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5 Franchise-Changing NFL Trade Deadline Deals

Dave Royse

This week’s NFL trade deadline came and went without much happening.

There was talk the New York Jets would deal Le’Veon Bell, but they didn’t. The Jets also were thought to be considering trading defensive back Jamal Adams to Dallas or Baltimore, but he ended up staying in New York, too. The Lions and Falcons reportedly discussed Atlanta sending RB Devonta Freeman to Detroit, but didn’t.

There was one high profile trade Tuesday as the Rams sent cornerback Aqib Talib and a fifth-round pick to the winless Dolphins for a future late-round pick, but Talib is on the injured list and won’t be back until Week 16.

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Since the late 1980s, the NFL hasn’t seen a lot of blockbuster deadline deals like Major League Baseball and the NBA routinely have. Nevertheless, here are five of the NFL’s biggest trade deadline deals.

1989 Herschel Walker

The Cowboys traded Walker at the height of his career, a year after he racked up more than 2,000 yards rushing and receiving, to the Vikings in a crazy deal that included 18 players and draft picks. While Walker was the star, several draft picks the Cowboys got were used or traded to help build the dynasty that won three Super Bowls in the 1990s. Among the players the Cowboys were able to draft because of the Walker trade were Emmitt Smith and Russell Maryland.

Cowboys Coach Jimmy Johnson called it the “Great Train Robbery” for the Cowboys.

1987 Eric Dickerson To The Colts

At the 1987 deadline the Rams sent Dickerson, just a couple years after his still-unsurpassed 2,105-yard rushing season, to the Colts. The blockbuster deal also included linebacker Cornelius Bennett going from Indy to the Bills and the Rams getting a slew of draft picks.

Dickerson would help the Colts to their first winning season and playoff appearance in a decade. The next year, he led the league in rushing, the first Colt to do so in more than 30 years. Bennett would be a key part of the Bills’ four AFC champion teams of the 1990s.

2017 Jimmy Garoppolo

This one looks even bigger now with hindsight, though it was a stunning deal at the time. The Patriots sent Tom Brady’s backup and heir apparent to the San Francisco 49ers for a late first round draft pick. For San Francisco, the upgrade at QB was immediately apparent, but Garoppolo then got injured and missed much of last year.

But it looks better now as the Garoppolo-led 49ers are 7-0 and a Super Bowl contender. (The only other undefeated NFL quarterback: Brady, still slinging in New England). The trade has a more complicated outcome on the Patriots’ side, because they used several of the draft picks they got to trade for other draft picks. NBC Sports earlier this year tried to figure out just how they fared.

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2010 Marshawn Lynch To The Seahawks

Buffalo traded Lynch to Seattle for two middle-round draft picks and Lynch promptly became "Beast Mode," evolving into a key piece of Seattle’s emergence as one of the best teams of the early part of this decade, with Super Bowl appearances in 2013 and 2014.

Some in Buffalo tried to make the case that the Bills did pretty well on the trade, but you’re probably not all that familiar with Tank Carder, who never actually played in a regular season game for the Bills, or Chris Hairston, who was mostly a reserve lineman.

2016 Kyle Van Noy To Patriots

New England got Van Noy and a seventh-round draft pick from the Lions, in exchange for a sixth round draft pick at the trade deadline. Since the draft picks were pretty close to a wash, that basically made Van Noy almost like a free player.

As New England Sports Network’s Doug Kyed wrote, the Patriots “absolutely stole” Van Noy from Detroit, and argued it was the “biggest steal of the Bellichick era.” Van Noy was a key part of the Patriots’ dominant teams of the last few years and played in three Super Bowls.

Photo credit: Matt McGee, Flickr

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