In 2014, the year Pro Football Rumors was established, there were 23 NFL trades that involved veteran players (ie. deals that didn’t simply involve teams moving up and down the board on draft day). Just four years later, that number has more than doubled, as the league has seen 61 deals go down since the league year opened in March.
There are myriad reasons why the NFL is becoming a more trade-happy league, and Andrew Brandt of Sports Illustrated outlined several of them yesterday: younger general managers that are more comfortable making swaps; gobs of cap space; and the NFL’s decision to move the trade deadline back by two weeks. Whatever the explanation, it certainly makes the league more fun on deadline day.
Five trades occurred on Tuesday, with five contending clubs making what can only be described as win-now moves. Let’s take a look at each deal before deciding which team made the best acquisition at the deadline:
- Houston needed another pass-catcher after losing Will Fuller to a torn ACL, and while the 30-year-old Thomas isn’t exactly a perfect replacement for the speedy Fuller, he’ll give head coach Bill O’Brien and quarterback Deshaun Watson another option as they look to build on their five-game win streak. Thomas was the only player acquired on Tuesday who is signed beyond the 2018 season, but it’s hard to imagine he’ll stick with the Texans next year barring a contract restructure. He’s due a $14MM base salary in 2019, which seems untenable for a player whose production has dipped in recent campaigns.
- Nelson Agholor has been among the least productive wide receivers in the NFL this season, ranking next-to-last in Football Outsiders’ DYAR, which measures value over a replacement level player. Tate figures to usurp Agholor in the slot, and the Eagles could now play quite a bit more “11” personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers). To date, Philadelphia has deployed that personnel package on only 54% of plays, fourth-least in the league, per Warren Sharp. Another plus for the Eagles? They don’t have any cap space to use in 2019, and their projected lack of free agent activity almost certainly ensures they’ll reap a compensatory selection in 2020 if Tate leaves via the open market.
- The Montgomery trade is a horse of a different color, as the Packers likely felt forced to deal Montgomery after he allegedly went rogue by taking a kickoff out of the end zone (and subsequently fumbling) against the Rams on Sunday, depriving Aaron Rodgers a chance at a late game comeback. As Michael Silver of NFL.com detailed, Green Bay veterans were understandably flabbergasted by Montgomery’s decision, so his departure could be viewed as addition by subtraction. That doesn’t mean Montgomery can’t be effective for the Ravens, however, as he can contribute in the passing game, the running game, and on special teams.
- The Rams didn’t exactly need more help getting after opposing quarterbacks given that they’ve managed a league-high 39.2% pressure rate. Los Angeles is getting most of that pressure from the interior (see: Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh), but outside linebackers Samson Ebukam and Matt Longacre are also playing well despite not being household names. Fowler, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft, is in the midst of his best season to date, and he’ll now likely be asked to rush from a stand-up, outside ‘backer position instead of his usual 4-3 defensive end spot. Jacksonville had already declined Fowler’s 2019 fifth-year option, so the Rams don’t have to worry about another high salary hitting their books next year.
- In terms of player-for-player upgrade, perhaps no team did better on Tuesday than the Redskins. Clinton-Dix, who ranks as Pro Football Focus‘ fifth-best safety in 2018, will be replacing Montae Nicholson, whom PFF grades a bottom-three defensive back league-wide. Washington already ranks ninth in pass defense DVOA, and the club only figures to improve after acquiring Clinton-Dix from Green Bay. Clinton-Dix is scheduled to become a free agent next spring, and while he almost certainly wouldn’t agree to an extension before hitting the open market, the Redskins do have the option of using the franchise tag to keep him around. Washington doesn’t have any other obvious franchise tender candidates, and the salary for safeties should only be worth ~$10MM.
So what do you think? Which team made the best acquisition on Tuesday? Vote below and leave your additional thoughts in the comments section! (Link for app users.)