The NFL’s trade market has been busier than ever lately. Top receivers, quarterbacks, and defenders have all been traded recently, and there’s more to come. Your favorite NFL player may be the next to be traded, as we’ve seen with huge names like Matthew Stafford, Deandre Hopkins, and Julio Jones during the last several seasons. There’s a couple of major factors at play here, the two major ones being the salary cap and that players are voicing their opinions more on their situations.

The salary cap has grown significantly over the years, and player salaries have not always grown with it. Next year the cap will inevitably increase after the hit it took from the Covid-19 pandemic, which allows for more roster flexibility and the ability to take on bigger contracts via trade. Over the previous few seasons, we’ve seen more players seek trades due to their situations or the team culture. Teams now have less negotiating power with players since they may demand a trade or hold out.

The NFL can change each offseason significantly, and today I’ll be breaking down the top 3 big trades each year since 2018. The articles will release separately, one for each year, this one covering trades from 2019.

Jalen Ramsey

In yet another big move by the LA Rams, they traded a massive haul for one of the best young corners in the game, Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey is widely recognized as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, and he emerged as Jacksonville’s most talented player as well as the franchise’s face. Ramsey became the Jaguars’ highest-drafted cornerback in franchise history after being selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. In 2017, he was named to the Pro Bowl and was a first-team All-Pro as he helped lead the NFL’s best pass defense. In 2017, Sacksonville’s defense helped them reach the AFC championship game, where Tom Brady and the Patriots defeated them. However, Ramsey’s relationship with the Jaguars worsened, and he finally requested to be traded due to issues with the organization.

Jaguars receive:

2020 1st round pick (LB K’Lavon Chaisson)
2021 1st round pick (RB Travis Etienne)
2021 4th round pick (Traded up with Rams) (DE Jordan Smith)

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Analysis- The haul that the Jaguars got for Ramsey was massive. It’s not often that you see players go for multiple high picks, let alone multiple first-rounders. One of the hardest tasks is getting value back from the picks you get, and I think the Jaguars did. They got a decent young player in Chaisson and ended up picking CJ Henderson to replace Ramsey. In addition, one of the most head-scratching picks of this year’s draft also selected Travis Etienne out of Clemson, who many believed to be a top rookie RB if not the top rookie RB. Also, consider that the Jaguars are a rebuilding team, and young players on rookie contracts are better than a star with a big one. As for right now, it’s hard to judge this trade due to the players still developing at the NFL level.

Rams receive:

CB Jalen Ramsey

Analysis- The Rams love Ramsey, who is a top corner in the prime of his career. He is a big reason why the Rams defense performed so well in 2020. Ramsey had the difficult task of covering the opposing team’s #1 receiver in most games, which he excelled at. With the Rams last season, he allowed a 50.7 percent completion percentage and a 68.1 passer rating. The Rams would rather have a proven player than a risky draft pick, and Jalen Ramsey is unquestionably proven. While the cost (picks and cap space) was high, the Rams should be pleased with the outcome.

Who won- On the surface, it appeared like the Rams gave up a lot to get Jalen Ramsey in 2019. They gave two first-round picks and a fourth-round pick to Jacksonville for the cornerback, who had only a year and a half left on his rookie deal. This meant they had to offer him a new contract, which they did last year for five years and $100 million. However, when comparing the players acquired by Jacksonville in the trade, the Rams appear to be major winners, owing to Ramsey’s excellent play since coming to the West Coast. Obviously, we won’t know for a few years if Chaisson, Etienne, or Smith turn out to be excellent players, but the Rams won’t care. Jalen Ramsey came at a steep cost, but he is well worth it.

Minkah Fitzpatrick/Laremy Tunsil

These players moving were a part of a small teardown in 2019 due to hiring new coach Brian Flores. Fitzpatrick and Tunsil were both young players the Dolphins didn’t want to give big contracts to and wanted draft capital back from. Tunsil, in particular, was a player that the Dolphins got good draft picks for, which they later traded for more picks. The Phinsider made a detailed graph tracking the Tunsil picks (Below). You can check out their article here. As for Fitzpatrick was traded to the struggling Steelers in the hopes that they would get a top 10 pick in return. Fitzpatrick also requested a trade from the team, which gives little leverage to the team when negotiating. 

Steelers Receive:

Minkah Fitzpatrick
2020 4th round pick (OG Kevin Dotson)

Analysis- The Steelers traded 3 picks for Fitzpatrick and a pick, which substantially benefited their defense. The Steelers were suffering at the start of the 2019 season after losing their starting quarterback, Big Ben. Thus Miami expected a top-ten pick from them. The consensus was that the Steelers gave a top-ten pick to Miami in exchange for a young safety who has yet to establish himself. The addition of Fitzpatrick would propel Pittsburgh to the league’s top spot in turnovers during the next 14 weeks of the NFL season.

Despite his outstanding performance in 2019, the Steelers could have had other options at safety. They could have signed a free agent safety for far less money or traded for someone less expensive. The Steelers also missed out on a first-round pick in 2020, which might have been Justin Jefferson, Jeremy Chinn, or any of the other rookie standouts from last year. Fitzpatrick is a great player, but Pittsburgh could have had other options. 

Texans Receive:

OT Laremy Tunsil 
WR Kenny Stills
2020 4th round pick
2021 6th round pick

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Analysis- The Texans had a good reason to trade for Tunsil but did so at a high cost. Deshaun Watson has been one of the most sacked QBs over the past 3 seasons, so trading for a good tackle was a good move in concept, but Bill O’Brien’s execution was terrible. Not only did he trade multiple picks and players for Tunsil and Stills, but he also made Tunsil one of the highest-paid tackles in the league. The Texans were a decent team the past two seasons but are now projected to be one of the worst teams in the NFL for the next couple of years. Without those picks and Deshaun Watson wanting to leave the organization, the Texans will have a hard time rebuilding their team.

Dolphins Receive:

PIT 2020 1st round pick (OT Austin Jackson)
2020 5th round pick (DE Jason Strowbridge)
2020 6th round pick
HOU 2020 1st round pick (See Chart)
2021 1st round pick
2021 second-round pick
CB Johnson Bademosi (HOU)
T Julien Davenport (HOU)

Analysis- Not only did the Dolphins receive a bounty of picks from this trade, they also traded their acquired picks for more picks. They traded down with Green Bay, and ended up trading out of their spot in the 2021 draft to the 49ers for even more picks. The Dolphins are slowly building a contender, and the high draft picks from the struggling Texans have helped them even more. 

Who Won- The Dolphins were not only able to get amazing value back for their picks, they were also able to save on cap space by not overpaying for either of the players they traded away. With the picks they acquired from both teams. They are slowly beginning to build a young talented team. The Steelers could have used some of Fitzpatrick’s picks and cap space to build a younger team, which would have helped their chances at another Superbowl before Big Ben retires. As for the Texans, instead of trading for Tunsil and Stills, they could have used their first-round picks on younger talented players or a potential replacement for Watson in the 2021 draft. The Dolphins have been trending up since this trade, and as of right now, it’s not looking good for Pittsburgh and Houston’s future. 

Frank Clark

The Chiefs offense in 2018 was the best in the league, averaging 34.8 points per game. In terms of defense, they allowed the second-most yards per game and the ninth-most points per game. After losing to the Patriots in the AFC championship game, they chose to rebuild their defense. This began with the signing of Tyrann Mathieu in March and culminated in the acquisition of Frank Clark in April. Clark was a talented defensive end with 35 sacks and 72 quarterback hits during his stint in Seattle. He was given the franchise tag, and when contract negotiations fell through, he was traded to the Chiefs.

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Chiefs Receive:

DL Frank Clark
2019 3rd round pick (DT Khalen Sanders)

Analysis- Clark and other defensive additions would help the Chiefs propel their defense from #24 to #7 according to pro football reference rankings. Even though their defense was improved, they paid a high cost for an above-average pass rusher. They overpaid for Frank Clark, as he isn’t worth a first-round pick and definitely isn’t worth the huge contract they gave him, which was the 2nd highest at the time. He is a solid contributor on the Chiefs D-Line and shined during their Super Bowl run. Even if you like Clark, the $25.8 million cap hit will have a huge impact. Only six players in the NFL will cost more than that in 2021: Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins, Matt Ryan, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Ben Roethlisberger. The Chiefs’ tight cap situation only got worse with his large contract. 

Seahawks Receive:

2019 1st round pick (DE LJ Collier)
2019 3rd round pick (Used to trade back) (LB Cody Barton) (DK Metcalf)
2020 2nd round pick (Used to trade back) (G Damien Lewis) (DE Alton Robinson)

Analysis- Collier had a difficult first season in Seattle. Still, towards the conclusion of the season, he worked his way into the defensive line rotations and received more playing time. He may not have had the immediate impact that many fans had hoped for, especially for a first-round pick. Still, they should be optimistic about the future as Collier continues to develop this offseason.

On the other hand, Lewis had a solid first season despite having to play various positions along the offensive line. His run blocking was among the best at the position this season. He was sixth among all guards in run-blocking grade, with an 81.5 PFF grade. Barton and Robinson haven’t made much impact on the team with a combined 80 tackles. As for Metcalf, he’s had a great 2 seasons so far and has solidified himself as Seattle’s #1 receiver for the future. 

Who won- As of right now, the Chiefs won the trade due to them getting a solid contributor on defense. Clark has not been amazing for them but has been a reliable player along their D-Line. The Seahawks pass rush felt the impact of Clark’s absence. To make matters worse, first-round pick L.J. Collier, taken with the Chiefs’ first-round pick, struggled as a rookie and barely played. While Kansas City appears to have won the trade, for the time being, it will take several years to determine who benefitted the most, and there’s a strong possibility this will be regarded as a rare win/win situation for both teams. If the Seahawks players all develop well in the future, then they will have won the trade. 

Featured Image:

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