NFL Trades Still Hurting Their Teams Entering 2022
In the sports media world, we love to hand out instant grades and declare immediate winners and losers whenever an NFL trade goes down. The reality, though, is that accurate judgment can't be passed until teams get their new acquisitions on the playing field.
Often, teams that looked like early trade winners actually got the worse end of the deal—sometimes significantly so.
The Indianapolis Colts' 2013 trade for running back Trent Richardson is a perfect example. Richardson was the third overall pick in the 2012 draft, and Indianapolis used a 2014 first-round pick to pair him with the 2012 No. 1 pick, Andrew Luck. It looked like a powerful partnership at the time, but it failed.
Richardson's lack of field vision and burst—he had a career average of only 3.3 yards per carry—made him an ineffective runner in the NFL. The Colts' bet on Richardson's draft status wound up wasting two seasons trying the make Richardson work before pulling the plug.
At least Indianapolis had the sense to move on from Richardson after 29 games. That ill-fated trade is ancient history in NFL time. The teams on this list, however, are still paying the price for their bad trades.
Here, you'll find six recent NFL trades that are still hurting teams heading into the 2022 season—either because of financial implications, missed opportunities, roster issues or a combination of factors. We'll dive into the specifics of each trade and examine how each deal is still producing negative dividends for one of the teams involved.
The Carolina Panthers' Trade for Sam Darnold
The Carolina Panthers' trade for quarterback Sam Darnold wasn't the most expensive of the 2021 offseason, but it wasn't a bargain-basement deal either. To acquire the 2018 first-round pick, Carolina sent a 2021 sixth-round pick and 2022 second- and fourth-rounders to the New York Jets.
This means that Carolina will be without two valuable picks in this year's draft—the 2021 sixth-rounder became part of a draft-day trade with the Kansas City Chiefs. That would be acceptable if Darnold had solidified himself as a quality starter in Carolina, but he hasn't.
The No. 3 overall pick finished his first Panthers season with a passer rating of only 71.9 and a mere 4-7 record.
In addition to the Darnold deal hurting the Panthers' draft capital, it's also going to hurt their salary-cap flexibility after Carolina exercised the fifth-year option on Darnold's rookie contract, which will create a cap hit of $18.8 million in 2022.
Beginning with 2018 first-round picks, the fifth-year option becomes fully guaranteed once exercised, not at the beginning of the league year as it was previously. The Panthers are on the hook for Darnold's salary whether they want him or not.
And there's a chance that new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo doesn't want Darnold. At least, he wasn't high on him back in 2018 following two-year stint as head coach of the New York Giants.
"I'd just have a hard time drafting a guy in the first round where you don't necessarily like the way he throws," McAdoo told Paul Schwartz of the New York Post.
Maybe McAdoo has a different opinion of Darnold now. Perhaps the USC product will play better in 2022. So far, though, the Panthers haven't gotten good enough results in return for this trade.
The Cleveland Browns' Trade for Odell Beckham Jr.
If you watched the Los Angeles Rams play in Sunday's NFC title game, you're well aware that Odell Beckham Jr. is no longer a member of the Browns. He worked his way out of Cleveland just after the trade deadline and signed with Los Angeles as a free agent.
The Browns got just 114 receptions for 1,586 yards and seven touchdowns out of Beckham in 29 games. While it's worth noting that he missed nine games in 2020 with a torn ACL, the return is not much considering what Cleveland surrendered to get him.
Cleveland's trade for Beckham was eventually rolled into a deal that also involved Browns guard Kevin Zeitler and Giants edge defender Olivier Vernon. The Browns sent safety Jabrill Peppers and 2019 first- and third-round picks to the New York Giants.
Those picks became standout defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence and pass-rusher Oshane Ximines.
Even with Beckham gone, his three years in Cleveland continue to haunt the Browns. Cleveland still doesn't quite know what it has in quarterback Baker Mayfield, in part, because of this trade.
Mayfield suffered a partially torn labrum in Week 2 of the 2021 season and dealt with multiple injuries throughout the year. However, an underwhelming receiving corps also contributed to Mayfield's struggles. Beckham was part of the problem.
The former LSU receiver and Mayfield never found chemistry together, and their connection always seemed just a tad off. Beckham provided a quarterback rating of just 72.2 when targeted in Cleveland this season, well below Mayfield's season-long rating of 83.1.
Donovan Peoples-Jones wound up leading the Browns with a mere 597 receiving yards. Cleveland heads into 2022 in dire need of a No. 1 receiver, something it never tried finding over the last three years because it though Beckham could be that player. Meanwhile, Mayfield heads into the final year of his rookie contract with an uncertain future.
The Houston Texans Trade Away DeAndre Hopkins
When former Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien traded DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals in March 2020, it seemed like a curious decision. Hopkins was coming off three consecutive first-team All-Pro campaigns, and the Texans didn't exactly get an overwhelming return.
In exchange for Hopkins and a 2020 fourth-round pick, the Texans received running back David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick.
The draft picks became defensive tackle Ross Blacklock and part of a package to acquire offensive lineman Marcus Cannon. Johnson was merely a serviceable committee member in 2021, while Blacklock and Cannon started a combined six games.
So, the return obviously wasn't good for Houston. The absence of Hopkins remains a problem too. Though he was limited to 10 games this past season and landed on injured reserve following knee surgery, he was still a reliable target.
Hopkins caught eight touchdowns and provided a quarterback rating of 133.6 when targeted. When healthy in 2020, he had 1,407 receiving yards and was named to the Pro Bowl.
Having Hopkins would have been tremendous for rookie quarterback Davis Mills this past season. Mills pretty much had Brandin Cooks as his only reliable target. Cooks led Houston with 1,037 receiving yards, while no other player reached 500 yards.
If Hopkins was still on the roster, the Texans would have a pair of quality perimeter targets to put around Mills in 2022. Without him, receiver is a major need heading into the 2022 draft.
The Indianapolis Colts' Trade for Carson Wentz
To acquire quarterback Carson Wentz this past offseason, the Colts surrendered a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional 2022 second-rounder that has since become a first-round selection (now the 16th overall pick).
The Philadelphia Eagles used the 2021 third-round as part of a package to trade up and snag wide receiver DeVonta Smith.
That would be a fair price if the Wentz had helped carry the Colts to the postseason, but he didn't. While Wentz's former team did reach the playoffs, the Colts were left at home, due in large part to Wentz's mistakes.
Wentz had a respectable 94.6 passer rating in 2021 but he struggled with accuracy issues down the stretch. In Weeks 17 and 18, Wentz completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes and threw for a combined 333 yards.
Both games resulted in losses, which kept Indianapolis out of the postseason.
Wentz is set to carry a cap hit of $28.3 million in 2022, though the Colts haven't publicly committed to starting him next season.
"I won't make a comment on who is going to be here next year and who is not going to be here next year. That's not fair to any player," general manager Chris Ballard told reporters.
Releasing Wentz isn't much of an option, as he would still be owed $15 million in dead-cap money. He's under contract through 2024 but will have no dead money remaining beyond next season.
Heading into 2022, the Colts are facing a less-than-desirable quarterback situation and no first-round selection. That's clearly not where they had hoped to find themselves when they made the deal for Wentz nearly a year ago.
The Los Angeles Rams' Trade to Acquire Jared Goff
There was a time when the Rams' decision to trade up for Jared Goff in the 2016 draft looked like a brilliant move—albeit an expensive one.
To land the Cal product, the Rams moved up from No. 15 to No. 1 in the draft by dealing their first-round pick, two second-round picks, a third-round pick, a 2017 first-round pick and a 2017 third-round pick to the Tennessee Titans. L.A. also got back a fourth-round pick and a sixth-round pick.
Of the players that the Tennessee Titans netted from the trade—Derrick Henry, Jack Conklin, Jonnu Smith, Austin Johnson and Corey Davis—two (Conklin, Smith) became solid starters no longer with the team, and another (Henry) is a two-time rushing champion. The Rams traded the fourth-round pick to the Chicago Bears and used the sixth-rounder on tight end Temarrick Hemingway, who is no longer with the team.
Goff helped the Rams reach the Super Bowl in 2018, while he made the Pro Bowl in his second and third seasons.
However, Goff's early success coupled with L.A.'s draft investment led to a premature contract extension in 2019, one worth $34 million over four years. Doubling down on Goff was an even bigger mistake.
It became apparent that Goff was limited physically, and while he was serviceable in Sean McVay's offense, he wasn't special. The Rams moved to add a special quarterback this past offseason while also getting out from under Goff's contract.
To acquire Matthew Stafford and dump Goff, Los Angeles parted with a 2021 third-round pick and first-round picks in 2022 and 2023. Los Angeles won't have a first-round selection until 2024 at the earliest. With the Rams projected to be $8 million over the cap in 2022, it's fair to wonder how well the Rams can improve next season.
Making the quarterback switch has allowed the Rams to become one of the NFL's best teams, but it's been a costly series of moves from the start—beginning with that 2016 predraft trade for Goff.
The Seattle Seahawks' Trade for Jamal Adams
It became clear during the 2021 season that the Seattle Seahawks overpaid to acquire safety Jamal Adams. Yes, Adams was a second-team All-Pro in 2020, but he provided more as a pass-rusher (9.5 sacks) than as a back-end defender.
Adams only had three passes defended in 2020.
In 2021, Adams was a little better, finishing with five interceptions and an opposing passer rating of 93.8—down from 104.7 the previous year. However, Adams has not been an elite pass defender since arriving in a trade with the Jets.
Adams has also been injury-prone, missing nine games in his first two Seattle seasons.
That trade cost Seattle first- and third-rounders in the 2021 NFL draft, a first-round selection in the 2022 draft and safety Bradley McDougald—Seattle also got back a 2022 fourth-round pick. The Jets packaged the 2021 selections to move up to nab guard Alijah Vera-Tucker.
Considering that 2022 first-rounder is set to be the 10th overall selection, that's a steep price for a good box safety.
Unwilling to risk a holdout with Adams this past offseason, Seattle locked up the 26-year-old with a four-year, $70 million contract extension. Would the Seahawks have been quick to bet so heavily on Adams if they hadn't already invested so much draft capital? Probably not.
Now, Adams is a high-end defender, and the Seahawks will be happy to have him on the field in 2022. However, his value doesn't match Seattle's investment. The Seahawks will be without a top-10 pick this year because of the Adams trade, and that hurts the team's chances of quickly reloading and returning to relevance next season.