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NFL Trade Deadline Winners and Losers

Based on the rumors flying as the NFL trade deadline came and went, it seems like the Jets fell flat—but their situation is a bit more nuanced than that. Who are the other winners and losers now that the trade deadline has passed?

This isn’t a popular thing to say at the moment, but the Jets will eventually be fine.

The NFL trade deadline made them stars of a daily reality show that is often quick to strip context for the sake of positioning one team, or person, or thing as the center of the joke du jour. Yes, the Jets’ general manager shopped and took calls about players on a 2-6 team, which every general manager should do in the same situation. Yes, some players, like Jamal Adams, took exception to that and put the team on blast.

Other players, like Le’Veon Bell, seemed more concerned about a very difficult choice between a burrito and a sandwich. I voted sandwich. 

Yes, this is going to take some heavy emotional lifting from a coach who has already dodged the perception that he hates his roster. The rest of this season, already lost to mononucleosis and smelling salts, is probably going to suck. It would have been just as bad battling the perception that they were tanking by trading Bell and Adams.

After seismic events on the NFL calendar we like to parse the winners and losers, which is what we’ll do here. For many, the Jets are an obvious loser but I think getting more than a third-round pick for Leonard Williams was a good thing. I think not being able to trade Bell, who had the Jets bidding against themselves in free agency anyway, was understandable.

For some teams, it’s far easier to tell whether they exited the trade deadline period with a net advantage or disadvantage. For the Jets, it’s all about the avenue they take back to normal, when they’re no longer the joke of the day.

On to the list…

Aqib Talib

Aqib Talib is eligible to return from injured reserve in Week 15.


Miami Dolphins

I love a good pick purchase, and the Dolphins executed a beauty. By acquiring Aqib Talib and a fifth-round pick from the Rams in exchange for eating his salary, Miami is not only getting a valuable draft day tool with the pick, but could eventually utilize Talib’s departure in their compensatory pick formula. The Dolphins have been steadfast in their commitment, and while tanking provides no guarantee for success, remaining aligned on the process is critical. The team also got what I saw as above market value for a running back in trading Kenyan Drake to Arizona.

Aqib Talib

When you’re an accomplished veteran who just had his contract purchased by a team that probably has no intention of actually using you once you return from the injured list, doubling your options for potential rehab destinations—Miami and Los Angeles—is not a bad deal.

Baltimore Ravens

It’s difficult to see some teams paying a ridiculous premium for players and then watch Eric DeCosta in Baltimore nab a scheme-changing talent like Marcus Peters for a fifth-round pick—the same round of a pick he got in exchange for the currently unemployed Kaare Vedvik. There are some really impressive organizational performances this season, from the Colts to the 49ers. I would argue that Baltimore is keeping pace and that, a few years from now, we might be studying some of their approaches to 2019 and beyond.

Jalen Ramsey

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It’s a good thing any time a player can force his way out of an undesirable situation and then almost immediately guarantee that because of the price tag on the trade, the team would look foolish by not showering the player with a top-of-the-market deal. Ramsey, like Laremy Tunsil in Houston, is enjoying one of the most protected spots in the industry. The team has no choice but to invest in his future, or else waste a ton of draft capital.

Jacksonville Jaguars

I think it’s foolish to not also credit Jacksonville, which knew it was losing its star cornerback, did their best to keep him and, when that no longer seemed possible, netted two (probably mid to late) first-round picks and a fourth-round pick. These are the kinds of assets that will inevitably aid Jacksonville’s upward climb ahead, which will see them tasked with replacing a veteran-laden roster with cheaper ascending talent.

Trent Williams

Trent Williams formally returned to Washington at the NFL trade deadline, but it’s likely the fight between player and team is far from over.



With a few free-falling, veteran-heavy teams nearing surrender territory, it was setting up to get seriously interesting near the deadline. Jamal Adams, Le’Veon Bell, A.J. Green, Trent Williams… and then nothing. It makes someone wonder what a marketing savvy enterprise like the NFL might do to incentivize teams to wait until the waning moments of the deadline, and not cut the line like the Rams and Ravens did in 2019.

Washington and Trent Williams

Washington isn’t letting go of a quality offensive tackle they hope will somehow agree to protect their developing rookie quarterback on a below-market salary. Williams could have been a game-changer for a playoff-bound team looking to score offensive line help at a time when there are almost no good options. Instead, Washington remains pat and maintains their perpetually destructive path to ensure they’re the least-desirable employers in the NFL. Both the team and the stalwart tackle will now dig in for a fight.

Cincinnati Bengals

It took them 20 years to move on from Marvin Lewis and about half that to move on from Andy Dalton, so we cannot expect the Bengals to change their operational procedures overnight. Despite the fact that Cincinnati has a roster populated with desirable talent, they opted to keep a few valued veterans instead of converting them into draft capital. Maybe Green in particular is critical to the Bengals’ evaluation of Ryan Finley over the remainder of the season.

Cleveland Browns

The understanding is that they were in the mix this deadline, though nothing materialized. Cleveland built a super-team without an offensive line and weren’t able to trade their way out of trouble. With a 2-5 record and a coach trying to balance what seems like an exceedingly difficult number of fragile, moving pieces, it’s massively disappointing to see the Browns sinking toward a familiar fate. Maybe the acqusition of someone like Williams, or even Halapoulivaati Vaitai could have changed their emotional slide.

New York Giants

No matter how you spin it, the Giants traded valuable assets for a player that is not going to help them make a playoff push in 2019. If Leonard Williams has any success within a new defense, he’d be wise to hit free agency anyway to maximize his value, even if the Giants offer a fair market price. So, the Giants essentially rented a player who cannot change the course of their current season for two mid-round picks.

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