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Ten Thoughts on the NFL: Trade Deadline

Reactions to all the big trades

Buffalo Bills v Washington Commanders Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

1. The Chicago Bears sent their 2024 second round draft choice to the Washington Commanders for Montez Sweat. The 27-year old EDGE defender was a first round choice of the Commanders in 2019. He’s been a durable player, only missing time in 2021 with a fractured jaw - not exactly a common injury or one to worry about. An excellent run defender, Sweat has plenty of juice as a pass rusher with 35.5 career sacks and well over 100 QB pressures.

Sweat will need a new contract and this move only makes sense if that extension is signed, sealed, and delivered in the near term. One would assume the Bears will announce it soon. The moribund pass rush of the Eberflus era should get a significant boost with Sweat for the remaining games of the season, but this is a versatile defender that should fit in with whatever regime is in charge next season. It may be an incongruent move with a squad sitting at 2-6 and a coaching staff sitting on scorching hot seats, but it’s hard to see a downside to adding a good EDGE defender entering his prime.

2. The San Francisco 49ers added the other Commanders EDGE defender in Chase Young for a 3rd round pick. Assuming the 49ers recover from their October swoon, the pick should be later in the third round compared to the early second rounder the Bears paid for Sweat. The difference is clearly the confidence in the knee for Young and his long-term ability to stay healthy. The former 2nd-overall pick has had plenty of trouble staying on the field since his second season and the Commanders willing to let him go for a late 3rd should speak volumes about Young’s health risk.

For the 49ers, Young doesn’t have to play the same level of snaps he was playing in Washington as he joins a talented defensive front. The 49ers are pushing more chips in the middle to try and cash in on this talented roster and had plenty of extra draft capital to use on Young. Minimal risk, high reward for a player that has the talent to impact big games down the stretch.

3. As for the Commanders, the identity of that team was stacking up a tremendous defensive line. With Sweat due a contract extension and the Commanders not picking up Young’s 5th year option, there was always going to be a conflict of which defender to keep and which one to let walk or move at the trade deadline. In the end, the Commanders chose to move both and amass more capital for 2024.

I like the mentality, understanding that the club isn’t likely to push for a significant number of wins this season and a new coaching staff likely to give this franchise a fresh start next year, stack some chips for the draft. They may like to make a splash at the quarterback position or build up the offensive line in front of Sam Howell, who currently leads the league in sacks taken. These moves can help reallocate resources invested from the defense to the offense.

4. The Seattle Seahawks sent 2nd and 5th round draft picks to the New York Giants for Leonard Williams. A former first round draft choice of the New York Jets, this is now the second time Williams has been traded in his career. The first time, he would’ve been able to keep his apartment. This time, it’s a cross country flight. Bring your raincoat.

It’s a big swing for the Seahawks but you can see why they made the move. The NFC remains wide open and with the 49ers on a skid, the NFC West is up for grabs. Pete Carroll sees a window and is going to use whatever he can to keep it pried open for the Hawks to make a surprise run.

5. The Philadelphia Eagles acquired Kevin Byard from the Tennessee Titans for a couple of late round selections. This is typical Howie Roseman finding a way to add value to his squad. Byard had a great career for the Titans, earning two First Team All Pro seasons. This is another team that’s all-in on this year and who cares about the future when you’re hunting for a ring? The Eagles remain the frontrunners in the NFC.

6. Josh Dobbs gets traded...again, this time to the Minnesota Vikings. After losing Kirk Cousins for the year, the Vikings were able to grab Dobbs, who had guided the Cardinals to a 1-7 start, for minimal capital. You’ll remember that Dobbs was traded to the Cardinals from the Browns about five minutes before the season started. What a strange year for him.

The Vikings also moved on from starting guard Ezra Cleveland, pulling back a late round choice from the Jaguars. Cousins pulled them out of the tailspin they started off the year with by winning three straight, improving to 4-4. Now, with the season all but lost, Vikings fans may now be refreshing Tankathon as often as Bears fans as they look for their QB of the future.

7. The Buffalo Bills sent a third round pick to the Packers for Rasul Douglas and a fifth round pick. It’s good return for the Packers in a lost year for them and it helps the Bills bolster their secondary as they make yet another run in the AFC. The Bills lost Tre’Davious White earlier this season to a torn Achilles and have been active in the market. Rumors had attached the Bills to Jaylon Johnson up close to the deadline, so Douglas was likely the consolation prize.

8. The Detroit Lions picked up Donovan Peoples-Jones from the Cleveland Browns for a 2025 fifth rounder. It’s a small risk on a Detroit-native to play for the hometown team. I’m a sucker for those kind of stories and the Lions could use a player like Jones to help stretch the field.

And yes, I’m getting sick of saying “smart move” for the Lions but here we are.

9. Plenty of smoke over the last few weeks about some players that were on the block but ultimately were not moved at the deadline. Some big names staying put include Davante Adams, Brian Burns, Saquon Barkley, Danielle Hunter, and Derrick Henry. I would have loved to have seen the Panthers sell off Burns and anything else that wasn’t stapled down, but alas, they held onto their talent.

Overall, the NFL trade deadline again lacks the heat of the MLB trade deadline, but there’s still some fun things that happen every year. It’s hard to expect a lot of players to have big impacts moving teams in the middle of the season, but sometimes these moves do have big impacts down the stretch. I hope we continue to see teams get more aggressive at the deadline.

10. The Bears gave Jaylon Johnson permission to seek a trade near the deadline but ultimately did not move him despite receiving offers. Johnson says he won’t engage in contract negotiations until after the season is over. None of us knows the whole story of the contract negotiations between Johnson’s camp and the Bears. This does make two years in a row, however, that Ryan Poles had his best defensive player want out of Chicago. Let’s hope this gets rectified and doesn’t emerge as a pattern.

For what it’s worth, Johnson would have been my top priority to re-sign at the beginning of the year. He’s a good player at a premiere position entering his prime. I understand the risk with the shoulder injuries but I’m more focused on the reward of the anchor a top corner can give any defense. The Bears still have gobs of cash to spend for the 2024 season and beyond and Johnson’s performance this year should put him at the top of the priority list for Poles.

Those are my thoughts - what are yours? Sound off in the comments below.