The NFL trade deadline used to be the least exciting deadline in all of pro sports. Not this year. Teams are getting after it, picking up on another aggressive spring in free agency and during the draft. I love it. We finally have some trades to talk about at the deadline beyond just whatever defensive castoff the Patriots picked up.
It also means we’ve got trades to grade.
Unlike draft picks, we get a better read on the impact of these kinds of moves much sooner than rookies. These are moves for experienced player, moves that team expect to have a more immediate impact on their fortunes.
Let’s start the grades with Monday night’s two blockbuster deals.
Seahawks get LT Duane Brown from the Texans for a third-round pick in 2018 and a second-round pick in 2019
The Seahawks have tried just about everything short of open tryouts to find a left tackle. George Fant, who had never played the position before, started training camp at the top of the depth chart on Russell Wilson’s blindside. He tore his ACL in August.
Seattle needed to do whatever it possibly could to get a bona fide starter. And it did. Brown is 32, but he’s still one of the league’s better left tackles. Last season, he allowed just one sack in 428 pass blocking snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.
This is also a huge win for Brown. He played his first game of the season in Week 8 after a holdout. His absence was due to the desire for a new deal, but we learned this weekend in the wake of team owner Bob McNair’s “inmates” comment that Brown’s wanted out of Houston for a while now because of McNair’s past comments to players there.
Jeremy Lane was supposed to be included in the trade, until he failed his physical on Tuesday. Lane lost his job to rookie Shaquill Griffin, which he wasn’t very happy about.
For Houston, more draft picks are never a bad thing. Losing Brown won’t help the offense, but the situation between him and the team’s brass was becoming untenable.
Patriots trade QB Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers for a second-round draft pick
So much for the Kirk Cousins plan. That’s fine. Garoppolo turns 26 this week. Cousins is 30 in the offseason.
Garoppolo also figures to be a little cheaper than signing Cousins in free agency would be, especially considering the bidding war that will probably flare up among teams courting him. This is the last year of Garoppolo’s rookie deal, so the Niners will either have to re-sign him to a new one or hit him with the franchise tag. As Niners Nation points out, he’s not going to command Matthew Stafford money or anything like that. Cousins will almost certainly be the highest-paid QB in the NFL next year.
There’s not much film on Garoppolo from the regular season. He looked great in two starts during Tom Brady’s Deflategate suspension last year, throwing four touchdowns and no interceptions for 502 yards and a 68.2 percent completion rate. He averaged 8 yards per attempt too, so it wasn’t just the usual dink and dunk backup action. But then he got hurt.
It’s a smart move for New England too. Keeping him beyond this season with Brady playing so well, at age 40, would have been prohibitively expensive, especially for the Patriots. This way they get a better pick than they would have just by letting him walk and taking the comp pick.
The 49ers have two second-round picks in 2018: their own, which figures to be one of the first two or three picks in the round, and one from the Saints, which looks like it’ll be considerably lower in the order.
We know the Patriots had a steep asking price for Garoppolo, and they’re getting the 49ers’ original second-round pick for their former backup QB.
Dolphins trade RB Jay Ajayi to the Eagles for a fourth-round pick
With 467 yards on 100 carries, the Eagles have a solid No. 1 running back in LeGarrette Blount. Their backfield just got better with this move.
Ajayi’s struggled in the follow up to his 1,272-yard breakout season last year. He’s averaging just 3.8 yards per carry, and has caught coach Adam Gase’s ire for a poor showing from the Dolphins running game.
"We’ve got to stop trying to hit home runs all the time," Gase said after last week’s 40-0 drubbing by the Ravens. "It’s on the running back. Do your job. It’s not hard to do."
For the Eagles, it’s a steal. For the Dolphins, it’s more of a message sent — do better or else. Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake will most likely replace Ajayi in the lineup. Neither of those players is lighting up defenses either.
Jets swap with 49ers for CB Rashard Robinson
Robinson has started seven games for the 49ers this season, and he has seven pass breakups and one pick. The Jets pass defense ranks No. 20 in the league, so Robinson’s a pretty good addition.
Panthers trade WR Kelvin Benjamin to the Bills
Here’s a move NOBODY saw coming. The Bills have been in sell-off mode since August, but they’ve kept on winning games. They needed some more offensive firepower, especially at receiver after sending Sammy Watkins to the Rams.
This move is a clear sign that the Bills want to make a run for it this season. And that’s to be applauded. It’s been a long time since the Bills had a contender.
Benjamin’s under contract through 2018, after the Panthers picked up his fifth-year option. So the Bills get a year and a half, at least.
It’s a shocker that the Panthers would give up on Benjamin. They do have the depth with Devin Funchess and a list of weapons at running back. Buffalo sent them a third- and a seventh-round pick in return for Benjamin, which is a steal.
Grade: A (for the Bills);
C (for the Panthers, there’s got to be more to this, right?)
Browns tried and failed to trade for AJ McCarron
The Browns had their quarterback, and then they didn’t. They had a deal in place for the Bengals backup, but they failed to report it in time. Protests to the league were rejected. The Browns continue to be the Browns-iest.
Grade: A ... because this made us laugh, a lot.