The NFL offseason period is one of the most exciting – and unpredictable – events on the sports calendar. Big name free agents are won through bidding wars and awarded huge contracts, while unexpected signings, cuts and trades are made. It’s a crucial period of time for all 32 teams and the moves made can affect a franchise for several years. While most eyes are on free agency and the NFL Draft, this is also the time of year when the trade window officially opens up again.
As we’ve seen this offseason anybody can get traded in the NFL, no matter what their perceived value to their team. LeSean McCoy, Jimmy Graham and Nick Foles are some of several starters that found themselves traded away in what must have been one of the sports world's most hectic news days in a while. Fans and analysts alike were surprised with all the activity and the apparent gold rush of big name trades. While those same fans and analysts eagerly await to see the impact these trades will have in September, here’s a look at some of the most shocking trades the NFL has seen.
14 Eli Manning for Philip Rivers
In a truly bizarre turn of events – though not at all unfamiliar to NFL fans – the San Diego Chargers found themselves with a talented young prospect at quarterback back in 2004. The only problem was he didn’t want to play in San Diego. Eli Manning was pretty adamant about that fact, and you could see it all over his face on draft day. He was pretty much sulking when standing next to Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. Never has anyone looked so sad to play in the NFL. On the Giants’ side of things they’d just drafted their own top tier QB prospect in Philip Rivers. The GM at the time, Ernie Accorsi, saw a situation similar to one that he’d faced when he drafted John Elway first overall all those years ago in Baltimore. The Giants struck a deal for Manning, but paid a huge price in return. San Diego received Rivers as well as first, third and fifth round picks from New York and the Giants have since won two Championships with Manning under center.
13 Jimmy Graham Gets Shipped to Seattle
This one’s still fresh, but the shockwaves of this deal will be felt well into the future. The tight end position has evolved greatly in recent years, from that of a blocker to a dangerous mismatch on the field. Jimmy Graham is one of the most dangerous and productive players at the position and apart from Rob Gronkowski, is one of the few elite tight ends in the league. Not only that, prior to this trade he was arguably New Orleans’ best player on offense. Now he’s gone and it looks like the Saints are in rebuilding mode. Graham was sent to the NFC champion Seattle Seahawks along with a fourth round pick. In return they received the 31st overall selection in this year’s draft and Pro Bowl center Max Unger. The Seahawks would’ve loved to have had Graham a month ago during their Super Bowl loss to the Patriots. Despite their success over the last couple of years Seattle lacked explosiveness at receiver. They’ve got it now in Graham.
12 Mike Haynes to the Raiders
During his time with the Patriots Mike Haynes was considered one of the best to play his position. A playmaker, Haynes was also an effective return man. His efforts as a Patriot earned him six Pro Bowl selection while in New England and he was considered to be the teams’ best player on the defensive side of the ball. At the age of thirty he was traded to the Raiders. New England received a first and second round pick in exchange and Haynes went on to win Super Bowl XVIII with Los Angeles and formed one of the leagues greatest backfield duos with teammate Lester Hayes.
11 Herschel Walker for Everyone Else
In the midst of rebuilding a franchise, Dallas head coach Jimmy Johnson traded away the team’s greatest offensive weapon in the hopes of putting together a winner. It worked. Dallas lost Walker along with a couple of third and mid-round draft picks, but received four veterans and eight draft picks including a few first and second rounders. The trade was a huge success for Dallas who used one of the picks to select Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith and another on safety Darren Woodson. Walker however burned out in Minnesota. He lasted only two seasons and never made much of an impact, eventually ending up back with the Cowboys a few years later.
10 Chip Kelly’s 2015 Tradeapalooza
Chip Kelly has been slowly reshaping the Philadelphia Ducks – er Eagles- to fit his philosophy. That point was made painfully clear to Eagles fans when he traded away the franchises leading rusher. LeSean McCoy is one of the top backs in the NFL, but not many running backs are worth a $10 million cap hit. By getting rid of McCoy, Kelly saved himself a bunch of cap room and gains a talented young linebacker in Kiko Alonso who played for Kelly in Oregon. The seemingly mad scientist-like Kelly then traded away QB Nick Foles to the Rams for injury prone Sam Bradford. Bradford was the 1st overall pick in 2010 and has played well when healthy, but has torn his ACL twice. It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out, but as of now Philly fans are out for blood.
9 Sam Huff Goes to Washington
Before Lawrence Taylor came into prominence, Sam Huff was one of the all-time greats to ever play linebacker in New York. Huff was the anchor that led the Giants championship defense that had helped the team win several championships in the 1950s and ‘60s. So it was a huge shock when he was traded to the division rival Washington Redskins. Huff and rookie George Seals were shipped off to the struggling franchise in exchange for defensive end Andy Stynchula, halfback Dick James, and a fifth round draft pick. More shocking than the trade itself, is the little value the Giants received, making it a huge steal for Washington.
8 Jay Cutler Gets Thrown Out of Denver
Disgruntled with head coach Josh McDaniels, former Broncos QB Jay Cutler made it very clear that he wanted out of Denver. The deal took place after McDaniels tried to acquire the Patriots passer Matt Cassel. Cutler was only 25 at the time and had made his way to a couple of Pro Bowls. That kind of talent doesn’t hit the open market very often in the NFL, a QB in their prime is a very rare thing to see on the trade block. With several teams inquiring and a hefty price tag, Denver traded Cutler to the Bears in exchange for two first round picks, one third round pick and QB Kyle Orton. Though he was young at the time, Cutler is now old and making too many mistakes. The Broncos moved on from Orton and are doing pretty well with Peyton Manning at the helm.
7 New Orleans Gives Up Their ’99 Draft Class for Ricky Williams
No one player, no matter how talented, is worth an entire draft class. Teams use the draft to find and develop young players with the hope that they can contribute to the team, some sooner than others. When Mike Ditka traded away his entire 1999 draft along with a first and third round pick in the 2000 draft to the Washington Redskins to select Ricky Williams, he cost the Saints a number of potential contributors and placed a ridiculous amount of pressure on Williams. Similar to the Herschel Walker trade, Washington used their picks to select future stars like Champ Bailey and LaVar Arrington while Williams never lived up to the hype that came with being the guy Mike Ditka gave an entire draft class to get.
6 Browns Move Richardson to Indianapolis After One Season
After a successful rookie season in 2012, the Cleveland Browns traded Trent Richardson to the Colts in a move that left fans and analysts stunned. Richardson was seen as one of the best prospects since Adrian Peterson came into the league but was traded nonetheless. The trade itself happened two games into the 2013 season, with the Colts giving up a first round pick in the 2014 draft. Richardson hasn’t been effective in Indy and has been plagued by weight issues. The former top five pick was recently cut and left the Colts with nothing but bitter memories.
5 Eric Dickerson Wears Blue
Another blockbuster trade that blew up in the Colts’ face. Just a year after outing up over 2,000 yards with the Rams, Eric Dickerson was traded late into the 1987 Season. It was a three way trade between the Rams, Colts and Bills. In exchange for their star player the Rams received a total of six draft picks from the Colts and Bills (three 1st rounder’s and three 2nd rounder’s). At first the deal seemed to play out well for all sides, but Dickerson’s production as a Colt quickly declined and he was out of Indy a few years later.
4 Bobby Layne Curses the Lions
Before Broadway Joe gained a reputation for his off-field antics and dazzling lifestyle, there was Bobby Layne. For years Layne dominated the league, making Detroit a contender. However things would start to shift during the 1956 season when Layne was injured during the last game of the season. The injury drove Detroit to trade for Tobin Rote, the league’s leading passer in 1956. Rote would go on to lead the Lions to a championship after Layne injured his ankle. The following season, the two split time as the Lions used a rotational system at quarterback similar to what Tom Landry did with Roger Staubach and Craig Morton in Dallas years later. Two games into the 1958 season, Detroit traded away their franchise QB to Pittsburgh in exchange for two draft picks and veteran passer Earl Morrall. The move shocked the Detroit sports scene and continued to haunt the franchise years after.
3 John Elway Changes Teams After the Draft
Much like the Eli Manning situation, John Elway wasn’t happy after the Baltimore Colts made him the first overall selection in the 1983 draft. Elway was so adamant about not playing in Baltimore he threatened to leave football in favor of a career in baseball. At the time, he was playing in the Yankees minor league system and seemed to have leverage over the Colts. Though he was one of the most talented QB prospects to come into the NFL in a while, the Colts had no choice but to trade the disgruntled Elway. Denver jumped on the opportunity, gladly paying the bargain price of Mark Herrmann, Chris Hinton and a 1st round pick in the 1984 draft.
2 Brett Favre Comes Out of Retirement and Heads to the Big Apple
Brett Favre was beloved by the city of Green Bay throughout the entirety of his storied tenure with the Packers, and like all good things it had to end. Except Favre didn’t know how to call it quits. Initially retiring after the 2007 season, Favre stunned everyone as he announced his return to the gridiron shortly after. The Packers, now willing to move on with Aaron Rodgers at the helm, had no room for Favre – who insisted on being a starter – on their roster. So Favre was dealt to the Jets for what ended up being a 3rd round pick. His short stint as a Jet started off great, but age as well as his tendency to turn the ball over caught up with him towards the end of the season. More shocking was what followed afterwards; another retirement followed by another comeback that created the media circus dubbed “Favre Watch.”
1 Joe Montana Leaves San Francisco
After a string of injuries, the 49ers did the unthinkable and traded away franchise QB Joe Montana. Well, unthinkable is a bit of a strong word. In all honesty, ridding yourself of a 37-year-old coming off back-to-back injury riddled campaigns seems like a smart choice. But still, it’s Joe Montana. A four-time Super Bowl champ, Montana was beloved by fans and teammates alike. The 49ers were ready to hand the keys over to Steve Young who’d played admirably while filling in for Montana. They got great value for the future Hall of Fame player, who ended up leading the Chiefs to an AFC Championship.