As usual, the 2023 NFL Trade Deadline left much to be desired. Sure, a couple of big names were moved to some contending teams, but the craziness that other sports leagues go through during that kind of day just isn’t a reality in football.
The good news? There were plenty of trades made over the last few weeks that allowed us to grade out some pretty simple winners and losers from this year’s deadline.
Let’s take a look at who impressed, and who looks foolish after another weird NFL Deadline has come and gone.
Winners – NFC Powers
When you look at the top teams in the NFC, you get around five teams that have a chance to make it to the Super Bowl this year. Four of those teams made massive deals over the last week to improve their chances in the NFL Playoffs.
Philadelphia traded for safety Kevin Byard. San Francisco acquired Chase Young. Seattle nabbed Leonard Williams. Heck, even the Lions grabbed Donovan Peoples-Jones. We can all laugh at the Cowboys for being the one conference power to NOT make a move, but the NFL’s top teams are certainly underrated on this side of the conference.
Essentially, while the AFC seemed to stand pact with their current teams, the NFC has become an arms race to the top. Buckle up – it’s going to get exciting.
Losers – Chicago Bears
Are the Chicago Bears the worst run team in the NFL? It certainly seems that way. Instead of stockpiling picks to improve the roster in 2024, general manager Ryan Poles decided that trading for an expiring contract in Montez Sweat made sense.
Now Sweat is still just 27 and is entering the prime of his career. To give up a second-round pick that is projected to be in the top 40 overall? Crazy. Potentially looking to move an All-Por caliber corner in Jaylon Johnson because you don’t want to give him a long-term deal? Absurd.
Chicago may not have moved Johnson at the deadline, but they now have two very good defensive players with no clear sign that they are willing to agree on contract extensions. This NFL Trade Deadline could have been a chance for the Bears to stay pact or at least help facilitate a top rebuild and they decided on neither.
Winners – Jacksonville Jaguars
When contending teams believe they have a chance to improve their Super Bowl stock, the more aggressive front offices usually come out like bandits. Other teams may not be high on Ezra Cleveland, but he’s graded out at an elite 73.8 grade per Pro Football Focus this year for Minnesota and only lost his job due to injury. Minnesota brought in Dalton Risner because of that, and it made a very good, and young guard expendable for just a sixth-round pick.
Teams that needed offensive line help (cough, our next team, cough) are going to be kicking themselves down the road for whiffing on him – even in a contract year.
Losers – New York Jets
We know that the Jets were trying to acquire a top receiver at the deadline. Names like Mike Evans and Davante Adams were top on the wishlist but neither was available by their respective teams. We also know that the organization was in desperate need of offensive line help. Jacksonville made the move for Ezra Cleveland while the Jets decided he wasn’t the right fit.
Not forcing a deal to be made is always a safe choice but for a Jets team that is trying to end the NFL’s longest playoff drought, something has to give. New York is 4-3, and has clear needs, but was unwilling to swing for the fences at another deadline. They didn’t even get deals done for aging veterans like Dalvin Cook or Carl Lawson.
Their passiveness could end up costing them another year of this extremely talented core.
Winners – Washington Commanders
Let me take you back through NFL history. In 1985, the Buffalo Bills hired Hank Bullough as their head coach with a pretty weak team. While the roster wasn’t big on talent, Bullough had to decide to keep his job and try to compete in an open AFC, or punt for down the road when a new coaching staff could be brought in. Bullough chose the latter, and Mark Levy was brought in the next year to lead the most dominant run in franchise history.
That’s sort of what Tuesday felt like in Washington.
The Commanders didn’t go through a full firesale at the NFL Deadline, but they did ship away their two best pass rushers on expiring deals. Netting a second and third-round pick for Chase Young and Montez Sweat protects the franchise for their future – just not for a coaching staff that is probably on its last legs.
By all accounts, it was ownership that pushed these moves forward, but still. The trades done yesterday could greatly help Washington get back to relevancy in the coming years by sacrificing the last few months of Ron Rivera.
Losers – Denver Broncos
Good god after all the awfulness the Broncos put on tape so far this season and they don’t even THINK to sell some of their top talent?! I think it’s clear that although Russell Wilson has not been bad numbers-wise this season, Denver will be in the QB market next year. Instead of recouping some of the lost draft picks from the Sean Payton and Wilson deals, the Broncos feel they have seen enough in their two-game winning streak to try and go for it. Even though they don’t have the tiebreaker with most teams ahead of them in the AFC.
Push – New York Giants
You’ve got teams who began a tear-down of their top talent. You’ve got teams that acquired top talent to try for a later NFL Playoff run.
Then there are the Giants.
New York is a mess at 2-6, has plenty of expiring contracts, and only traded Leonard Williams at the deadline. If Big Blue was smart, a lot more names would’ve had their contracts restructured to get them available in trades and finally off the hook.
Now, with one foot out on a rebuild, but no other major moves made, the Giants continue to be where no fan wants to be – NFL Purgatory. Getting a second-round pick for Williams is certainly not a bad move, but they should’ve been bigger sellers.