Thoughts on the Big Trades of the Day

Now that the trade deadline has come and gone I wanted to look at the three big trades that were made and share some thoughts on each one.

Leonard Williams to Seattle for a 2nd and 5th round pick.

Of all the trades that were made over the last two days this was the most interesting one. A few years ago Williams was a member of the Jets in a contract year and shipped off to the Giants for a 3rd and 5th round pick after the Jets picked up most of his salary for the year. Williams was 25 at the time. How Seattle decided that the price should go up for the 29 year old version of Williams is a mystery. Williams is certainly a good player but was always overvalued at the $21 million per year salary level and has tracked more with the players in the $15 million per year range.

The Seahawks will give up in the ballpark of 1,370 points (assuming they are a playoff team) on the Fitzgerald-Spielberger chart which is going to be the equivalent of a late first round pick. The Giants will have about a 25% chance of finding a top tier player with the two picks and about a 50/50 chance of finding a solid player. The return would probably be for three years if we consider the rookie year a  throw away season. From that perspective this is a home run for NY because they were going nowhere this year and now have a chance to flip Williams into something meaningful.

Still, it is a lot to pay for that chance of finding a good player in the draft. The Giants had nothing that tied them to Williams all year long and they could have walked away before the season and not paid $17.4 million to him. That is really the question. What could the Giants have gotten for Williams in a trade without them picking up salary back in August versus what they received here having lost $17 million in cap room. If we add the Williams salary to the 2nd round pick the cost of that pick is now about that of a top 10 pick which means they did overpay for the expected return. Im sure the Giants would argue that they thought they could compete this year and only bailed because they lost this week and if that was actually the case then they certainly made out very well given the circumstances.

For this trade to work for Seattle, Williams is going to have to impact everyone on the defensive line and Seattle needs to have a meaningful playoff run. While this will cost them nothing this year they are either going to have to overpay to keep him next season or let him walk and be very careful with how they approach free agency to try to protect a compensatory pick. My guess would be that Williams would get a 4th rounder back to Seattle if he became a free agent. This is a classic case of trading for the short term and I’m not sure the Seahawks are in a position to where they should be thinking short term. Extending him to a lucrative deal probably just compounds the issue. Like the trade the Seahawks made for Jamaal Adams a few years ago this is one where it is going to wind up a bad trade if you do not get the immediate results for the season of the trade itself.

Overall I think the trade is a negative for Seattle and a positive for the Giants given their options but neutral at best when you consider they could have just moved on from Williams months ago.

Montez Sweat to Chicago for a 2nd round pick

This was a surprising trade. Chicago is going nowhere this year and made a splashy trade. It is the second time in two years that the Bears made this type of trade and last year’s trade turned out to be a disaster (Chase Claypool). This is reminiscent of the Williams trade to the Giants mentioned above. When Williams was moved from the Jets, the Giants were terrible and had no business being buyers at the deadline. At least the Giants got the Jets to pick up the salary for the year and as of now there are no reports stating that the Bears got Washington to eat the charges for the year.

Trades like this do little but give you an exclusive negotiating window with a pending free agent. You give up so much for the player, though, that not signing him would be a mess and it gives all leverage to the agent side in a negotiation. That is exactly why Williams landed the lucrative contract with the Giants back in 2021 and it should happen here.

The Bears 2nd round pick should be a high one so this will probably cost the Bears around 1,200 points in draft capital. That gives Washington around a 20% chance of finding a star and a mid 40% chance of finding a quality player. Washington had few options here since they either needed to trade him or extend him. They have way too much cap room next year to have considered receiving a comp pick and if they are going to rebuild the draft pick is much more useful.

Did the Bears really need an exclusive window?  I doubt it but they must have been convinced he was going to be traded and sign an extension with a new team.  Chicago has tons of cap room and are probably going to make him one of the top paid players at the position anyway. I would have rolled the dice and tried to hold out for free agency and kept my 2nd round pick since there is no benefit of having him this season. Id call this an overpayment by the Bears and a good trade for Washington.

Chase Young to the 49ers for a compensatory 3rd round pick

The 49ers got a good deal here from Washington who probably were not getting a ton of interest for Young. Unlike the Bears, the 49ers are in a playoff run and can use help and can justify shipping off assets to chase a ring. Young gives the team tremendous upside and the cost is very low at just $561K this year. The draft capital cost is about 680 points. That carries about an 8% chance of finding a star and 23% chance of finding at least a solid player.

On Twitter there were a number of negative comments about Young when compared to the other players. One dealt with his injury history. While injuries are a concern, the window for the 49ers is 10 weeks and some playoff games. I doubt that a long term deal is really in play and that is more where the injuries factor into a trade. Another is the inconsistency in his game. That is a fair criticism but you make these trades hoping that your environment can bring out the best in someone, especially someone in a contract year.

This is a very different trade from the players perspective. Odds are Sweat will be extended. There is a good chance that Williams will get a new deal after the season. Young is playing for a new deal and has to earn it. Despite being a near the top of the draft selection, Young only brought back a late 3rd which tells you many teams are scared off and do not see a long or short term here. Young will have a great opportunity to be the “missing piece” for San Francisco and then cash in, but if he does not the results may be really poor for him.

There is usually at least one team in the NFL that will overpay for a player selected near the top of the draft usually blaming the failure of the player on the poor organization he played with. However, that only carries if you played with just one team. His stock will drop if he flops with the 49ers. The best example of this was Jadeveon Clowney who I think is similar to Young. Clowney battled injuries early and never really lived up to the great hype. Clowney also went for just a 3rd round pick and when he did not standout in Seattle his market fell apart and he never recovered. Young runs that same risk and his career has not been as good as Clowney’s was at this point in time.

The other misguided aspect of this trade discussion is the assumption that if Young becomes a free agent that the 49ers will just get a 3rd round pick back making this a free trade. I think it is pretty clear that the 49ers getting him for a 3 means that most teams don’t see the need to go that high. If he flops there may be little in return. If he is just ok its probably a 4th or 5th. Those are still good options but a 3rd coming back in 2025 only happens if he is great.

This one is a win-win for both sides. It’s a fair gamble for San Francisco while Washington gets something in 2024 when they probably would have gotten nothing at all if they let him leave in free agency.