Remember when the NFL was a no-trade league?
Not any more.
There were two deals Monday that were, by NFL standards, blockbusters. The Seattle Seahawks traded for Duane Brown, the three-time Pro Bowl left tackle for the Houston Texans. The New England Patriots sent Tom Brady’s well-regarded backup at quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, to the San Francisco 49ers.
What is this, baseball?
And is there more to come Tuesday?
The Brown and Garoppolo trades shook up both the league’s balance of power this season and its quarterback market this coming offseason. The effects of both deals could be significant and widely felt.
The deals also raised the prospect that other teams will feel compelled to do something by the leaguewide trading deadline of 4 p.m. ET Tuesday.
The thinking in front offices around the league for many years was that trades weren’t a particularly viable way to build an NFL roster. This wasn’t baseball, after all, in which a new pitcher simply could be plugged into the starting rotation or a new hitter could be penciled into the lineup and everyone could do their thing and go from there. There were systems to be learned and schemes to be mastered and considerations about how all the pieces fit together … and on and on and on.
That was the NFL’s old way of thinking. The new way, apparently, is that teams indeed can be put together on the run when circumstances dictate and major trades are in play, even during the season.
So now the run-up to the NFL’s trading deadline resembles, at least a bit, what happens in baseball, with contenders scrambling to add the final piece of a championship puzzle and non-contenders looking to the future.
The Seahawks unquestionably got better Monday. Quarterback Russell Wilson too often has had to try to make things work behind offensive lines that were not up to the task of safeguarding him properly. That could change dramatically with the addition of Brown, who played only one game for the Texans this season after holding out in a contract dispute. The Seahawks have upped the ante considerably in the chase for the NFC’s Super Bowl spot.
Will the Philadelphia Eagles respond with a move of their own Tuesday? They lost their left tackle, Jason Peters, to a season-ending knee injury. They lack a true No. 1 wide receiver. There has been speculation that the Indianapolis Colts, in the midst of a lost season, could trade wideout T.Y. Hilton, offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo or others on their roster. Could there be a match there?
The Patriots need a backup quarterback behind Brady unless they sign Brian Hoyer, who was being released by the 49ers in conjunction with Garoppolo’s arrival. The Patriots also need help on defense, particularly in their front seven. They have been plagued by injuries at wide receiver and could use some depth at tight end behind Rob Gronkowski. Let the shopping begin.
Wide receiver Martavis Bryant wants to be traded by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
There has been trade speculation regarding tight ends such as Detroit’s Eric Ebron and Seattle’s Jimmy Graham.
There even has been speculation in New York about the seemingly unthinkable possibility that the Giants would trade their two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, Eli Manning. The Jacksonville Jaguars, after all, have the unreliable Blake Bortles at quarterback. And they have former Giants coach Tom Coughlin in their front office. Why not? It’s not like Manning is getting back to another Super Bowl this season with the Giants.
In most NFL seasons, such talk would be easily dismissed as unrealistic. But after what happened Monday, nothing is so easily dismissed. Few in or around the sport saw a Garoppolo trade coming during the season.
The Patriots left themselves without a safety net at quarterback in the season in which Brady turned 40. They left themselves without a successor-in-waiting to Brady. They left themselves without even another quarterback on the roster, temporarily.
The 49ers landed their would-be franchise quarterback to be the centerpiece of their rebuilding project under Coach Kyle Shanahan and General Manager John Lynch. It came at the relatively inexpensive cost of a second-round draft pick next spring. The Niners didn’t have to wait to see if they could pry Kirk Cousins from the Washington Redskins in the offseason. They didn’t have to take a risk on a prized rookie in a 2018 NFL draft class that could include Sam Darnold of USC, Josh Rosen of UCLA and Josh Allen of Wyoming, among others.
Perhaps Tuesday will bring more moves. Maybe it won’t. It could be another dull NFL trade-deadline day, as most are.
But Monday’s flurry of activity produced surprise, excitement and intrigue. There was absolutely nothing wrong with that, even if it had NFL traditionalists wagging their fingers in disdain.
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