deadline to see if somebody might have gotten desperate and offered a little more for a player who is coming off the books in nine weeks anyway.
Still, this will at least make it easier for the coaching staff to focus on evaluating younger talent at the position.
Jets grade: C
San Francisco 49ers Acquire Edge Jordan Willis from New York Jets
San Francisco 49ers receive: Edge Jordan Willis, 2021 seventh-round draft pick
New York Jets receive: 2022 sixth-round draft pick
Assessing the 49ers
Injury-plagued San Francisco needed bodies up front. In this case, it got a talented but underachieving 25-year-old for less than $600,000 with no commitment beyond this season, and all the Niners had to do was surrender a dash of future draft capital.
The 2017 third-round pick hasn't lived up to expectations as a pass-rusher, but he actually saw some action and was in on a few plays in his Week 8 debut with the 49ers. It's possible a new environment will help him finally make an impact in the NFL.
49ers grade: A
Assessing the Jets
Willis might never take off, but that's just such a limited return for a player with at least a bit of upside who cost practically nothing to keep on the roster. Why give him away almost for free well before the deadline?
Jets grade: D
Baltimore Ravens Acquire Edge Yannick Ngakoue from Minnesota Vikings
Baltimore Ravens receive: Edge Yannick Ngakoue
Minnesota Vikings receive: 2021 third-round draft pick, conditional 2022 fifth-round draft pick
Assessing the Ravens
The Ravens are understandably all-in on 2020, and the pass rush has been an area of at least mild concern during the first half of the season. No edge defender on the roster has more than two sacks in a Baltimore uniform this season, whereas Ngakoue had five sacks in his six games with the Vikings.
Is he worth two middle-round picks and, per Spotrac, about $5.2 million for half a season of work with nothing guaranteed beyond 2020? Absolutely. The 2016 third-round pick is just 25 years old, he has a Pro Bowl, 42.5 sacks and 16 forced fumbles on his resume, and his ceiling is ridiculously high with tremendous support in Baltimore.
He truly could be a difference-maker on a Super Bowl run.
Ravens grade: A+
Assessing the Vikings
Minnesota obviously did the math and realized it was unlikely to retain Ngakoue next season, making this a "cut your losses" deal after a horrendous start to the 2020 season. That's fair because this team doesn't appear to be on the brink, but the Vikes still got less for Ngakoue than what they gave up to acquire him from the Jacksonville Jaguars (that same conditional fifth-round pick, but also a second-rounder).
Ngakoue has star potential and could have been part of a minirebuild in Minnesota. He would have been expensive, though, and this trade is somewhat of an admission of failure from the Vikes.
Vikings grade: D
Arizona Cardinals Acquire Edge Markus Golden from New York Giants
Arizona Cardinals receive: Edge Markus Golden
New York Giants receive: 2021 sixth-round draft pick
Assessing the Cardinals
It's important to consider how rarely sixth-round picks amount to anything. We tend to overvalue draft picks because of the unknown and technically limitless potential associated with each one, but the veteran Golden is a heck of a lot more likely to make a difference than whoever the Giants draft with Arizona's surrendered pick.
Besides, the Cards had to think about the immediate future following the loss of Chandler Jones, who suffered a season-ending biceps injury in October.
Golden, 29, had 1.5 sacks and five quarterback hits in his final three games with the Giants, registered 10 sacks in 2019 and also had a double-digit-sack season with these Cardinals in 2016. He should absolutely help a contending team at a low cost.
Cardinals grade: A
Assessing the Giants
The Giants are likely and understandably focused on 2021 and beyond following another terrible start, which is why it made some sense to get something for a walk-year veteran who might not be back for his age-30 season in 2021.
Still, Golden wasn't too expensive, a sixth-round pick isn't likely to make a difference, and losing him could well have fetched the Giants a compensatory draft pick that's better than the one they got from the Cards.
Giants grade: C
Detroit Lions Acquire Edge Everson Griffen from Dallas Cowboys
Detroit Lions receive: Edge Everson Griffen
Dallas Cowboys receive: 2021 sixth-round draft pick
Assessing the Lions
This is exactly what the Lions needed. Highly paid pass-rusher Trey Flowers wasn't delivering big plays on a consistent basis even before he was placed on injured reserve this week. While peripheral rusher Romeo Okwara has quietly performed well, Detroit simply had to find another weapon up front on defense.
Griffen is approaching his 33rd birthday, but the four-time Pro Bowler won't likely be asked to play too intense a role if Okwara and Flowers are healthy down the stretch. Still, he hasn't lost it. The former Minnesota Viking had 8.0 sacks in 2019 and 2.5 in seven games for the Cowboys this year.
In exchange for a mere sixth-rounder, this is a no-brainer for a team driven to win right now. And he also comes at a reasonable financial cost of about $3 million (depending on how incentives shake out) in a walk year.
Lions grade: A
Assessing the Cowboys
This is somewhat of a win-win, though, because Dallas is smartly throwing in the towel with the roster ravaged by injuries and just two wins under its belt. Now down to their third-string quarterback, the Cowboys aren't going to the Super Bowl this season, so why keep a 32-year-old around in a contract year?
It's possible keeping Griffen could have helped them with compensatory picks. But this way, they free up some cap space now and gain more immediate draft capital. No complaints there.
Cowboys grade: A-
Seattle Seahawks Acquire Edge Carlos Dunlap from Cincinnati Bengals
Seattle Seahawks receive: Edge Carlos Dunlap
Cincinnati Bengals receive: OL B.J. Finney, 2021 seventh-round draft pick
Assessing the Seahawks
The Seattle defense needed another piece as the team tries to rally for a Super Bowl run, and the veteran Dunlap can at least give a mild boost to a pass rush that owns the seventh-worst pressure rate in the NFL.
The 31-year-old may have just one sack this season, but his role was scaled back in September and October. He registered at least 7.5 sacks in every season between 2013 and 2019, and his strong veteran presence should help young fellow edge-defender L.J. Collier and the rest of the Seahawks defensive front.
Finney, 29, wasn't seeing any action anyway; it's doubtful they'll miss him or that seventh-round pick. Dunlap is guaranteed no money beyond this season (though they can keep him around for an $11.3 million walk year if they choose.)
Seahawks grade: A+
Assessing the Bengals
This is another relative win-win because Dunlap is declining and was unlikely to be worth that $11.3 million salary next year. Realistically, he's not a valuable part of a rebuilding team's future, and Cincinnati isn't a contender right now anyway.
The seventh-rounder doesn't hurt, and Finney could come in handy for an offensive line that wasn't reliable even before it was crushed by injuries last month. Any sort of return for Dunlap is a bonus for the Bengals.
Bengals grade: A
Pittsburgh Steelers Acquire LB Avery Williamson from New York Jets
Pittsburgh Steelers receive: LB Avery Williamson, 2022 seventh-round draft pick
New York Jets receive: 2022 fifth-round draft pick
Assessing the Steelers
The moment the Steelers lost standout linebacker Devin Bush to a torn ACL, they had to be in the market for a reliable veteran who could at least do more good than harm in a regular role. Replacing Bush is impossible at this point, but landing a player like Williamson for a small amount of draft capital is a pretty good deal.
Only a dozen NFL players have recorded more tackles than the 28-year-old this season. He doesn't make a lot of splash plays but is a well-liked, steady figure who can get after the quarterback on occasion as well. He should immediately bolster the Pittsburgh linebacker corps.
Incredibly, the Steelers will owe him just $1.5 million as a rental for the home stretch, and they won't feel the minor draft blow until 2022.
Steelers grade: A
Assessing the Jets
It's obvious at this point that the Jets are going full fire sale. But you still need some vets, and Williamson could have factored into the compensatory-pick equation if they lost him in the offseason. And if a Jets team loaded with salary-cap space decided to bring him back, he could still have been part of the rebuild as a 29-year-old in 2021.
It just feels like the Jets are overdoing it.
Jets grade: D
Tennessee Titans Acquire CB Desmond King from Los Angeles Chargers
Tennessee Titans receive: CB Desmond King
Los Angeles Chargers receive: 2021 sixth-round draft pick
Assessing the Titans
The Titans are looking to make a Super Bowl run this year, and in this case, they immediately got a lot stronger in a vulnerable area at an extremely low cost.
Tennessee needed another reliable cornerback, even if Adoree' Jackson returns soon from a knee injury. Malcolm Butler is fading at 30, there's only so much you can ask a 36-year-old Johnathan Joseph to do, they've been relying too heavily on seventh-round rookie Chris Jackson, and rookie second-rounder Kristian Fulton is dealing with a knee injury.
King will likely take over slot-coverage duties, which is exciting because that's where Tennessee needed help. The 2018 All-Pro is the highest-graded slot cover man in the league at Pro Football Focus since 2017. Throw in that he'll make just $1.1 million for the remainder of a walk year, and this is a robbery.
Titans grade: A+
Assessing the Chargers
Why do this now? Why make a fellow AFC team better? There's nothing wrong with waving a white flag on 2020 when you're 2-5, but King is remarkably talented and just 25 years old.
The Bolts were already strong in the secondary, though not strong enough to make King disposable in exchange for a mere sixth-round pick—especially considering his departure in 2021 free agency would likely help Los Angeles gain a similar or better pick via the compensatory selection formula.
It's possible King wore out his welcome with the team, but it still would have been better off waiting two months to part ways.
Chargers grade: F
New Orleans Saints Acquire LB Kwon Alexander from San Francisco 49ers
New Orleans Saints receive: LB Kwon Alexander
San Francisco 49ers receive: LB Kiko Alonso, conditional 2022 fifth-round draft pick
Assessing the Saints
Alonso has been on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list all season as he continues to recover from a torn ACL. The Saints likely feared he wouldn't be able to contribute much down the stretch, and it has to be all hands on deck in what might be quarterback Drew Brees' final season.
So while Alexander also has durability issues, the Saints likely got better in the short term. If he can stay on the field and be even remotely as effective as he's been when healthy in recent years, he could be a tremendous boon to a good-but-not-great linebacker corps.
There's a chance that doesn't happen and the Saints are left holding an expensive bag that will likely cause them to cut Alexander in the 2021 offseason anyway, but this is a smart risk for a team that is all-in.
Saints grade: B+
Assessing the 49ers
The Niners never should have given Alexander a bloated contract two years ago, and there was no way they were going to continue to pay him beyond this season with Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw performing well. But you don't get compensatory-pick credit for players you've released, and this trade enables San Francisco to get Alexander off the books in favor of a player in a walk year who should help with the comp pick formula if they lose him.
Injuries have done a number on Alexander. Alonso might not have a lot left, either. But this trade had little to do with the return.
There's some risk here because something could happen to Warner or Greenlaw, but it's a good deal when you consider the fifth-round pick (which could become a 2021 fourth-rounder if Alexander plays enough in New Orleans).
49ers grade: B+
New England Patriots Acquire WR Isaiah Ford from Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots receive: WR Isaiah Ford
Miami Dolphins receive: 2022 seventh-round draft pick
Assessing the Patriots
It's no secret that the Pats are in desperate need of weapons for quarterback Cam Newton. Ford comes cheap to a team that probably shouldn't surrender much draft capital or salary-cap space ahead of a potential rebuild, and Ford is young (24), inexpensive (he's on a one-year, $750,000 contract) and not completely unestablished (four 50-yard games in his last 11 outings).
This isn't a blockbuster, but you never know what Bill Belichick might see in a guy, and the price was right.
Patriots grade: A
Assessing the Dolphins
The Dolphins aren't in bad shape at wide receiver, but Ford had two fairly impressive games in the first four weeks of the season, and it seems strange to take away a young weapon from rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa when the AFC East is up for grabs.
It's even more strange to trade that player to Belichick and the division-rival Patriots.
It could be a sign the Dolphins expect to rely on Antonio Callaway, who is now eligible to return from his suspension. But he hasn't been reliable thus far in his career, so this is a weird deal for Miami.
Dolphins grade: C
Miami Dolphins Acquire RB DeAndre Washington from Kansas City Chiefs
Miami Dolphins receive: RB DeAndre Washington, 2021 seventh-round draft pick
Kansas City Chiefs receive: 2021 sixth-round draft pick
Assessing the Dolphins
Both Myles Gaskin and Matt Breida are averaging fewer than 4.0 yards per carry for a Dolphins running game that ranks 28th in terms of DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) at Football Outsiders. Washington isn't likely to take the reins and dominate in the Miami backfield, but his veteran presence could help at a position of need.
He's carried the ball only three times this year in Kansas City, but he averaged 4.1 yards per carry in back-to-back late-season starts for the Raiders in 2019. He's 27 but is gently used and should have plenty of tread on his tires.
With the Dolphins very much alive in the playoff race, this was worth a small sacrifice in draft capital.
Dolphins grade: B+
Assessing the Chiefs
This is free draft capital for the Chiefs, who didn't use Washington and took advantage of the Dolphins' need to take a flier on a running back. The return isn't substantial enough for this to be considered a coup, but there's no downside for Kansas City.
Chiefs grade: A