Grading the NFL Trades

Chiefs trade Alex Smith to Redskins for Kendall Fuller and 3rd round draft pick

There were some people who I think believed that the Chiefs could get more for a starting QB, but when you factor in the fact they it was likely that he would be released and is in his mid 30s I’m not sure how anyone could have expected more. They bring back a 3rd rounder and a decent corner with upside. Washington really should not have had to give up a corner in the trade especially considering they will need to sign Smith to a new contract as well. The Redskins bungled the Kirk Cousins situation and were likely fearful that they would downgrade in free agency. Smith should at worst be a lateral move and more within the Redskins budget.

Chiefs Grade: B+; Redskins Grade: C

Chiefs trade Marcus Peters and 6th round pick to Rams for 4th round pick and 2019 2nd round pick

This may have been the most surprising trade of the offseason. Peters is just 25 years old, has 19 interceptions in three seasons, and has been named to the Pro Bowl twice and has also been an All Pro.  He has two cheap years remaining on his rookie contract and is in line to be the highest paid corner in the NFL when he receives an extension. Those are not players that you trade especially for nothing notable until a year later. This had to be a no brainer for the Rams. He is far better than anyone they could expect to get with that pick in 2019 and they have him for a few seasons on the cheap first.

Chiefs Grade: F; Rams Grade: A

Rams trade Robert Quinn to Dolphins for 4th round pick

Quinn was an elite pass rusher at one point in his career but he’s been injured a lot the last few seasons and was a potential release with his $12.4 million salary cap charge. What Miami was looking at here is questionable. They bring on $11.4 million for the year on a team that has salary cap problems and isn’t a player away from being competitive. Quinn by no means is old at just 28 and they can rework the contract to extend him, but this just comes off as a move for the sake of making a move. That said the compensation is reasonable for a pass rusher.

Rams Grade: B+; Dolphins Grade: C

Rams trade Alec Ogletree and 7th round pick to the Giants for 4th and 6th round pick

Ogletree just missed my cutoff for worst contracts signed in 2017. He isn’t an elite player yet he is paid elite money at a position that is generally reasonable from a salary perspective. The Giants will pick up a $10 million salary for this season and gave away more than the Dolphins did to acquire Quinn. Rams shed $5.2 million in cap space for the year with the cut.

Rams Grade: B+; Giants Grade: D

Bills trade Tyrod Taylor to the Browns for a 3rd round pick

This is a trade that makes a lot of sense for both sides. The Browns will likely draft a quarterback with one of their first two draft picks but could use a veteran QB to hold down the fort for a year and try to make the team somewhat competitive this season. Taylor isn’t a great QB but he won’t make a ton of mistakes and can push the ball a bit. The Browns take on $16 million for the year and will potentially get a draft pick back for him down the line when he leaves in free agency. The Bills have been trying to get rid of Taylor for over a year and to get anything back for him is a win since just about everyone in the league knew he was going to get cut. From a football standpoint they don’t have a better option right now but they are playing the long game and will save $10.44 million in cap space with the trade.

Browns Grade: A; Bills Grade: A

Eagles trade Torrey Smith to Panthers for Daryl Worley

This is a trade nobody saw coming. Smith should have had no value in a trade. Its been years since hes been a good player and with a $5 million salary everyone knew he was going to be cut. Worley hasn’t had a good career thus far but he is young, cheap, and has experience. To get that upside for essentially nothing is a great move. The only logic I can see in the trade for the Panthers is that they are bringing in a player with no guarantees which would not have happened if they had to sign him or any other player in free agency. Moving Worley was likely a new GM getting rid of an old GMs picks.

Eagles Grade: A; Panther Grade: F

Dolphins trade Jarvis Landry to the Browns for a 4th round pick and a 7th rounder in 2019

The Dolphins took a very big gamble that they could get something for Jarvis Landry and to their credit they did. Still I don’t know how you risk $16 million for what amounts to the compensatory pick they likely would have received if they let him walk. Maybe they felt they would be boxed in with free agency if they had to worry about protecting a comp pick. The Browns didn’t give up much and they get a player who may not have gone to their organization if free agency was clear.

Dolphins Grade: C; Browns Grade: C+

Seahawks trade Michael Bennett and 7th round pick to Eagles for Marcus Johnson and a 5th round pick

I love this trade for the Eagles. Bennett is cheap this season, costing the Eagles under $5.7 million. He is a significant improvement over Vinny Curry who should be released. The Eagles are in a win now mode and have a few years where they can take some risks while they have a QB under a rookie contract. It should be a perfect fit. Seattle I think grew tired of some things with Bennett and also needed to retool as they are in a different phase than the Eagles. Extending Bennett when they did was a mistake but this is probably close to the return they would have gotten as a comp pick so in that respect they got ok value back.

Eagles Grade: B+; Seahawks Grade: C+

Packers trade Damarious Randall to the Browns for DeShone Kizer

I thought this was a solid move for the Browns. Randall is a starting quality corner that has some upside to be above average. He can make plays on the football and should upgrade the Browns secondary. They don’t give up much for him since Kizer looks to be the odd man out following the trade for Tyrod Taylor and expected drafting of a first round QB.  Randall also gives them a chance for a compensatory pick in 2020 while Kizer was likely going to be released down the line. I’m not really sure what the Packers are thinking since Randall was likely their top corner and they are simply trading right now for a backup. I guess this means the Packers will be in the mix for a corner in free agency, and this is a deep group at the position. They also much love Kizer, who was terrible last year but is very young. I’m sure the organization got spooked by how bad they looked with Brett Hundley but they must really think they can coach Kizer up. Obviously if they can get some good preseason games out of Kizer they can  up his value and flip him two or three years down the line but that is a big if.

Packers Grade: D; Browns Grade: A

Broncos trade Aqib Talib to Rams for a 5th round pick

This is a clear win-win trade. The Rams get a guys who fits their scheme perfectly and isn’t that expensive at $11 million for the season. If he plays well the prize comes next year when he is under contract for $8 million.  Given where the Rams are as a team using a 5th round pick is perfectly fine. The Broncos have other pressing needs on their team and were likely going to cut Talib. To get anything back for that kind of player is great.

Broncos Grade: A; Rams Grade: A

Browns trade Danny Shelton and 5th round pick to Patriots for 2019 3rd round pick

This I guess qualifies as the Patriots yearly move to acquire a somewhat disappointing former first round pick from another team. This move is nothing but a salary dump from the Browns who were on the hook for $2M this year to Shelton. Shelton can provide some run defense in the middle and is a younger and cheaper option than Alan Branch. Browns were just looking to makeover the roster and jettison some guys. Not sure if they could have gotten more but there was probably more benefit to keeping him considering money is of no concern to the Browns.

Browns Grade: C-; Patriots Grade: B

Bills trade Cordy Glenn, 21st pick, and 5th round pick to Bengals for 12th pick and 6th round pick

The Bills complete the teardown of the big contracts with this trade to essentially move up 9 spots and get the ammunition needed to move into the top 5 in the draft to draft a QB. In a league where left tackles are so expensive regardless of talent level they should have gotten more for Glenn, even with his injuries. The problem for the Bills is they made it too well known that they wanted him off the team which seemed to hurt their leverage. Glenn’s contract averages an affordable $10 million a year for the next three seasons. In a year where there are few left tackles available the Bengals should be happy with a deal that has no guarantees remaining and could still be cheap. The Bengals moving down to 21 should also save them some money as the difference in value is about $4 million.

Bills Grade: C-; Bengals Grade: B+

Browns Forget to Turn in Paperwork for a Trade

I wrote last week about the Cleveland Browns and their front offices approach to building the team. At the trade deadline I think this turned from a reasonable debate to a comedy. In what seemed like a desperation play the Browns agreed with division rival Cincinnati on a trade that would bring Bengals backup QB AJ McCarron to Cleveland, presumably to start. The trade package was borderline absurd based on reports- a 2nd and 3rd round draft pick for a guy who has started 3 games and has a 5th round draft pedigree. It got worse from there as the Browns apparently forgot to get the paperwork into the NFL on time to get the trade approved. The Browns went from looking bad to looking like they don’t belong in the NFL. Continue reading Browns Forget to Turn in Paperwork for a Trade »

Seahawks Trade for Duane Brown

After years of neglecting the offensive line the Seahawks began a shift this year with a few bigger contracts and today may a really big move by trading for disgruntled Texans left tackle Duane Brown. Brown had held out for a new contract until just this week when he made his return to Houston. What was already a damaged relationship likely got much worse when the Texans owner made some statements in a meeting that insinuated that the players in the NFL were prison inmates. Continue reading Seahawks Trade for Duane Brown »

Evaluating the Bills and Eagles Trade

The second Bills trade of the day saw the team move starting cornerback Ronald Darby to the Eagles for wide receiver Jordan Matthews and a 3rd round draft pick.  Unlike the Rams trade I don’t think there is much debate that this is a trade that is good for both sides and makes sense both for this season and the future. Continue reading Evaluating the Bills and Eagles Trade »

Evaluating the Rams and Bills Trade

The Bills sent some shockwaves around the NFL with two trades today, so I wanted to share my thoughts on those moves. First up is the trade which sent wide receiver Sammy Watkins to the Rams in exchange for cornerback EJ Gaines and a 2nd round draft pick.

For the Bills these moves signaled just how little the current front office thinks about the roster they inherited. I’ve done a good deal of work on the Bills in the past and even I was surprised at how poor their development of homegrown players has been. The roster was really void of good young talent and it is doubtful that Watkins was going to last in Buffalo beyond this year.

The Bills already turned down his option year and this front office had no attachment to him as a draft pick. Looking at the Bills roster, which features a pretty raw quarterback likely playing out the string, an older running back who would be better off elsewhere, and a bunch of overpaid players, I don’t think there would be a way to consider keeping Watkins.  He simply would not fit in what they are looking to build and he could find a better opportunity elsewhere.

Watkins is one of those difficult players to judge. From a physical standpoint he is incredibly talented. His speed is pretty ridiculous and he carries himself as if he is bigger than his actual height. However, he is still just raw talent. He hasn’t necessarily been coached very well since coming into the NFL and I think it is very fair to question his own conditioning given the amount of injuries he seems to sustain each year. Watkins is probably just as likely to give the team 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns as he was to play in 8 games. He can also be a headache if the team plays badly and he thinks its hurting his value.

EJ Gaines is a decent talent who also had dealt with the injury bug over the course of his career.  He is also a free agent after the season but shouldn’t be incredibly expensive and is someone the Bills could consider keeping. If he isn’t kept he is probably decent enough to land the team a 6th round compensatory pick.

From the Rams perspective it is clear that this is all about upside and surrounding a young quarterback with as much talent as they felt they could.  Watkins is the ultimate boom or bust type of player. I think because he is so raw, is often injured, and because he is considered a bit of a bust because the Bills traded so much to get him in the draft that people forget he caught 125 passes for 2,029 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2014 and 2015.

If the team hits on Jared Goff this potentially gives them a legit WR/QB duo which they would not have had with Tavon Austin as the top target on the team. Players with his Watkins potential talent level never hit free agency and if he plays well enough the Rams could control his rights through 2018 anyway with the transition or franchise tag.

From a cost standpoint this is a solid move by the Rams. They will shed $1.797 million in salary for Gaines and only have to pay $690,000 for Watkins. The reason the cost for Watkins is so low is because the Bills paid Watkins about $2.4 million of his salary last week. So the Rams will pick up about $1.1 million in cap room which is useful for a team near the bottom of the NFL in cap space and with another player who wants a big contract in Aaron Donald.

The NFL is about taking gambles and at the very least they are getting a $5 million talent, which is the cost of a 3rd receiver, for just $690,000. That is a better cost/value proposition here than with Gaines, in my opinion. They are potentially getting a much higher level player (the going rate for a low level 1 is over $10 million) and I have him pegged as being a player, if he stays healthy, as an $8 million player. This is not the first time the Rams have made a move like this for a “bust”.  A few years back they made a trade for Mark Barron of the Buccaneers. That actually worked out decently for the Rams as Barron developed into a decent strong safety/linebacker for the team.

I don’t mind giving up Gaines because he also had health concerns and may have landed as the 3rd corner on the team. Unlike receiver they have depth in their secondary and Watkins can make far more of an impact for the teams win total.

The question becomes whether or not the 2nd round pick was worth the move.  Watkins is better than a 2nd round pick, but you run the risk of one year of Watkins vs four years of a 2nd round pick so that is a consideration. Financially, however, that does offset more of the cost of Watkins if he does stick for more than a year.  If Watkins doesn’t last they will likely receive a 4th round comp pick.

I can see both sides of the argument on the move of the draft pick because the Rams have not been good in a long time. The Rams, like Watkins, are a very hard team to evaluate. They have been poorly coached for some time but on paper should be a playoff contender. They have talent on defense, at some important positions, and needed help on offense which they may have gotten today.

It is hard to say that the Rams are a win now team given their history but in many ways they are. This team just signed a 35 year old to play left tackle. The rest of their offensive line will all be free agents in 2019. Donald wants a new contract. Robert Quinn will be moving onto a third contract either with the Rams or elsewhere.  Alec Ogletree, Trumaine Johnson, Ethan Westbrooks and Trumaine Johnson are all entering the final year of their contracts as is just about everyone else in their secondary. If they aren’t going to win this year with this squad when will they?  They will likely have to make major changes so this gives them their best chance to win with them rather than to have nothing to show for it.

On top of that if they do go into a rebuilding mode this gives them one piece on offense that they don’t have to address while they focus on replacing all these defenders.

The one reason I dislike the move for them is because of Austin’s contract. Though risky the potential to strike gold on Watkins is now if you can convince him to take an extension in the $8 million or less range. The problem is this particular team went so far in on Austin with that contract that there is no logical reason that Watkins should accept anything less than $11 million from this particular team. The Rams would be insane to do that now. So in that respect its pretty much transition/franchise tag or nothing.

I do like with the trades like this playing around with the ways to view the trade. Because the Bills picked up $2.4 million of Watkins salary plus Gaines salary they in essence are paying for a draft pick. Since these are all expiring contracts we can throw draft values on the players. I’d consider Watkins to be worth a 4 right now and Gaines a 6. So with comp picks in mind I’d say that the Bills traded $3.5 million and a 4th round pick for a 2nd round and 6th round pick. Given Watkins upside you could argue it’s a conditional 3rd round pick, but I think the 4th for a 2nd and 6th is pretty fair. I think that works for both sides.

I think for the Bills this is pretty much a no brainer of a trade. You flip a guy who wasn’t going to fit into your plans long term for an immediate draft pick rather than having to wait the year for one. Id be more hesitant to call this a great move for the Rams, but I think it’s a pretty fair move to make and one that probably wont hut them long term.

The biggest loser in this may be Watkins. Watkins going into free agency next year was at least going to have the uncertainty around him since he only played in Buffalo. The more players swap teams, play in different systems, etc…the less and less other teams see upside in that player if he doesn’t stand out to his highest expectations. While Tyrod Taylor is also pretty raw, Goff is a complete unknown. Last year you could argue he was the worst QB in the NFL once he saw the field. Now for rookie QBs that often means nothing but you cant discount that completely.

Watkins does land on a team that is going to be generous with contracts but are probably at a point where they can’t hand them out to him unless he performs pretty well. If he is up to the challenge he has little to worry about but he has to show something more than he has the last three years in terms of consistency and effort to do that.

Thoughts on Patriots Trade of Jamie Collins

Big in season trades in the NFL usually make for fun discussion, but little action at the deadline. Today that changed a bit as the Patriots traded away starting linebacker Jamie Collins for a 3rd round compensatory draft pick. The strange thing is that the team who traded for him is the winless Browns. It almost seems like some alternate universe trade with the contending team somehow becoming a seller and the non-contender becoming a buyer of a player who is going to be a free agent. That said I think the move brings to light some of the things we’ve discussed here before about approaches to contracts and the draft. Continue reading Thoughts on Patriots Trade of Jamie Collins »

Could Joe Thomas or Joe Staley be Traded

The NFL trading deadline is approaching and while in season trades of star players is still pretty rare it is being floated that two left tackles are available for the right price. The Browns are supposedly willing to deal 9 time Pro Bowler Joe Thomas for a 2nd round draft pick while the 49ers are hoping for a 1st round pick for 5 time Pro Bowler Joe Staley. We’ll take a brief look at the cap room needed to acquire each player as well as the realistic market for both. Continue reading Could Joe Thomas or Joe Staley be Traded »