The NFL’s trade market has been busier than ever lately. 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. Especially due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the salary cap decreased, making teams strategize more regarding their spending. For this set of players, I’ll be analyzing more of the value of the picks because some of the drafts haven’t happened yet. It will take about 4 years to evaluate these trades based on player performance truly. 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, covering trades from this past offseason.

Matthew Stafford

The Rams have a history of dealing large packages for players they want, and they’ve been in every part of this series but one. Les Snead loves established players and often drafts well on days 2 and 3, thus moves like this are worthwhile. In January, the deal was completed after Stafford requested that the Lions look into trade possibilities following their third straight losing season. Los Angeles was dissatisfied with their quarterback relationship with Jared Goff, and after a 10-6 season, they saw Stafford as the key to a Super Bowl run.

Rams Receive:

Matthew Stafford

Analysis- The Rams selected Goff to be their franchise QB for years to come and signed him to a massive contract in 2019. Expectations fell short, and Goff wasn’t playing at the caliber the Rams wanted him to. I think getting Stafford in this deal was great, but there was an extra cost because of Goff being traded away as well. The Lions likely got the extra first-rounder because of their ability to take on Goff’s big contract. As for expectations, it’s Super Bowl or bust for the Rams within the next 2 years (Duration of Stafford’s current contract). If they win at least 1 ring, it would be worth it for them.

Lions Receive:

Jared Goff
2021 3rd round pick (DB Ifeatu Melifonwu)
2022 1st round pick
2023 1st round pick

Analysis- Stafford got a nice haul for the Lions and a good reason. They’re still rebuilding. Therefore I think this was a smart decision for them. They not only received fantastic value, but they also acquired a decent replacement in Goff. He can provide them with adequate quarterback performance and serve as a good bridge QB until they pick his replacement. The Rams’ picks are expected to be in the latter half of the first round. Thus the Lions’ initial first-round pick will most likely be earlier. 

Who won- It’s hard to call it for either side right now, seeing as most of the picks involved haven’t happened yet. For the Rams to win, Stafford has to win at least 1 Super Bowl. The Rams have to struggle for the Lions to win, and they have to hit on their extra first-rounders.

Orlando Brown Jr.

After watching Mahomes’ protection in the Super Bowl, the Chiefs decided they wanted an upgrade at O-Line. This move for Orlando Brown was one move of many this offseason that focused on bolstering their line and protecting the former MVP. Brown was a standout O lineman but requested a trade from Baltimore this last offseason. The Ravens liked the compensation enough to trade Brown to a rival and the best competition in the AFC.

Chiefs Receive:

OT Orlando Brown
2021 2nd round pick (LB Nick Bolton)
2022 6th round pick

Analysis- The Chiefs were in desperate need of a tackle after cutting Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz. They could take advantage of Brown’s situation with the Ravens and gain a top starter in the process. They want the best shot at winning another Superbowl, and Brown can help them do that. He’s shown extraordinary talent on the line and the ability to play right and left tackle at a high level. They were also able to get two picks back, which is decent value.

Ravens Receive:

2021 1st round pick (DE Odafe Oweh)
2021 3rd round pick (G Ben Cleveland)
2021 4th round pick 
2022 5th round pick

Analysis- The Ravens had no choice but to trade Brown, and it was only a matter of finding a partner. Because of this, the value they received was likely less than they could have gotten. Good O-Lineman is hard to find, and they traded away a young star. I like the value they got back from trading Brown, but trading him to the Chiefs was a bad move. The Chiefs have been one of the Ravens’ rivals over the past couple of years, and Lamar is 0-3 vs. them. The Ravens are less of a contender than the Chiefs, and they added more fuel to the fire for Kansas City.

Who won- Who wins this trade will be determined by who has the most success over the next couple of years. If the Ravens’ extra draft picks help them acquire good players while the Chiefs fall short of another Super Bowl, they will have won, and vice versa. Based on raw value, I believe the Ravens got a better bargain by not paying Brown, who was originally a third-round pick.

Sam Darnold

Three years after selecting Sam Darnold third overall, the Jets traded him to the Panthers in exchange for three draft selections (Lots of 3s were involved in this trade). Both teams wanted a fresh start, and the Panthers were in desperate need of a new quarterback. The Panthers had the eighth choice in last year’s draft and assumed they wouldn’t get the quarterback they wanted. They took a chance on Darnold, who can either be a massive success or a massive failure in Carolina.

The Jets have been a mess recently, and Darnold didn’t help their situation. NY was not convinced Darnold was an NFL-caliber QB but also didn’t give him the help he needed. They recently selected Zach Wilson to be their new signal-caller and have started to build more around the offense. Their top picks in the last draft went to offense, and they obviously learned their mistake from Darnold.

Jets Receive:

2021 6th round pick (Traded back) (No. 175 DB Jason Pinnock)
2022 2nd round pick
2022 4th round pick

Analysis- Thankfully, due to Carolina’s QB situation, they could get something back in return for Darnold. They could find a suitable trade partner, not in division or conference, which is always a plus. Darnold didn’t exactly help his value as a former first-round pick, but this was obviously the best offer NY could get. More picks are valuable for a rebuilding team like the Jets, and hopefully, they don’t make the same mistakes with Wilson.

Jun 9, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) during OTAs at the Panthers Training Fields. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers Receive:

Sam Darnold

Analysis- This was a boom or bust trade by Carolina. Darnold hasn’t exactly proved his talent in the NFL just yet, but he also hasn’t had the supporting cast he does now. If Joe Brady can tailor his offense to Darnold, he could have a Ryan Tannehill type resurgence. The Panthers have lacked good QB play since Cam Newton, and this was a risky move. If Darnold can develop into a better passer with all the extra help, the Panthers could be in playoff contention soon. 

Who won- The winner of this trade depends on how Darnold performs in Carolina. If he’s able to put up good numbers, then the Panthers will have won. The Jets gave up on Darnold, and instead of building around him, they just tried to get rid of their “mistake.” If Carolina molds Darnold into a good QB, he could be their franchise guy for the future.

The Price of an NFL star

If you’re wondering where the Julio Jones trade is, I did an in-depth analysis that you can find here.

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. Teams are taking more risks on big trades like this to win a Super Bowl, hopefully. The Rams and Chiefs both increased their chances at making it there with these trades but did hurt their future a bit. Regarding the Darnold trade, the Jets were trying to get anything back for him and start over. Overall, when making trades, the side that wins is the side that gets more value back from it. Super Bowls are the ultimate goal, and bold roster moves like these can help get you there.

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