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4 winners and 6 losers from a boringly quiet NFL trade deadline

The Jets kept Jamal Adams, which is good! And bad!

Kenyan Drake, Aqib Talib, and Jamal Adams superimposed on a blue background with white zig zags.
Aqib Talib and Kenyan Drake were moved ahead of the NFL trade deadline, but Jamal Adams was the biggest name dangled on the block.

Teams across the NFL built hype leading up to the Oct. 29 trade deadline. Stars like Jalen Ramsey, Michael Bennett, and Emmanuel Sanders all found new homes before Week 8 came to a close, building anticipation for what promised to be an array of last-minute wheeling and dealing to set up the final half of the 2019 season. Names like Le’Veon Bell, Jamal Adams, and Trent Williams all cropped up on wish lists and on trade rumors throughout the day.

Then the 4 p.m. ET deadline came and went. Nothing happened.

Adams and Bell remained in football purgatory with the Jets. The Patriots did nothing to address their lack of tight end depth. The Bears looked at their roster, shrugged, and said “whatever.”

Even if Tuesday was devoid of action — with the exception of an Aqib Talib salary dump move between the Rams and Dolphins — that doesn’t mean it won’t affect the outcome of the regular season. Plenty of teams still won and lost based on their action, or lack thereof, throughout the week. So who fits where?

Winner: New England Patriots

The Pats didn’t get any help to bolster their offensive line. That suggests they are confident second-year left tackle Isaiah Wynn will be able to return from injured reserve before the year is through to spell occasional turnstile Marshall Newhouse protecting Tom Brady’s blindside. The team decided to stand pat when it came to Brady’s targets as well, which means New England is expecting dividends from newly acquired Mohamed Sanu and rookie N’Keal Harry, who is eligible to return from his own IR stint in Week 9.

More importantly, the rest of the AFC didn’t do much to attempt to reel in the Pats, who currently have a 2.5-game cushion in the race for homefield advantage. While the Texans added Gareon Conley and the Ravens traded for Marcus Peters earlier in October, everyone else in the conference either stayed put or sold off talent. New England didn’t need much help at the deadline, but watching its rivals keep quiet may have been just as big as another Bill Belichick deal in 2019.

Plus, the Patriots signed the greatest kicker in AAF history. No trade needed.

Loser: New York Jets

The Jets dangled their best defender, and most outspoken and emotional athlete, on deadline day, only to reel Jamal Adams back in when other teams refused to offer them a Ramsey-ian return for the Pro Bowl safety. Though New York ultimately made the right decision to keep him, news of the attempted trade may cause a rift between a young building block and a franchise that desperately needs all the budding talent it can find.

Adams was reportedly open to a move back to his home state of Texas, but denied wanting any part of a trade less than two hours after the deadline came to an end. That makes it tough to spin a positive from the two sides nearly parting ways in the midst of another season beginning to visibly frustrate the young defensive back. Though general manager Joe Douglas says he wasn’t actively shopping anyone, the Jets were a common topic at the trade deadline — and that only stands to sow more discord in one of the league’s most broken teams.

Loser: Baltimore Ravens (and Jamal Adams)

Although the Jets certainly screwed up by making some of their top players available before not moving any of them, the teams that failed to land these players also came out on the losing side. Adams is the big name; both the Cowboys and Ravens were in on him, per multiple reports.

While it’s difficult to see where Dallas would have fit Adams on its ballooning payroll, the Ravens have the space and more importantly, the need for a player like Adams. Baltimore is at a pivotal point in its season. The club sits at 5-2 atop the AFC North, but its 26th-ranked passing defense leaves a gaping hope that could be filled by an enforcer like Adams. Additionally, Adams is a phenomenal player who would probably have found a lot more success with the Ravens (or Cowboys, for that matter) than he would with the Jets, who can’t decide where they stand in the rebuilding process.

Winner: Buffalo Bills

The Bills are building smartly and slowly, handling quarterback Josh Allen with kid gloves as they put together a roster around him. Though some receiving help would have been a boon, acquiring a soon-to-be free agent like A.J. Green in exchange for a high draft pick ultimately may have been a step backward. Buffalo didn’t correlate its 5-2 start against a soft schedule with a reason to overpay for a temporary addition. That’s something the team will value come next offseason.

Loser: Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati is 0-8 and will now turn to fourth-round rookie Ryan Finley at quarterback after benching Andy Dalton (on his damn birthday, no less!). This is not a team with designs for 2019, and all logic suggests it should be stockpiling assets for 2020.

Instead, the Bengals made zero trades after last April’s draft and held steady with a roster that’s been outscored by an average of more than 10 points per game this fall. While the fans in southwestern Ohio can take solace in the hope they’ll get eight more games of A.J. Green before he can leave in free agency, they have to be concerned the Bengals were either unwilling to sell off parts or, even worse, unattractive to teams looking for even modest veteran help.

Winner: Los Angeles Rams

LA needed to find a way to create a little salary cap space after pushing all their chips to the center of the table by acquiring Ramsey. The Dolphins — the poor, hopeless Dolphins — were happy to oblige. Miami took injured cornerback Aqib Talib and the roughly $4 million in salary he’s still due in 2019 off the Rams’ hands for the reasonable cost of a 2020 fifth-round draft pick. Los Angeles can now use that room to convert some of next year’s cap clog into this year’s bonuses and add a little more spending room to its coffers.

Winner: Miami Dolphins

The goal in 2019 is to tank and the Dolphins added more fuel to that effort ahead of the trade deadline.

Step one was to trade Kenyan Drake to the Cardinals for a conditional sixth-round pick that could become a fifth-rounder. That’s not much, but it’s a decent return for a player in the final year of his rookie deal who was nine games away from never playing for the Dolphins again.

Step two was a shrewd deal that puts Aqib Talib on the roster for no reason other than acquiring another draft pick. The Dolphins will eat the veteran cornerback’s salary and send a seventh-round pick in 2022 to the Rams, but get a 2020 fifth-round pick in return. Talib’s headed for free agency in March and Miami has more than enough cap space to pay his salary for the rest of 2019.

Step three wasn’t really a trade deadline move, but the Dolphins did put Xavien Howard on injured reserve Tuesday. He was Miami’s only Pro Bowler in 2018 and the already awful defense will be much worse without him.

The tank is still very much on.

Loser: Washington

Washington apparently shifted gears and tried to sell left tackle Trent Williamswho hasn’t played a game for the team in 2019 as part of a contract standoff — at a premium price after rejecting trade overtures for him throughout the season. No one bit:

Williams reported to the team’s facilities immediately after the trade deadline, but may not plan on actually playing over the last half of the season. He’ll be eligible for free agency in 2020, so it’s possible general manager Bruce Allen may completely blank the final season of one of his franchise’s best players while getting nothing but a 2021 compensatory pick in return.

Loser: O.J. Howard

Howard was primed for a breakout after setting career highs with 34 catches and 565 receiving yards in just 10 games in 2018. However, his third season as a pro has seen him fall out of favor with new Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians. The explosive tight end — he averaged 16.6 yards per catch leading up to ‘19 — has only 13 receptions in six games without a single trip to the end zone. While a hamstring injury has affected his impact, it’s clear that tight ends are not a major component of Arians’ offensive philosophy; Howard and Cameron Brate have combined for only 38 of Jameis Winston’s 255 targets (14.9 percent) so far this year.

A change of scenery would have allowed the former first-round pick to regain his value as a high-impact target. It also would have given his new team the opportunity to pick up a pricy fifth-year option that looms in 2021 — a commitment in which the Bucs likely have little interest. Instead he’ll remain in Tampa, picking up the scraps of whatever Arians’ WR-heavy offense leaves behind.

Loser: New York Giants

The Giants acquired defensive tackle Leonard Williams from the Jets on Monday. Even though Pat Shurmur’s team desperately needs defensive help, the pickup doesn’t make a whole lot of sense contractually. Williams is set to be a free agent at the end of this season, and he cost the NFC’s New York team a 2020 third-round pick and a conditional fifth-round pick in 2021.

If Williams decides to not re-sign with the Giants at the end of the season, they will have given up those draft picks for a brief rental of a player who has failed to live up to his potential in the NFL. Williams, the former No. 6 overall pick in 2015, has recorded just eight total tackles and zero sacks this season. The Giants, currently 2-6, may have just given up draft picks for a decent player on a down year, and he might not be with the team after the season. Yikes!