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 players’ opinions. The salary cap has grown significantly over the years, and player salaries have not always grown with it. Over the previous few seasons, we’ve seen more players seek trades due to their situations or the team culture.
All three trades covered here, all 3 players publicly voiced their opinions on their teams in these three trades and were then traded. Teams also are looking at trades as a new way of roster building. They trade for the proven player versus the risky draft pick. The NFL can change each offseason significantly, and in this series, 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 2020. Links for the other articles will be attached below.
The Texans have made several mistakes recently, and this trade may be the worst of them all. In the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Texans, Deandre Hopkins was chosen and had spent his 7-year career in Houston. He was catching passes from the Texans’ QB carousel until 2017, when they drafted Deshaun Watson. Watson was Hopkins’ first great QB, and the two were one of the best QB-WR duos in the NFL at the time. The Texans went to the playoffs in 2018 and 2019 and almost beat the Chiefs in the divisional round. Hopkins was signed to a 5-year extension back in 2017 and seemed to be tied to the Texans for a while until his name came up in trade talks. The Cardinals dealt with the three-time All-Pro WR in March 2020 as a new target for Kyler Murray.Embed from Getty Images
WR DeAndre Hopkins
2020 4th round pick (DL Rashard Lawrence)
Analysis- This turned out to be a great deal for Arizona. They acquired one of the league’s top, if not the best, wide receivers for less than a first-round pick. Given, they had to offer him a new deal, which was pricey, but he is well worth it. The Cardinals most likely used some of the cap space saved by moving David Johnson to pay Hopkins, which is a better deal, in my opinion. Many expected Hopkins’ play to suffer in Arizona without Watson and Kyler Murray distributing the ball around more. On the other hand, Hopkins had 1407 yards and six touchdowns in his debut year in the desert. He’s been used to playing with various quarterbacks throughout his career and is skilled enough to put up those types of statistics with anyone. Despite the Cardinals’ lack of success in Hopkins’ first season, he and Kyler Murray will be a top QB-WR combo for many years to come.
RB David Johnson
2020 2nd round pick (DL Ross Blacklock)
2021 4th round pick (Traded Back) (DT Roy Lopez) (OT Marcus Cannon)
Analysis- Hopkins had no choice but to be traded by the Texans. Contract negotiations with him were stalling, and he had a strained relationship with the organization. He was traded to the Cardinals in what was perhaps one of the worst trades in recent memory for an aging RB on a large contract. Johnson was the highest-paid running back in 2020, appearing in 12 games and totaling 1005 yards and 8 touchdowns. Houston wasn’t bad without him, but they were forced to trade a second-round selection to the Rams for Brandin Cooks to complete their WR core.
Who Won- The Cardinals came out of this trade with a top WR for a second-round pick and could dump David Johnson’s contract somewhere. Houston hasn’t been the same since Hopkins left and is one of the worst teams in the NFL right now. Arizona came out on top of this deal by taking advantage of Bill O’Brien and will reap the benefits for years to come. As for the players included as picks in this deal, we won’t know their full impact for about another 2 years as they continue to develop at the professional level. This trade will impact the league for many years after, most notably the Texans, who will likely have a top 5 pick next year.Embed from Getty Images
In another trade involving a disgruntled player, Stefon Diggs was traded from the Minnesota Vikings to the Buffalo Bills in March of 2020. Diggs was a 5th round pick in 2015 and quickly established himself as a threat opposite Adam Thielen. During his 5 years in Minnesota, he had 4,623 receiving yards and 30 touchdowns. Diggs was also a part of one of the most memorable plays in Vikings history, the Minneapolis Miracle. However, Diggs became displeased with his role in Minnesota, stating on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown, “(The Vikings) were kind of gearing towards a run-heavy (offense) at that time. … They only would allow me to do so much.” Diggs was later traded to the Bills to be a reliable WR1 for Josh Allen.
2020 7th round pick (CB Dane Jackson)
Analysis- Diggs was outstanding in his debut season with the Bills. He was an All-Pro and set career highs in yards, receptions, and, most importantly to him, targets. Diggs led the NFL in receiving, set team records, and served as a role model in the locker room as the Bills won the AFC East and advanced to the AFC Championship Game. Diggs and Josh Allen should be a top QB-WR duo, and he was a big part of Josh Allen’s MVP level play last season. If the Bills win a Super Bowl while Diggs is on the roster, this trade will have been worth it for them.
2020 1st round pick (Justin Jefferson)
2020 4th round pick (Traded Back) (DB Camryn Bynum)
2021 4th round pick (DE Janarius Robinson)
Analysis- After trading Diggs, the Vikings picked Jefferson in the first round to essentially replace him. With 1,400 receiving yards and seven touchdowns last season, Jefferson became an immediate sensation. He had a similar playing style to Diggs and took his place on the field and in the locker room. Minnesota was able to capitalize on the additional first-round pick and now has a great young wide receiver who nearly won rookie last year.
Who won- As of now, this looks like one of the evenest trades in recent memory. The Bills got their star, WR1, and gave Josh Allen a reliable target. The Vikings got a younger, cheaper version of Diggs that might end up being better in the long run. For right now, I would say that the Vikings have a slight edge on the Bills due to them getting more players back from the trade and using the cap space saved by trading Diggs to improve their defense.
Following a seven-month contract dispute with the New York Jets, superstar strong safety Jamal Adams was dealt with by the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for two first-round selections and a third-round pick. During his tenure in New York, Adams, a standout safety, had 273 tackles, 12 sacks, and two interceptions. After becoming dissatisfied with his contract negotiations, Jamal Adams notified the organization that he wanted to be traded, and he was traded in July of 2020.Embed from Getty Images
2021 1st round draft pick (Traded up) (OG Alijah Vera-Tucker)
2021 3rd round draft pick
2022 1st round draft pick
S Bradley McDougald
Analysis- The Jets were put into a bind by Adams, and the relationship on both sides had deteriorated, so they were forced to trade him. Their team during Adams’ tenure was never great, with a combined 18 wins since 2017. This trade was the start of a rebuild by the Jets to acquire younger players and more picks, which they accomplished. They also got a starting-caliber safety in return, which was a good addition to the plethora of picks. As for the picks, the only notable player picked so far is USC’s Vera-Tucker, who will be tasked with guarding new quarterback Zach Wilson next season.
2022 4th round pick
Analysis- The Seahawks defense hadn’t been as dominant since the Legion of Boom back era back in 2013. This move for Adams was to help a struggling Seahawks defense that was bottom 10 in points and yards gave up to opposing offenses. Adams was a young star in New York, and Seattle basically agreed to pay him top safety money after his rookie contract expired. Next season he’ll be playing on his 5th-year option, and Seattle gave up extensive draft capital to acquire him, so they almost have no choice.
Who won- The Jets were not only able to get rid of a disgruntled player but also were able to dodge having to make Adams the highest-paid safety. The cap space for the Jets is better than Adams in the long term due to them being in the middle of a rebuild. Seattle didn’t do much better than the year before, which they should have after a trade of this caliber. Adams earned a 50.2 PFF grade last year, the lowest since his rookie season, and was picked on in pass coverage last year, so it is evident his play has declined since being traded. As of right now, the Jets got the better end of the deal. For the rest of the picks and players, we’ll have to wait to see how they pan out in the NFL before we can truly evaluate this trade.
The Price of an NFL star
Something that can be learned from these three trades is that value on both sides is important. A good trade benefits both sides, and both teams become better in the long term. The Diggs trade is a perfect example of a good trade where both sides got what they wanted and are set for the future. A bad example of a trade would be the Hopkins trade, where the Cardinals got a superstar for not even a first-round pick, and the Texans are now struggling because of it. Overall, when making trades, the side that wins is the side that gets more value back from it.