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Winners and Losers of the NFL Trade Deadline

A record 10 teams made deals on Tuesday, but not everyone can leave the day feeling happy

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

The NFL’s trade deadline was anything but quiet. Ten teams made 10 deals on Tuesday, the most ever for any trade deadline day. The Bills did some tweaking in their effort to put their roster over the top, the Dolphins bolstered their defense with star pass rusher Bradley Chubb, and even the Bears got some much-needed help for Justin Fields in the form of wideout Chase Claypool.

But not everyone can come away from Tuesday feeling happy. Some disgruntled players remain stuck on teams they wanted off of, and some squads weren’t able to strike deals for help they desperately need. Here are our winners and losers of the NFL trade deadline:

Winner: Miami Dolphins

Steven Ruiz: The Dolphins approached the trade deadline needing to address two big problems: a pass rush that couldn’t get to the quarterback without blitzing, and a run game that was leaving far too much meat on the bone. They can now cross both off their list. Two deadline-day deals brought in defensive end Bradley Chubb from Denver and running back Jeff Wilson from San Francisco. Chubb is the big pickup—costing Miami a first-round pick plus running back Chase Edmonds, who was one of the main culprits behind the team’s rushing issues. The 49ers traded Wilson in exchange for a fifth-rounder after Christian McCaffrey made him expendable. Based on the draft capital given up in these deals, it’s clear the Dolphins fancy themselves Super Bowl contenders and are officially GOING FOR IT.

The motivation behind the Chubb deal is obvious: The Dolphins can’t hit the quarterback with a straight four-man rush. Their 3.6 percent sack rate is 30th in the NFL this season, per TruMedia, and while blitzes have yielded a higher sack rate (8.8 percent), that has created holes for the defense on the back end. When blitzing, Miami is allowing 15 or more yards on 20.6 percent of dropbacks; that’s the highest rate in the league, per TruMedia. The addition of Chubb, who’s notched 5.5 sacks in eight games this season, will allow defensive coordinator Josh Boyer to dial back on the blitzes and play safer coverages in the secondary. Chubb will line up across from second-year end Jaelan Phillips, giving Miami two edge rushers who rank in the top 20 in the NFL in pressures.

The trade for Wilson could prove equally significant for the Dolphins offense. Miami’s running backs were dead last in Next Gen Stats’ rush yards over expected metric, which uses player tracking data to determine how much space was available to a running back on a given play, and how much they added beyond that. Wilson, on the other hand, leads the NFL in that metric:

The onboarding process shouldn’t be too hard for Wilson. He’s coming over from San Francisco, where Miami head coach Mike McDaniel served as offensive coordinator before getting the Dolphins job in February.

With two major holes filled, and Tua Tagovailoa back healthy after missing time due to a concussion, Miami could still make a run at the top seed in the AFC. It will likely have to beat the Bills in Buffalo to do that—and these two players should give the Dolphins a much better shot at doing so.

Loser: Aaron Rodgers

Rodger Sherman: Once upon a time, a legitimate complaint about the Green Bay Packers was that they weren’t committing enough resources to get Aaron Rodgers secondary options at receiver behind Davante Adams. Those were the days! So far in 2022, not only did the Packers pass on adding players around Adams, they dumped him completely, trading the All-Pro wideout to the Raiders in a blockbuster deal in March.

You had to figure they would add receivers in free agency after dealing Adams. Nope! What about a receiver-rich 2022 draft, where six receivers went in the top 20 picks? Not really! (They did use a second-round pick on Christian Watson, but Watson has only eight catches in five games and his most memorable play thus far has been a drop.)

Surely, they would do something at the trade deadline. They had to. They’re 3-5, tied for fifth in the NFL in drops (15) and are tied for most fumbles after catches (four). Pro Football Focus gives the Packers the 26th-best receiving grade in the league. On Sunday, their top two receivers against the Bills were both rookies picked on Day 3 of this year’s draft (fourth-rounder Romeo Doubs and seventh-rounder Samori Toure). Doubs has been solid, but that’s not a roster-building strategy for a team trying to win now. And I can’t stress this enough: Their quarterback is 38-year-old Aaron Rodgers. They need to try to win—right now.

But nope! Their plans were foiled. The Packers tried to trade for Claypool, but the Steelers took the Bears’ offer instead. Reportedly, Green Bay offered the same second-round draft pick as the Bears, but the Steelers took the Bears’ picks because Pittsburgh expects Chicago to finish with a worse record than Green Bay. (It’s the Bears’ first win over Green Bay since 2018, and they accomplished it by “being worse.”)

It’s a huge missed opportunity. Receivers were the biggest names on the board at this trade deadline—in addition to Claypool, Robbie Anderson and Kadarius Toney were dealt in recent weeks, and other receivers like Brandin Cooks, Elijah Moore, and Jerry Jeudy were reportedly on the market. It’s starting to feel like the Rodgers era in Green Bay will end without the team making meaningful upgrades to give him someone to throw to. Maybe they’ll win another Super Bowl the next time they have a Hall of Fame quarterback.

Winner: Minnesota Vikings

Ben Solak: On a day on which there was a ton of activity, T.J. Hockenson is comfortably the second-best player to be dealt, after Bradley Chubb. He may not be an elite tight end on the level of Travis Kelce or Mark Andrews, but Hockenson is a three-down player, and now lands on a Vikings team in need of a boost at tight end.

While Kirk Cousins has typically enjoyed quality tight end production in Minnesota, the loss of Tyler Conklin and struggles of Irv Smith Jr.—who is now expected to miss 8-10 weeks with a high ankle sprain—left the pass-catching tight end role vacant.

Hockenson replaces Smith and likely becomes Cousins’s second-best target behind star receiver Justin Jefferson. With Hockenson under contract through 2023, the Vikings will have time to see Hockenson integrate into their offense before making a decision on an extension, and the price they paid for him isn’t so much that they’re forced to sign him to a second deal. The short-term benefits without the sacrifice of too much long-term flexibility make this deal a clear win for a surprisingly strong Minnesota team in Year 1 of GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s tenure.

Losers: Disgruntled Players Who Stayed Put

Nora Princiotti: Despite the record-breaking volume of trades, there were still a few players who seemed to want to be traded whose teams couldn’t or wouldn’t move them before the deadline. Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks didn’t seem too happy when the deadline came and went for him and his team, tweeting this cryptic message out three minutes after it passed:

According to ESPN’s Ed Werder, the Cowboys inquired about trading for Cooks but didn’t get far in talks with Houston because of his $18 million salary. It’s easy to see why Cooks, who was absent from Houston’s practice Tuesday due to “personal reasons,” would want to be on a different team when the Texans are 1-5-1, but he also made this bed for himself after signing a two-year, $36 million extension with the team this past offseason when there wasn’t much reason to think the team would be competitive.

Along with Cooks, several running backs who have fallen down their teams’ depth charts were unable to find greener pastures. The Rams did not find a trade partner for Cam Akers, though given that Akers hasn’t played since Week 5, hasn’t practiced with the team for—you guessed it—“personal reasons” since Week 6, and has no guaranteed money left on his contract, he could be a cut candidate. The Broncos kept Melvin Gordon despite trading for Chase Edmonds, and the Browns never found a partner for Kareem Hunt, who did have his second-best game of this season by total yardage on Monday against the Bengals.

Winner: Justin Fields

Sherman: Chase Claypool has been doing a lot of wind sprints this year. At 6-foot-4 with a 4.42-second 40-yard dash, Claypool caught nine touchdowns as a rookie for the Steelers in 2020, four of them on go routes. But as Ben Roethlisberger’s arm strength quickly vanished, so did the need for a player best at getting open 30 yards downfield. The situation for Claypool didn’t improve after Roethlisberger retired, as hitting deep receivers is not exactly Kenny Pickett’s forte. According to TruMedia, Claypool is third in the NFL in go routes run this season with 86, but has just one reception on those routes. He’s just been running downfield and back to the huddle, over and over and over again.

All of that running might pay off for Claypool now that his quarterback is Justin Fields. Fields has struggled in his second year with the Bears, but he’s a spectacular athlete with a tremendous arm. He’s been throwing downfield bombs like this to receivers like Dante Pettis. When Chicago traded for Claypool on Tuesday, it paired a receiver who should be a great deep threat with a passer who should be a great deep ball thrower. It feels like a solid match.

More importantly, it’s a sign that the Bears are willing to invest in Fields. Last month, I wrote about how it was difficult to evaluate Fields’s poor play because Chicago had surrounded him with a questionable coaching staff, a league-worst receiving corps, and a league-worst offensive line. Yes, Fields looked awful early in the season—but you could put a future Hall of Famer behind that line and ask him to throw to those receivers, and they’d look like a bust. Fields’s supporting cast was so weak that it was impossible to even determine whether he had potential.

The most pressing question for the Bears right now is whether Fields can grow into an upper-level QB. And by trading for a target who seems to fit with Fields’s skill set, they’ve finally shown interest in answering that question. He now has one tool—it would be nice for him to have three or four, but one is a start. Let’s see what he can build.

Loser: The Carolina Panthers

Sherman: It seemed like the biggest seller of the 2022 season was going to be the Carolina Panthers. They fired head coach Matt Rhule after Week 5, then traded WR Robbie Anderson and RB Christian McCaffrey after Week 6. With a bad record, a lame duck interim coach, and some of their best talent already out the door, the Panthers were essentially declaring their season over. Every player on the roster seemed to have a price tag on them. But on Tuesday, Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated reported a deal that the Panthers were apparently not interested in: The Rams offered them at least two first-round picks for star defensive end Brian Burns … and the Panthers said no.

This isn’t about Brian Burns, who is a really solid player and currently ranked seventh in the NFL in QB pressures according to Pro Football Focus. He’s great! But two first-round picks. The Panthers didn’t even get a single first-rounder in exchange for McCaffrey—just one pick in each of the second, third, fourth, and fifth rounds. And they could’ve gotten two for Burns, who will be a free agent after next season.

There are some extenuating circumstances. The Rams have already traded away most of their draft picks in between now and the heat death of the universe, so these first-round picks would be in the 2024 and 2025 drafts. And the Rams tend to be good, so they might have been late first-rounders.

But still! Two first-round picks! The Panthers will be bad this year, and they’ll probably be bad next year. Why keep Burns for those two seasons instead of getting two massively valuable picks? Unless Burns is a franchise-type superstar who can dominate opposing offenses when the Panthers’ rebuild is complete, this seems like a missed opportunity.

Winner: Roquan Smith

Solak: In a few months, Roquan Smith will be a 25-year-old free-agent linebacker with multiple second-team All-Pro seasons under his belt. He will have multiple suitors offering market-level deals on the belief that he can bring impactful playmaking in every phase of linebacking: run defense, pass coverage, and blitzing. Those suitors will pay a premium for his youth and his leadership, as well.

This was going to be true whether or not Smith remained with the Bears this season—something that Smith evidently did not want to do, given his preseason “hold-in” and vocal frustrations with Chicago brass. So Smith is a winner because he got out of Chicago and to a Baltimore team with far better vibes.

Smith is also a winner because this Baltimore team gives Smith a shot to play for a contender—at least for the remainder of the season, and even for longer, should he re-sign with the Ravens this offseason. Baltimore’s defense started off flat under new DC Mike Macdonald, but they’ve been improving in the past few weeks. Roquan’s payday in 2023 is almost inevitable—his play in Baltimore for an actual contender should remind the league of that fact.

Winner: Gambling

Sherman: Last year, Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley got some bad odds. He placed some bets on the NFL, including some bets on the Falcons, and as a result was suspended for at least the entire 2022 season, forfeiting his $11 million salary. It seems like Ridley was a victim of his own recklessness rather than a criminal mastermind—he reportedly bet on the Falcons to win, and had stepped away from the team at the time. But rules are rules, and Ridley became the poster boy for the unintended consequences of the increasingly chummy relationship between the NFL and legalized gambling.

Ridley reportedly bet against the Jaguars—but luckily, they weren’t offended. They traded a couple of conditional picks to the Falcons for Ridley, a deal which could end up with a wide array of results. On the one hand, Ridley finished tied for fifth in the NFL in receiving yards just two years ago. But Ridley left the Falcons in 2021 to focus on his mental health and never came back to the team. His suspension is indefinite, and there’s no guarantee the NFL will let him back ahead of the 2023 season. It’s still up to Ridley and the NFL whether Ridley will even play for the Jaguars—let alone return to his pre-suspension form.

With so much uncertainty, the Jaguars cut an unusual deal with Atlanta. The two picks Jacksonville will send could be anything from a fifth- and a second-rounder to two sixth-rounders depending on whether Ridley plays, how well he plays, and whether he signs a second contract with Jacksonville when he becomes a free agent in 2024.

The Jags are betting that Ridley can be a top target for Trevor Lawrence, who has shown significant improvement in Year 2 with a competent coaching staff and at least one good wide receiver. But if Ridley doesn’t pan out, it won’t hurt them too badly. I’d say they got good odds.

Winner: The Legacy of Laremy Tunsil

Sherman: Laremy Tunsil is having a good year for the Houston Texans. He’s allowed just one sack on 269 pass-blocking snaps, and is ranked second among all starting offensive tackles in pass blocking by Pro Football Focus. Davis Mills doesn’t ever have to turn his massive neck to see how things are going behind his back; Tunsil is keeping him safe for the 1-5-1 Texans.

But Tunsil is going into the Miami Hall of Fame on the first ballot for the way he has completely turned around the Dolphins franchise. In 2019, the Dolphins capitalized on the abysmal trading skills of Bill O’Brien, the former GM and head coach of the Texans who would’ve gotten kicked out of your fantasy league years ago for accepting lopsided rip-offs from smarter GMs. The Texans gave the Dolphins two first-round picks and a second-rounder. The Texans promptly fell off a cliff, going 4-12 in 2020, meaning one of those first-rounders became the no. 3 pick in the 2021 draft. Then, the Dolphins traded that no. 3 pick to the 49ers, who were extremely eager to draft QB Trey Lance to replace Jimmy Garoppolo. (Unfortunately, that hasn’t worked out for San Francisco.)

After trading one of the first-round picks acquired in the Lance deal to the Broncos for Bradley Chubb on Tuesday, the Dolphins have essentially completed their return for Tunsil. It’s quite the haul:

  • Tyreek Hill, the NFL’s leading receiver, acquired with the Niners’ 2022 first-round pick
  • Bradley Chubb, who has 5.5 sacks in eight games, acquired for the Niners’ 2023 first-round pick
  • Jaylen Waddle, the NFL’s fourth-leading receiver, selected after a trade-up that involved the Niners’ first-round pick in 2021
  • Jevon Holland, a budding star at safety, selected with the Texans’ 2021 second-round pick
  • Noah Igbinoghene, a cornerback selected after a trade which involved Houston’s 2020 first-round pick

I am, to be fair, oversimplifying a bit. The Dolphins had to give up a second-round pick, two fourth-rounders, and a fifth-round pick to the Chiefs for Hill, and sent Chase Edmonds to the Broncos for Chubb while swapping a fourth-rounder for a fifth-rounder. But more or less, it’s fair to say the Dolphins turned Tunsil into one of the NFL’s best veteran receivers, one of the NFL’s best young receivers, a Pro Bowl edge rusher, and a starting safety. That’s a substantial part of a contending roster! All this for a guy the Dolphins got 13th on draft night because other teams were scared off by a picture of him wearing a gas mask and smoking a bong. I guess he’ll be wearing that mask on his Dolphins HOF plaque.