Should NFL Teams Trade For Wide Receivers?

There have been countless trades for wide receivers in the NFL.  Countless in the sense that I refuse to try and count them all.  I’m sure the information is out there, but I’m not in the business of compiling a complete list.

I do have AH list, though.  It’s a not-insignificant list, dating back a little over a decade.  Without further ado:

February 12, 2000 – Seattle Seahawks trade Joey Galloway to Dallas Cowboys for 2000 & 2001 first round picks

From the day Joey Galloway stepped onto a football field in 1995, he was a super-stud.  Per season, through 1999, he averaged 57 receptions for 891 yards and 7 touchdowns, with a 15.7 yards per catch average.  He topped 1,000 yards receiving in three of his five seasons, with his only down year taking place in 1999 when he held out for 8 games, hoping to push newly acquired Mike Holmgren around into giving him a new contract.  On top of that, Galloway was a massive success in the punt return game, returning four for touchdowns in his first four seasons.  When Holmgren came to Seattle, everyone thought two things:  that we would FINALLY have a franchise quarterback very soon, and that Joey Galloway would flourish in the West Coast Offense.  However, much like the new inmate who stabs his cell-mate on his first day, Mike Holmgren was looking to show everyone that he was nobody’s bitch.

So, he flipped Joey Galloway for two first rounders, one of the greatest fleecings in NFL trade history!  Galloway promptly tore his ACL in his first game in a Cowboys uniform and was never the same.  He was okay, but no longer the elite burner he had been with the Seahawks.  Didn’t prevent him from having a long, lasting career, which ended after the 2010 season, but he certainly didn’t live up to the cost in Dallas.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks turned those draft picks into Shaun Alexander (pick #19 in 2000), Koren Robinson (pick #9 in 2001), Heath Evans (pick #82 in 2001) and some dumb skank in the seventh round, thanks to trading that Dallas pick (#7 overall) to let San Francisco move up two spots.  Not a bad haul, and the first of many cautionary tales of trading for wide receivers in the NFL.

March 7, 2003 – Buffalo Bills trade Peerless Price to Atlanta Falcons for 2003 first round pick

And birthed about a billion “Price Was Right For Buffalo Bills” jokes and headlines.

You know, I had completely blocked out of my memory that Drew Bledsoe played quarterback for the Bills.  But, it’s true!  It happened!  From 2002 through 2004, he kept a mediocre franchise wallowing in mediocrity.  His last truly great season was 2002 when he threw for 4,359 yards and led the Bills to an 8-8 record.  On that team, he had two primary targets:  Eric Moulds (very underrated wideout), who caught 100 balls for 1,292 yards and 10 touchdowns; and one Peerless Price (very overrated wideout), who caught 94 balls for 1,252 yards and 9 touchdowns.

Price came into the league in 1999 and for the most part underwhelmed.  However, he parlayed a career year in 2002 into a Franchise Tag designation.  The Bills eventually traded him to the Falcons for that aforementioned first round pick, which was turned into Willis McGahee.  The Falcons, meanwhile, finally decided to put some receiving talent around Michael Vick.

Except, Price was pretty awful (to be fair, so was Vick, who was more runner than thrower back then) and was released after two sub-par seasons.  Hefty PRICE to pay indeed …

March 2, 2005 – Minnesota Vikings trade Randy Moss to Oakland Raiders for Napoleon Harris & 2005 first & seventh round picks

April 29, 2007 – Oakland Raiders trade Randy Moss to New England Patriots for 2007 fourth round pick

October 6, 2010 – New England Patriots trade Randy Moss to Minnesota Vikings for 2011 third round pick

Good God, Lemon!

I’m still trying to wrap my head around why Minnesota traded Randy Moss in the first place; probably because he was a real Grade-A prick to deal with, but that’s neither here nor there.  The bounty Oakland gave up is the closest thing approaching what Seattle just gave up for Percy Harvin, except it was for a first, a seventh, and a player instead of a third round pick.  Oakland’s first round pick ended up being the #7 overall choice, which the Vikings used ostensibly to draft his replacement – Troy Williamson (a real dud), but that’s also neither here nor there, because what Oakland gave up doesn’t even come CLOSE to how this trade ultimately backfired for them.

Granted, Minnesota didn’t really benefit from Moss’s departure (as Harris didn’t have much of an impact either), but Oakland got royally hosed.  Moss showed up, caught just a touch over 1,000 yards in 2005, then completely tanked it in 2006, which forced the Raiders to rid themselves of this pain in the ass once and for all.  They essentially gave him away to the Patriots for a 4th round pick, and SURPRISE, Moss magically returned to form.

Randy Moss was the best player alive in 2007 as the Patriots’ record-setting offense saw them go undefeated up until the Super Bowl, where they lost by mere inches as Tom Brady overthrew a streaking Moss in the waning seconds for a potential 80+ yard touchdown bomb.  Moss continued to be top-notch through 2009, until things got real cancerous in 2010, whereupon Moss was traded BACK to the Vikings for a third round pick.

Yeah, you read that right.  New England traded away a fourth rounder, got three amazing years out of a potential Hall of Famer, then traded him away for an even BETTER draft pick in the 2011 draft.  Holy Frijoles!

April 29, 2006 – Green Bay Packers trade Javon Walker to Denver Broncos for 2006 second round pick

Walker had one good season in Green Bay, in 2004, going for nearly 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns with Brett Favre throwing him the ball.  This was after a couple of so-so seasons to start his career.  With one Pro Bowl under his belt, OF COURSE it was time to stick it to the man for a huge pay raise!  Because the Green Bay Packers have built up their dynasty on the foundation of over-paying for flashes in the pan.

Walker hired Drew Rosenhaus, talked a whole truckload of shit in the offseason, threatened to hold out and/or retire in 2005 if he wasn’t granted a trade or release, and finally came to his senses.  This led to him playing in Game 1, tearing an ACL, and being placed on injured reserve (I guess that’s one way to accrue a year’s service time).

Somehow, there was a market for this trainwreck, with the highest bidder being the Denver Broncos.  They not only gave away a second round draft pick, but they signed him to a HUGE 5-year deal.  Again, a guy coming off of an ACL injury, who lost a full season, and who had serious getting-along-with-others issues.  With Jake Plummer and a rookie Jay Cutler at the helm, Walker bounced back in 2006 to catch 69 balls for 1,084 yards and 8 touchdowns.  But, he faltered hard in 2007, became untradeable, and was ultimately released.  Oakland picked him up for the 2008 & 2009 seasons (after the Randy Moss experiment failed), but they got nothing from him and he never played a down thereafter.

September 11, 2006 – New England Patriots trade Deion Branch to Seattle Seahawks for 2007 first round pick

See this post for full details.

March 5, 2007 – Miami Dolphins trade Wes Welker to New England Patriots for 2007 second & seventh round picks

If this article teaches you anything, it’s that the Patriots should be the ONLY team allowed to participate in trades of wide receivers.

Essentially, Miami got nothing out of this deal.  New England got six years of a guy who caught over 100 passes and over 1,000 yards in five of those six seasons.  He has, in short, been a total and complete stud out of the slot.  Even though things appear to be ending acrimoniously, it’s pretty safe to say the Patriots dominated this trade.

April 28, 2007 – Detroit Lions trade Mike Williams and Josh McCown to Oakland Raiders for 2007 fourth round pick

This was how desperate the Lions were to trade erstwhile first rounder Mike Williams (out of USC).  They packaged him with a journeyman backup quarterback and STILL could only get a fourth round pick back from Oakland.  Williams was released after 6 games with the Raiders, played 2 more games with the Titans that season, then didn’t return to the NFL until 2010 with the Seahawks.  All the promise in the world, gone to waste.

April 29, 2007 – Seattle Seahawks trade Darrell Jackson to San Francisco 49ers for 2007 fourth round pick

Jackson put in seven seasons with the Seahawks of varying quality.  He was here for our rise and our best extended run of football.  But, he was constantly battling nagging injuries and was pretty much unable to practice by the time his run in Seattle ended.  So, the Seahawks opted to trade him for whatever they could get, to save a little cap and save themselves another season-ending injury.

I wouldn’t say anyone really “won” this trade – he caught less than 50 passes in his lone season with San Francisco for less than 500 yards before moving on with his career – because the Seahawks didn’t exactly make the best use of their fourth round pick (Mansfield Wrotto, because Tim Ruskell, obvs).  I would say expectations were higher for the 49ers; they were likely expecting a quality starter who would push them over the top in 2007.  What they got was a guy nearing the end of his run.  Too bad, because I always thought Jackson was a good guy.

October 16, 2007 – Miami Dolphins trade Chris Chambers to San Diego Chargers for 2008 second round pick

Chambers was always a super-talented receiver who, for whatever reason, couldn’t kick it up that notch to elite status.  In his first six seasons with the Dolphins, he only surpassed 1,000 yards one time (though he was over 650 yards in each of those seasons).  He made the Pro Bowl in 2005 and everyone thought he had turned a corner.  Except, in 2006, he took a giant step back.  In the middle of 2007, he was traded, which is the ultimate cautionary tale:  you never trade for a wide receiver in the middle of a season.

It’s bad news!  If I had the time, I would devote a post just to this, because it’s absolutely asinine.  You 100% need that time in the offseason and pre-season to get acquainted with your quarterback.  Learn his tendencies, anticipate where he wants you to go when a play breaks down.  San Diego had none of that, so of course the rest of his 2007 season was a lost cause.

Of course, with Chambers, a full offseason probably wouldn’t have done a lick of good.  My guess:  he dogged it and got too lazy to keep up in the rigorous NFL.  Either way, his 2008 was absolutely piss-poor, and he was released 7 games into 2009.  He finished his miserable career in Kansas City, where he belonged.

October 14, 2008 – Detroit Lions trade Roy Williams & 2010 seventh round pick to Dallas Cowboys for 2009 first, third, and sixth round picks

Man, don’t speak Roy Williams’ name around Cowboys fans; they might murder you!

Roy Williams was another decent-to-good receiver on a bad team traded in the middle of a season.  Dallas obviously didn’t learn its lesson from the Joey Galloway debacle and were rewarded thusly:  two and a half seasons of drops, fumbles, and all-around crappy play.  I don’t think anyone could have foreseen him stinking as badly as he did – especially when you consider he was surrounded by a talented quarterback and some talented receivers in Miles Austin and Jason Witten, but there you go.

April 11, 2010 – Pittsburgh Steelers trade Santonio Holmes to New York Jets for 2010 fifth round pick

After Roy Williams and Deion Branch, I thought it was safe to say we’d seen the last of teams trading first round draft picks for wide receivers.  Still, it was pretty shocking to see what little the Steelers actually got in return for a fairly productive fourth-year veteran.  You’d think with the Jets’ dearth of talent on offense, they could’ve squeezed a second or third rounder out of ’em.  But, considering what Holmes has become – injured and only so-so performance-wise – maybe a fifth rounder was OVER-paying.

April 14, 2010 – Denver Broncos trade Brandon Marshall to Miami Dolphins for 2010 & 2011 second round picks

March 13, 2012 – Miami Dolphins trade Brandon Marshall to Chicago Bears for 2012 & 2013 third round picks

Miami!  Did anyone ever tell you you’re THE WORST at dealing wide receivers?

Marshall was a pain in Denver’s God-foresaken ass pretty much from day 1, when it was apparent that he would be a stud and a diva at the same time.  When Jay Cutler officially took over as the starter in Denver – in Marshall’s second season – Marshall was the primary beneficiary.  Three consecutive seasons, from 2007-2009, Marshall caught over 100 passes.  But, since the Broncos were tired of his bullshit, they took the best offer they could get and they ran with it:  two second rounders.

The Dolphins hoped, by bringing in Marshall, they’d provide Chad Henne with the elite receiver to boost their overall passing game.  Unfortunately, they backed the wrong horse, as Chad Henne continued to suck dick in the endless Dolphins parade of dick-sucking at quarterback since Dan Marino retired.  When the Dolphins realized they sucked at life, they decided to trade a guy who caught back-to-back seasons of 80-plus passes for them to the Bears for considerably LESS than what they paid to bring him there in the first place.

The Bears, with Cutler en tow, enjoyed Marshall’s return to form, catching over 100 passes for over 1,500 yards in his best-ever season stats-wise.  The Dolphins, conversely, just overpaid for Mike Wallace so he can try to catch balls from Ryan Tannehill (see:  endless dick-sucking parade from before).

March 5, 2010 – Arizona Cardinals trade Anquan Boldin & 2010 fifth round pick to Baltimore Ravens for 2010 third & fourth round picks

March 12, 2013 – Baltimore Ravens trade Anquan Boldin to San Francisco 49ers for 2013 sixth round pick

The Cardinals were looking ahead in their attempt to pay Larry Fitzgerald insane gobs of money to keep him there (even though they trick-fucked him by letting Kurt Warner retire and not having a proper heir to replace him set up and ready to go) and knew they couldn’t afford to keep both him and Boldin, so there you go.  They got what they could from Baltimore and let the Ravens give him a big-money deal.  The Ravens were rewarded with three adequate, sub-1,000 yard seasons (as an offense that wasn’t really all that high-scoring anyway) and a Super Bowl victory this past February.  I’d say:  not too bad of a deal for the Ravens.  And, it’s hard to blame the Cardinals too much for this particular move.  I mean, when you compare it to literally EVERY OTHER MOVE they’ve made since losing that Super Bowl to the Steelers, trading away Boldin for a couple of mid-draft picks is pretty not-bad by comparison.

The Ravens are in a similar boat right now, having just signed Joe Flacco to the biggest deal in the history of ever.  Boldin was counting too much against the cap, so he had to go.  It’s pretty disingenuous of Flacco to publicly root for the Ravens to keep their other stars when he selfishly signed such a crippling contract, but I guess he got the “respect” he was looking for (money, respect = money).

And this is an AMAZING deal for a 49ers team still in their prime and looking to make it back to the Super Bowl.  I’m sure Boldin is licking his chops at the chance to go to back-to-back Super Bowls, only this time with the team he just beat LAST season.

March 12, 2013 – Minnesota Vikings trade Percy Harvin to Seattle Seahawks for 2013 first & seventh round picks & 2014 third round pick

I’m not going to get into some of the other guys I had jotted down (Brandon Lloyd, Mike Thomas, etc.) because this post is long enough as it is and I’ve got other shit to do.

I’m also not going to get too deep into this whole Harvin deal, because I’ve spent the whole fucking week talking about it.  I will say that the Seahawks are the first team to pony up a first rounder since the Cowboys did so for Roy Williams.  In fact, if you’ve been paying attention to this post, you’ll notice that not one single team got the value they were looking for when they gave away first round pick(s) to get wide receivers.  They all THOUGHT they were getting something amazing.  But, one way or another, they all got fucked.

So, something to look forward to.  Don’t necessarily buy into the gambler’s fallacy; just because the last ten flips of the coin were tails doesn’t necessarily mean this flip is destined to be heads.  Just put your money down and hope, that’s all you can do as a Seahawks fan.

***

There have been some miserable failures on this list, to be sure.  But, let us not forget one of the greatest success stories of all time.  A reason for hope!  Probably the greatest/most-lopsided trade in the history of the NFL:

August 26, 1976 – Houston Oilers trade Steve Largent to Seattle Seahawks for 1977 eighth round pick

That’s right.  The greatest Seahawk who ever lived, the first-ever Hall of Famer in franchise history, and the guy who retired with almost every wide receiving record in NFL history (before Art Monk, and later Jerry Rice blew right on past him) was drafted by the Houston Oilers and traded for a draft pick who never played a down of regular season NFL football.

So, you know, trading for a wide receiver isn’t ALL bad …

A Companion Post: Who Might Want Beastmode Besides Seattle?

One thing I failed to explore in the previous post is:  what’s the market look like for a guy like Marshawn Lynch?

Yes, the Franchise Tag is a good cost-cutting tool when trying to re-sign a player.  But, a complete and utter lack of teams desiring to sign an over-priced running back is probably the best thing the Seahawks could ask for.

Of course, on Lynch’s side, you’ve got the age-old adage:  it only takes one.

So, let’s just go around the league.  For starters, you can count out the NFC East.  Dallas has any number of quality young backs already locked in (including super-stud DeMarco Murray who is sure to be a fantasy god for years to come).  The Giants appear to be set with Bradshaw and whoever else behind him.  The Redskins have a nice little stable of young backs.  And the Eagles have Shady McCoy (and, I imagine, not a whole lot of cap room to boot).

In the NFC North, I’m banking my life-savings (and one of my fantasy keepers) on the fact that they will retain Matt Forte.  Minnesota obviously has one of the very best backs in the league.  The Detroit Lions, however, could be interesting.  All they’ve got on their roster right now is Jahvid Best, and he’s a fucking injury waiting to happen!  It’s certainly NOT a good sign that he ended his season with concussions last year.  And, you’d have to think that for a young team trying to cultivate this bad-ass attitude, a guy like Beastmode would slide right in nicely.  Even MORE interesting are the Green Bay Packers.  You’ve got a team with an all-world quarterback, with a shitload of receivers, and with absolutely no running game to speak of whatsoever.  Ryan Grant is a free agent who has played his last game with the green and gold; James Starks is good, but he’s no Beastmode.  I gotta think Lynch might be just the piece to put the right balance into that explosive offense.

The NFC South will be no competition.  Atlanta still has a lot of money tied up in Michael Turner.  New Orleans drafted the top running back last season (and they have other money tied up in three or four other guys); plus, theirs is not an offense that would make any sense for a guy like Lynch.  Carolina still has three running backs (including the guy who takes snaps from the center).  And Tampa is a young team that will never in a million years put in the money it would take to get Lynch.

As for the other teams in the NFC West:  San Francisco has Gore, St. Louis has Jackson, and Arizona has Wells.  They all seem pretty committed to their guys.

You know who scares me more than any other team in the NFL?  The New England Patriots.  Think about it, they were THIS close to winning it all this past season!  What were they missing?  What are they ALWAYS missing?  A balanced offensive attack!  Let’s face it, Tom Brady isn’t getting any younger.  Yes, I know the Patriots like to skimp on their running backs (just as they like to bank draft picks for future drafts), but at one point or another, they’re going to have to cash in before it’s too late.  That crack about Tom Brady not getting any younger:  the same can be said for him not getting any BETTER.  Tom Brady is as good as he’s ever going to be; it’s all downhill from here.  One of these seasons, his skills are going to erode.  He’s not going to see the open receiver soon enough, he’s going to force more and more balls into coverage, he’s going to take more and more hits from ferocious defenses looking to take out the guy while he’s on top.  The Pats could sure as shit use a guy like Lynch to take off some of the load.

And, don’t look now, but Kevin Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are both free agents.  They’re not going to hand the ball off to Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen 30 times a game!  Why WOULDN’T they make a huge push to get Lynch and start dominating the Time of Possession in every game?  What’s the downside here?

Elsewhere in the AFC East, the Dolphins are tied up with Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas, the Jets seem pretty happy with Shonn Greene and whatever young buck they’re going to slide behind him.  And, of course, the Bills have Jackson and Spiller (plus, duh, they’re the team that traded Lynch in the first place).

In the AFC North, you know damn well Baltimore is re-signing Ray Rice, so forget about it.  The Steelers would be an AWESOME fit for a guy like Beastmode, but they’re still stuck with Mendenhall (plus, they NEVER fork over money on free agents).  Cincy won’t fork over the money it’ll take either.  And the Browns – in spite of his sub-par season – will most likely re-sign Hillis (plus, they’ve got a stable of young backs they could easily throw into the mix should Hillis go elsewhere).

The AFC South has three teams that are simply non-starters.  Houston has not one but TWO massively effective running backs (Foster, who’s a fantasy god; and Tate who – as a backup – nearly ran for 1,000 yards).  The Titans have Chris Johnson and his massively insane contract.  And the Jags have one of the better all-around guys in MJD.

The Indianapolis Colts, however, are a God damned wild card and I just don’t like it!  Now, for starters, if they opt to keep Peyton Manning, then you can just skip to the next paragraph right now, because they won’t have two cents to rub together.  But, let’s say they let him and his $28 million walk:  suddenly, they’re in play!  They will have a rookie quarterback starting from Game 1.  They don’t have a single running back worth a good God damn on their team.  And, the organization will have to do something for its fans to make up for the fact that they just let go of a Hall of Famer (especially if he goes to another team and starts kicking ass again).  I wouldn’t put it past the Colts to do something drastic; mark my words.

In the AFC West, we’re talking about teams who are all pretty much set.  The Chiefs will be looking for Jamaal Charles to bounce back from an early-season season-ending injury in 2011.  The Broncos still have Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno.  And the Raiders will still have McFadden; if they re-sign Michael Bush, then all the more reason for them to NOT sign Lynch.

So, aside from the Seahawks, we’re talking about four potential teams:  Detroit, Green Bay, New England, and Indianapolis.  All have ample reasons to sign a back like Lynch; all have ample reasons to not do a damn thing.  There will be other, cheaper options out there (Hillis, Bush, Mike Tolbert, Cedric Benson, Tashard Choice, Justin Forsett, Ryan Grant) for teams like New England and Detroit to snap up, if they so choose to go the tightwad route.  Really, it’s tough to know exactly WHICH of these four teams would be the most likely, considering I don’t know what their cap situations are like.  If I were Green Bay or New England, though, I’d think long and hard.  Both teams were DAMN close this past season.  Both teams had very similar, pass-first types of offenses.  And both teams lost to the same team (the Giants) which could have been avoided had they had a running game.

Something to think about as these Beastmode negotiations continue.