Ranking the 7 Worst NFL Offseason Trades Since 2000
The offseason is a time for optimism. And as NFL executives reassess their rosters in the spring and summer, they occasionally see a trade as a way to improve the future of the organization.
Reality, unfortunately, doesn't always cooperate with that vision.
During the past two decades, the most glaring mistakes have often included a quarterback who didn't pan out. The worst trade of all, however, featured an AFC South team practically giving away an All-Pro receiver for a running back—the most replaceable position.
Although the NFL draft is during the offseason, draft-day trades and transactions only involving future picks are not considered.
7. Raiders Whiff on Antonio Brown (2019)
On the bright side for the Oakland Raiders, the Antonio Brown trade is mostly remembered as a temporary inconvenience.
Brown had a prolific career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but his relationship with the team devolved due to factors outside of his on-field performance. They shipped him to the Raiders, where he immediately signed a three-year, $50 million extension.
While the Raiders sent a third- and fifth-round pick in the 2019 draft to Pittsburgh, they received zero production in return.
After a bizarre string of offseason events—including frostbitten feet, refusing to stop wearing a non-permitted helmet and a reported fight with general manager Mike Mayock—the Raiders cut Brown. He never played a snap for Oakland.
6. McNabb Struggles in Washington (2010)
For the first 11 years of his career, Donovan McNabb helped the Philadelphia Eagles win five NFC East titles and earn eight playoff appearances. Washington hoped McNabb would continue that success even after Michael Vick supplanted him in Philly.
Long short short: That didn't happen.
Washington sent a second- and third-round pick for McNabb, who posted a 5-8 record in 13 starts. He threw more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (14) during that 2010 season.
The following summer, Washington moved him to the Minnesota Vikings. At least that trade eventually landed running back Alfred Morris, a key contributor for three years.
5. Bears Lose a Future All-Pro
During the 2007 NFL draft, the Chicago Bears used a first-round selection on Miami tight end Greg Olsen. He put up respectable numbers over a four-year stretch in Chicago but never exactly thrived in Mike Martz's offense.
As a result, Chicago moved on from Olsen in the summer of 2011 and acquired a third-round pick from the Carolina Panthers.
And the Panthers unlocked an All-Pro.
The primary target for Cam Newton, Olsen turned in five straight 800-yard seasons with three consecutive 1,000-yard years. He twice earned second-team AP All-Pro recognition and played a pivotal role in Carolina winning the NFC in 2015.
Chicago later packaged the third-rounder to add receiver Brandon Marshall, so the transaction wasn't a total loss. However, the Bears could have added him alongside Olsen.
4. Cowboys Go All-in on Galloway
Through four years in the NFL, Joey Galloway averaged more than 1,000 yards per season and totaled 36 touchdowns. The wideout wanted a new contract from the Seattle Seahawks badly enough that he held out for half of the 1999 campaign.
In the following offseason, Seattle slapped the franchise tag on Galloway and engineered a massive trade win.
Galloway went to the Dallas Cowboys for a pair of first-round picks. One of those picks turned into Alabama running back Shaun Alexander, who would eventually win NFL MVP while setting a league record for single-season touchdowns. Alexander smashed Seattle's franchise records for yards and touchdowns.
On the other hand, Galloway missed most of 2000 because of a torn left ACL. He managed 2,279 yards and 11 scores over the next three seasons before Dallas traded him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
3. Chip Kelly Sends McCoy to Buffalo
Shortly after becoming Philadelphia's head of football operations in 2015, Chip Kelly made a bizarre decision. Hindsight does the former Eagles head coach no favors, either.
Kelly sent All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso. McCoy had 3,620 scrimmage yards in the prior two years; Alonso, who Kelly coached at Oregon, had missed the previous season with an ACL injury.
McCoy played three seasons with the Bills and helped the organization snap an 18-year postseason drought. Alonso didn't win a starting job in Philly, reinjured his knee and went to the Miami Dolphins in a trade the following offseason.
And the Eagles fired Kelly in December 2015.
2. Saban, Dolphins Pick Culpepper over Brees (2006)
In 2006, one decision altered both the NFL and college football for the next two decades. As the San Diego Chargers committed to Philip Rivers, Drew Brees entered free agency. And the Miami Dolphins, led by Nick Saban, had a chance to sign him.
The long story short: Miami passed on Brees because of concerns about a shoulder injury and instead traded a second-round pick to Minnesota for Daunte Culpepper.
Culpepper played four games before a knee injury ended his season, and Miami released him the next summer. Brees set NFL records in several career categories. Saban left the Dolphins and started a dynasty at Alabama.
The next season, the Dolphins finished 1-15.
1. Texans Send Hopkins to Arizona (2020)
After winning AFC South titles in 2018 and 2019, the Houston Texans made the logical next step in the progression of building a championship contender: Trade your All-Pro receiver.
For some bizarre reason, head coach/general manager Bill O'Brien sent DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals in the spring of 2020. Hopkins had racked up 8,602 yards and 54 touchdowns in seven years with Houston despite some awful quarterback play during the first five seasons.
O'Brien only received running back David Johnson, a second-round choice and a swap of fourth-round picks in return. Worse yet, Arizona may even have considered cutting Johnson that offseason before somehow building a trade for Hopkins around him.
It should come as no surprise the Texans fired O'Brien following an 0-4 start to the 2020 campaign.