The NFL offseason has recently become almost as exciting as the actual on-field play, and this year took it to an all-new level of explosiveness. Fans love all of the dealings between franchises as well as the drama of the draft. Today, we’ll look at some of the most interesting and exciting blockbuster trades in NFL history.
These include intricate deals between multiple franchises. There are also major names no one expected to leave their teams. Furthermore, we’ll look back at some great trades that didn’t seem remarkable at the time. Check out the biggest blockbuster trades in NFL history via The Sportster here.
30. Matthew Stafford
Stafford stayed loyal to the Detroit Lions for a more than a decade. However, the former Georgia Bulldogs star ran out of patience in 2021. Stafford requested a fresh start with a new team and the Lions agreed to move on from their quarterback and traded him to the Rams. This was a blockbuster move for the L.A. franchise in their bid to reach and win a Super Bowl.
Detroit received Jared Goff, a pair of first-round picks, and a third-round pick for their star. In the end, it was a suitable deal for both parties. Stafford provided more impetus than Goff and helped the Rams to a home Super Bowl win. Meanwhile, the Lions had the chance to rebuild their team. Finally, Stafford won the Super Bowl ring after long years of suffering in Detroit (via Sports Illustrated).
Richter had a phenomenal NFL career. He was an eight-time Pro Bowler as well as a four-time All-Pro selection. Meanwhile, Richter was a part of one of the biggest blockbuster trades ever. The old New York Yanks selected him in the draft before the franchise collapsed and folded. Then he fell to the Dallas Texans before they traded him (via L.A Times).
It was a sensational piece of business because it was so complex. They accepted 11 players from L.A. in exchange for the linebacker. This remains the second-biggest deal for a single athlete in NFL history. The Rams came off on the right side of this because Richter was brilliant for them. He never won a Super Bowl but had a Hall of Fame career.
Yes, Owens made life a nightmare for his quarterbacks. Nonetheless, he was a brilliant player. He was electrifying for the Niners before his move to the Eagles. However, that trade was very complicated. It almost went to an arbitrator because of the fallout between the franchise and the player. In the end, it didn’t go that far. But this was a toxic situation for everybody.
San Francisco agreed on a trade with Baltimore in exchange for a second-round pick. Owens shut this down because he wanted to move to Philadelphia. Finally, the wideout achieved his move. The 49ers received Brandon Whiting and a fifth-round pick in a three-team trade. This was a blockbuster deal because of Owens’ profile. But San Francisco came off as the biggest loser (via Philadelphia Inquirer).
This blockbuster trade went down in 2019. The Rams began their crusade toward a Super Bowl by going after Ramsey. It appeared as though the Rams gave up the house for the cornerback. But in the end, it appears that they were the winners of this deal. That’s because the Jaguars wasted the opportunity to use everything they gained (via Yahoo Sports).
Jacksonville received a pair of first-round picks as well as a fourth-rounder. However, the Rams value developed players over potential. Yes, it may mean chaos for their salary cap in the future. Nonetheless, it helped them win a Super Bowl. Ramsey went to the Pro Bowl in back-to-back seasons before winning a ring. There’s little doubt that the Los Angeles Rams won this one.
Mack is one of the best defensive players of his generation. It’s a shame that he hasn’t played for a franchise that maximized his talents. For some reason Jon Gruden didn’t want him and traded him to the Bears in a blockbuster exchange. This was a massive trade that saw Oakland receive a pair of first-round picks amongst others (via NBC Sports).
Chicago gave up a lot of draft capital in their pursuit of Mack. Meanwhile, they even made him the highest-paid defensive player ever at the time. However, it’s debatable who won this deal. The Bears failed to make the most of their truly elite talent. He put in Pro Bowl performances but the rest of the team didn’t step up. Finally, he changed teams again in 2022 when the Chargers acquired him.
Cutler never became the bonafide franchise quarterback Chicago expected. The Bears traded for him in a complex blockbuster deal in 2009. The Broncos were happy to move on after the arrival of Josh McDaniels. Meanwhile, Cutler believed he was a perfect fit for the Windy City. In the end, the Bears just treaded water for a few years (via USA Today).
This three-way trade saw the Broncos receive Kyle Orton and multiple picks. Cutler had a mediocre first season in Chicago as they missed out on the playoffs. However, he improved the following year and the Bears won the NFC North. Then a thumb injury affected him and he never properly recovered. It’s a tale of what could have been for the franchise.
McNabb was the Eagles’ starter for 11 years. He never won a Super Bowl but the franchise probably should have within this period. The closest he came was in 2005 when they lost by four points to the Patriots. McNabb had a tumultuous relationship with the city of Philadelphia. Finally, they traded him to a divisional rival in the Redskins in 2011.
The blockbuster trade saw the Eagles receive a second-round pick as well as another conditional one. However, it was an unmitigated failure. McNabb lost his starting spot to Rex Grossman as he flopped. It was disappointing for the franchise in their pursuit of a franchise quarterback. Meanwhile, the Eagles replaced him with a returning Michael Vick (via Washington Post).
Here is one of the most controversial trades in recent history. There’s no denying that Watson is an elite quarterback but his character is questionable. The Cleveland Browns pursued him in the middle of his highly-publicized legal issues. They swapped three first-round as well as three more for the Houston star. This also left Baker Mayfield out in the cold (via Fox News).
Fans resented this because they didn’t want an alleged sexual abuser leading their team. Meanwhile, there were real fears of an NFL suspension. That’s why the Browns guaranteed him just one million dollars in his first year. That’s wild because his five-year blockbuster contract is worth $230 million. It’s one of the craziest situations ever but it is fascinating.
This remains one of the strangest and worst trades in history. To call it a blockbuster may be a stretch but the Bears did give up a first-round pick. Yes, they gave up the 11th overall pick to take a draft bust off the hands of the Seahawks. Mirer was terrible for Seattle before he arrived in Chicago. To be fair, at least he was consistent because he was garbage in the Windy City too.
However, the Bears were desperate for a quarterback. It was like dating an ex’s best friend. At the time it probably seems like a great idea. But then they bring a load of baggage with them. In the end, Mirer only played three games for the Bears before they offloaded him to Green Bay. Then, he bounced around the NFL for the rest of his career (via Fansided).
Williams was the focus of one of the dumbest blockbuster trades in history. Mike Ditka became the Saints’ head coach in 1999 and decided he wanted the Longhorns’ running back. For some reason, the Super Bowl-winning coach believed that Williams was a potential game-changer. That’s why he traded all of the Saints’ picks to move up seven spots (via NBC Sports).
In sum, he handed over eight picks including first and second-round picks for the following season. Even if it worked out, it’s still a crazy amount for a running back. But it didn’t go well and Ditka lost his job after a 3-13 season. Meanwhile, Williams never lived up to his potential. He had a decent NFL career. It’s a shame that he had this puzzling trade hanging over him.
Tom Brady blazed out of nowhere to leave the Patriots in an enviable position. They had a franchise-defining choice ahead of them. They could make a recuperated Drew Bledsoe their starter again. Or they could fully back Brady and make him their franchise quarterback. Bledsoe was one of the league’s better signal-callers, so this wasn’t a clear-cut call.
In the end, they reached a deal with the Bills to trade Bledsoe. It was a blockbuster deal that saw the Pats receive a first-round pick in exchange. The Patriots were the clear winners because of Brady’s magnificent career. He won six Super Bowls in New England. Meanwhile, Bledsoe never even made the postseason during his time in Buffalo (via Sporting News).
Beckham became a genuine superstar during his five seasons with the Giants. He made the Pro Bowl three consecutive years before injuries slowed him down. Meanwhile, his diva attitude rubbed the team up the wrong way. Finally, a season after signing a massive contract, they decided to cut their losses. The Cleveland Browns swooped in a blockbuster trade (via Yahoo Sports).
The Browns gave up two players as well as first and third-round picks for the wideout. Many people thought that this was a brilliant move. But it turned out to be a bad deal because Beckham spent too much time injured. Meanwhile, he failed to build a connection with Baker Mayfield. In the end, they released him. He joined the Rams and instantly won a Super Bowl.
This wasn’t a blockbuster trade in terms of the outlay. But we’re talking about Montana leaving San Francisco so of course it was massive. Steve Young usurped Montana as the 49ers’ starter after the latter’s injury. He didn’t want to be a backup for the remainder of his career. That’s why he forced the franchise into choosing between him and Young (via Kansas City).
In the end, the 49ers went with the younger man. They traded him to Kansas City in exchange for a couple of draft picks. Montana was decent for the Chiefs as helped them to a couple of postseason appearances. It was strange to see him playing for another franchise like when Tom Brady joined the Bucs. Some players have such a strong association with a team that it’s shocking when they move.
It’s wild but this was a blockbuster trade at the time. Palmer had a major contract dispute with the Bengals and demanded a trade. Cincinnati didn’t want to lose their star quarterback. But the rise of Andy Dalton forced their hand. They decided that he was the future and agreed to move Palmer on. Oakland sent a first and second-round pick to the Bengals for the quarterback (via Fansided).
That second-rounder could have even become a first-rounder but there was no fear of that happening. This trade was a disaster for the Raiders because the team only won eight games in two seasons. Palmer failed to repay their faith and many people thought that his career was over. However, a move to Arizona revitalized him. He continued to play at a high level for another five seasons.
The Packers have enjoyed some brilliant quarterbacks down through the years. However, Hadl wasn’t one of them. Yes, he was excellent for the Rams, but he was past his best in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, Green Bay gave up a lot of draft capital to sign him. It was a blockbuster deal that saw the Rams receive five draft picks in exchange for the QB (via Sportscasting).
Many teams waste draft picks after trading one of their best players. But the Rams used these wisely and invested in players that helped them to reach a Super Bowl. Meanwhile, Green Bay failed to blossom. Hadl went 7-16 as a starter and didn’t last long. It took years before they had another decent QB. This shows why teams are always desperate for a great signal-caller.
Lynch was one of the greatest running backs of his generation. At least, he was when he played for the Seahawks. But things didn’t go as well for ‘Beast Mode’ in Buffalo. He lost his place as a starter and it looked as though his potential was dissipating. After a pair of 1,000 yard seasons, Lynch declined. Then Fred Jackson took his place consistently.
Buffalo traded him to Seattle for a fourth and a fifth-round pick. In the end, it became a gigantic steal for the Seahawks because Lynch reemerged in a massive way. However, Buffalo didn’t have anything to gain by keeping him. That’s because he wasn’t the right fit for the franchise. The change of scene helped him to become a blockbuster superstar (via The Athletic).
The NFL has seen some freak athletes down through the years. Matson took this to the next level as one of the greatest of his era. We’re not saying that he was the best football player. But in terms of athletic potential, he was out on his own. Matson was an Olympic gold medallist before the Cardinals drafted him. The running back won a pair of golds in Helsinki (via USA Today).
He enjoyed a strong NFL career with six Pro Bowl appearances. Many people also consider him to be one of the best players of the ’50s. Then the Rams swooped for him in 1958. Their crazy blockbuster trade saw them hand nine players to Chicago in exchange for Matson. An immediate decline set in and Matson never made the Pro Bowl game. Nor did the Rams make the Super Bowl.
Jones is one of the best players in Atlanta Falcons history. They gave the Browns an arm and a leg to get him and it proved to be a wise decision. Cleveland gained first, second and fourth rounds pick in 2011. They also received first and fourth-round picks in 2012. However, Jones repaid them by developing into arguably the franchise’s greatest-ever receiver.
He led the NFL in receiving yards twice and was also a seven-time Pro Bowler. Jones should have had a Super Bowl ring in his collection too. This blockbuster trade was massive at the time. Some analysts believed that it was a high risk for Atlanta. In the end, they made the right choice. Despite all of their gains, the Browns became even worse (via Bleacher Report).
It’s easy to forget that Favre didn’t start his career in Green Bay. The Atlanta Falcons made him their second-round pick in 1991. However, the rookie had a difficult first season and the Falcons gave up on him. They traded him to the Packers for a first-round pick the following year. This was incredibly short-sighted because Favre had potential.
In the end, he made a mockery of their decision. Favre famously won a Super Bowl with Green Bay and became a true star. He helped them to the postseason many times and was one of the league’s best quarterbacks. Favre was also part of another blockbuster trade when he joined the New York Jets. That came after the Packers went all-in on Aaron Rodgers (via Madison.com).
Vick was one of the first truly great rushing quarterbacks. He was a breath of fresh air for Atlanta before his disturbing dogfighting scandal. However, this elite QB was initially out of the Falcons’ reach. They moved up the draft to pick him by trading with the Chargers. In the end, they gave up a lot but it was a deal that made sense for the franchise (via Athlon Sports).
This blockbuster trade saw the Chargers receive first and third-round picks in 2001. They also got a second-rounder for the following season and return specialist Tim Dwight. Meanwhile, they used one of the picks to draft LaDainian Tomlinson. In hindsight, this brought the trade up to the next level. Both teams were winners until Vick became a psycho and got arrested for his horrible behavior.
This was another Draft Day blockbuster trade. Polamalu spent his entire 12-year career with the Steelers. But in another scenario, he may never have played for them. That’s because the Chiefs had the first chance to pick him. However, they agreed on a massive trade with Pittsburgh for the legendary safety. The Hall of Famer joined after the Steelers gave up multiple picks.
Polamalu was a brilliant player. The two-time Super Bowl champion won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2010. Meanwhile, he retired with 770 tackles and 32 interceptions (via USA Today). Furthermore, he was an eight-time Pro Bowler as well. The American-Samoan had a glorious career and was a very popular figure.
Dickerson was one of the best backs in the NFL when he forced the Rams to trade him. This instigated one of the most complex blockbuster trades on this list. It involved three teams and directly influenced nine players. Meanwhile, draft picks flew around the league like bats with rabies. Dickerson got his move, but it was a convoluted arrangement.
The Colts traded players and picks to the Bills. In return, they received a first-round pick and Greg Bell. Then they traded Bell and a lot of draft capital to the Rams for Dickerson. We would go into detail but it would just make heads explode. In the end, Dickerson had two great seasons with the Colts before he declined and also made a lot of money (via Sportsnaut).
In 2005, Manning became a hot topic because everybody wanted him. The San Diego Chargers had the first pick but Manning didn’t want to go there. The Ole Miss star saw what happened to Ryan Leaf and was wary of the Chargers’ front office. Meanwhile, the Giants also needed a franchise quarterback. Manning was firm in his decision to never play for San Diego.
This left the Chargers in a difficult position because they wanted him badly. In the end, they accepted his bluff and made a blockbuster trade. New York gave them Philip Rivers as well as a pair of draft selections. The deal worked out for both players and franchises. Rivers became an eight-time Pro Bowler while Manning won a pair of Super Bowl rings in New York (via CBS Sports).
Elway is an NFL icon and Broncos’ royalty. He was also the first quarterback to refuse to play for the franchise that was set to draft him. We’re talking about the Colts in 1983 because they had the first overall pick. Naturally, they planned to draft the most exciting QB available. But Elway had no intentions of playing for the Colts. He was a dual-sport athlete and said he’d play professional baseball instead.
This left the Colts in an untenable position. They didn’t want to call his bluff because it could waste their pick. In the end, they traded him to Denver for a first-round pick and Chris Hinton. Elway became an instant star and helped his franchise to three Super Bowl appearances. It was a brilliant decision by the Broncos because they immediately became contenders (via Bleacher Report).
It appeared as though the Broncos and Aaron Rodgers were a match made in heaven. Then the Green Bay quarterback announced an insane extension with his franchise. Everything happened very quickly after this as Denver swooped for Wilson. This pleased fans because Wilson is one of the greatest quarterbacks in recent history (via ESPN).
Seattle received three players including quarterback Drew Lock and tight end Noah Fant. Meanwhile, the Broncos also gave up several draft picks. It meant that they had their first bonafide franchise QB since Peyton Manning. Furthermore, it brought the Pete Carroll-Wilson pairing to an end. It’s sad to see Wilson leave Seattle after 10 seasons with the Seahawks. But it’s exciting that he has a fresh start in the stacked AFC West.
Kansas City coach Andy Reid admitted that this trade was about the salary cap. He didn’t want to lose one of the league’s most dynamic talents. He admitted it will be difficult to see him catch passes for another team but that’s the nature of the business sometimes. It’s also one of the joys of the NFL that one team can’t just buy all of the best players instantly (via FOX News).
Moss is a legendary Hall of Famer. The wideout spent the bulk of his career with the Vikings before moving to the Raiders. Then the Patriots lured him to Foxborough for a late-career resurgence. Moss had a massive profile but many people thought that he was done. Oakland only received a fourth-round pick for the veteran but Moss rewarded Bill Belichick’s faith (via SBNation).
Some will say that this wasn’t a blockbuster trade because the Patriots didn’t give the Raiders anything. However, that misses out on the fact that Moss was a superstar. He also went on to have multiple 1000-yard seasons. In short, it’s probably the best fourth-round pick swap in history. This was a brilliant piece of foresight from Belichick and his team.
Faulk was a phenomenal running back with the Rams. But he started his career with the Colts where he was very good. It wasn’t until he moved to St. Louis that he took his game to the next level. This was a blockbuster trade where both sides gained a lot. Yes, the Rams received a vital member of their famed ‘Greatest Show on Turf.’ He played a crucial role in their future success.
Meanwhile, the Colts received Edgerrin James. The tailback also enjoyed a Hall of Fame career in Indianapolis and helped them to the postseason multiple times. In many cases, one team exploited another’s weakness. That could be their cap space or simply a player’s desire to move. However, this is a fine example of both franchises getting what they wanted (via Clutchpoints).
Rice is the greatest receiver in NFL history. He built his 21-season career in San Francisco but things could have worked out very differently. The Patriots had the first pick in 1985 but later agreed to trade with the 49ers. San Francisco sent three picks to New England to move up and snatch Rice. It proved to be a franchise-defining decision for the 49ers.
He was a three-time Super Bowl champion including an MVP performance. The 13-time Pro Bowler also led the NFL in receiving yards in six seasons. Meanwhile, Rice won the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award twice. The only thing he’s missing is the NFL MVP award but that’s often reserved for quarterbacks. This blockbuster trade instigated a glorious career (via Sportskeeda).
This remains the most one-sided and worst trade in NFL history. Walker was phenomenal for the Cowboys. This convinced the Vikings that he was the missing piece to help them win a Super Bowl. However, Minnesota should accept that they’re never going to win a ring. That’s because Walker’s form immediately dissolved after he arrived in a blockbuster trade. 18 players switched in this chaotic deal.
Meanwhile, Minnesota gave up everything to bring him North. Dallas received a pair of first-round picks and three second-round picks. Oh, and the Vikings also threw in a third-rounder for good measure. Walker stayed in Minnesota for two seasons without posting 1,000 yards. Then, the Cowboys won three Super Bowls in the space of four years when they built a dynasty off of the insane haul the Vikings had signed off on (via Fanbuzz).