It’s not everyday we get a punter trade; per ProFootballReference, there have been four trades involving punters since 1994. On May 19, 2005, we hit the jackpot of punter-centric trades, as a pair of punters were LITERALLY TRADED FOR EACH OTHER.
That’s right: on this date 16 years ago, the Panthers sent Todd Sauerbrun to the Broncos, with Denver sending Jason Baker and a future seventh-round pick to Carolina (a selection that eventually turned into defensive end Stanley McClover).
At the time, this move seemed like a clear win for Denver. Sauerbrun, a former second-round pick, earned three-straight All-Pro nods between 2001 and 2003, and he set a number of Panthers punting records during his four years with the organization. However, by 2005, the veteran had worn out his welcome in Carolina. During the 2004 campaign, he publicly complained about his contract’s weight-limit clauses, he was cited for driving under the influence, and he was investigated for allegedly receiving steroids. So, by May of 2005, it wasn’t some giant revelation that Sauerbrun was on the trade block; the team had even made it clear that they’d just cut the punter in June.
Considering the Broncos special teams struggles, they emerged as a clear suitor. However, in the days leading up to 5/19/2005, there was some doubts that a deal would get done. Sauerbrun requested that the Broncos convert some of his base salary into a signing bonus, something that stalled the trade negotiations between the two front offices. However, the two sides ultimately pulled off the transaction.
While the Broncos proceeded to go 13-3 in 2005, Sauerbrun didn’t necessarily provide the consistency they were seeking. The veteran’s 43.8 yards per punt and touch back percentage were among the worst of his career, although he somewhat redeemed himself in the postseason when he forced a fumble on an Ellis Hobbs‘ kickoff return. The punter didn’t see the field for Denver during the 2006 season, and following a two-game stint with New England, he rejoined Denver in 2007 before calling it a career.
While the Panthers let go of a Pro Bowler in the trade, they ended up acquiring a future standout in the process. After having spent time with five different teams during his first four seasons in the NFL, Baker would proceed to spend the next eight seasons in Carolina following the trade. During that time, Baker set a number of his own franchise records, including punts (570) and punting yards (25,064). Baker also briefly held the distinction of being the NFL’s highest-paid punter.
We know, we know: punters don’t elicit a whole lot of excitement. However, when it comes to punter trades (especially a punter-for-punter trade), this one is hard to bear.