With the NFL trade deadline rapidly approaching, we’ve already seen a handful of players change teams: the Raiders sent WR Amari Cooper to the receiver-needy Cowboys, while the Giants—reportedly among today’s likely sellers—sent Eli Apple to the Saints and Damon Harrison to the Lions.
Below, we grade the biggest moves so far. Check back as the 4 p.m. ET deadline approaches, as we’re bound to see a few more players change teams.
HA HA CLINTON-DIX TO WASHINGTON: Interesting house cleaning happening in Green Bay on both sides of the ball (see: Ty Montgomery to the Ravens), especially with the Packers still very much in contention. It felt like Washington needed to make a move, no matter how inconsequential, in order to keep pace with the rest of the NFC East. Clinton-Dix gives them some position versatility at the safety position, which should allow them to show some different looks defensively. A mid-round pick seems to be the going rate for a rental player at this point, so Washington is paying the going rate. GRADE: B-
DANTE FOWLER TO THE RAMS: Surprising to see the Jaguars parting ways with defensive depth, even if Fowler was passed a little bit in their pecking order. The compensation—according to ESPN, a third- and fifth-round pick—isn’t bad considering the motivation behind the deal. Meanwhile, Los Angeles spends what little capital they have left to acquire a screamer off the edge for crunch time in the playoffs. They’re all in on 2018, which is what you’d expect for the only undefeated team in football. Jacksonville wouldn’t tinker with that defense—their lifeblood—if they didn’t think something else was in the works. GRADE: B-
TY MONTGOMERY TO THE RAVENS: So he did go rogue at the end of that Rams game, huh? The Packers spare their fans a miniature heart attack and thin their rotation in order to give more time to two of their more talented backs. Montgomery gets banished to rotational back hell in Baltimore alongside Alex Collins and Buck Allen, but will be a useful piece for Joe Flacco, who loves him a good intermediate option. The Ravens continue a trend of attempting to find value in the lower rungs of the running back pecking order. GRADE: C-
GOLDEN TATE TO THE EAGLES: A more practical, and likely more expensive, weapon than Demaryius Thomas, but Tate could end up paying huge dividends, because he is explosive off the ball and has functioned well in some of the bunch concepts that propel Doug Pederson’s offense. While he’s worked with Russell Wilson and Matthew Stafford in the past, this might be the most sensible scheme fit for his myriad talents. We knew the Eagles would not be quiet at this time of year and, to their credit, have built a formidable receiving corps. If I were the cornerback starving NFC East, Id be a little nervous. GRADE: A
DEMARYIUS THOMAS TO THE TEXANS: As we mentioned last week, Houston has the capital and their window to win a Super Bowl is now. Swapping Thomas for Will Fuller, who tore his ACL against the Dolphins on Sunday, is not a direct replacement given that Fuller was excellent at stretching defenses with his speed. Thomas, though, is sure-handed, physical and could fit in wonderfully as a downfield blocker in addition to his receiving skills. Deshaun Watson could not be happier with someone who can alleviate stress in the red zone and take some pressure off DeAndre Hopkins. GRADE: A-
AMARI COOPER TO THE COWBOYS: A pair of Type-A personalities decide to get together and burn their teams to the ground, just in different ways. Raiders coach Jon Gruden comes away with a big win assuming he can hit on one of the draft picks he’s accumulated for Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. Meanwhile, the challenge is on for an embattled Jason Garrett to find a way to maximize a rare route-running talent who has bumped into some consistency issues of late. Dallas doesn’t have much time, though, before deciding whether to pay Cooper at the completion of his rookie deal. GRADE: C-
DAMON HARRISON TO THE LIONS: A great move on the cheap for Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia, who beef up their run support and give themselves a flexible, three down type Vince Wilfork presence. Harrison is coming from a drained Giants locker room but should have some good football left. He’s athletic enough to play in two or three spots along the line, which is especially helpful for a coordinator and head coach who need to change things up in order to be effective. GRADE: B
ELI APPLE TO THE SAINTS: Another piece of the Giants fire sale, the Saints are betting that they have the infrastructure to motivate and accelerate the troubled former first round pick. Apple was always fearless and tough in press coverage. When the game plan gives him responsibility he tends to play better, though years in a porous Giants secondary have possibly forced some bad habits on him. Either way, the Saints are placing some heavy responsibility on him early and hoping that the holding calls decease over time. GRADE: C+
CARLOS HYDE TO THE JAGUARS: A smart play even if the offense got away from the run early against Philadelphia. Many are clamoring for a quarterback upgrade at the deadline, but if the team cannot run the ball effectively it won¹t matter. Hyde takes care of the ball and hits hard. While not as physically gifted as Fournette, he can bring some of the same situational toughness if used correctly. I wouldn¹t be surprised to see the Jaguars continue layering the position—and the defensive line—for a playoff push that is still within reach. GRADE: B
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