Art of The Trade: The Best and Worst NFL Trades of the Past Decade

Darren - May 4, 2023

Art of The Trade: The Best and Worst NFL Trades of the Past Decade

Darren - May 4, 2023

Every NFL fan would love to turn their franchise into a super team with many of the league’s best players. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way in the NFL because of cap space. Massive trades are relatively rare but that’s also why they’re so intriguing. Today we’ll look at some of the biggest trades of the past decade and see just how good or bad they were.

There’s usually a winner and a loser when it comes to big trades. Teams might think they’re releasing assets in a trade for guaranteed success but that’s not always the case as we saw with Russell Wilson in Denver. Meanwhile, some franchises traded picks so they could secure the draft spot they wanted. This also had a high volatility in terms of success. Check out which NFL trades of the past decade worked out and which ones fell flat here.


Alex Smith

The Niners went all-in on Colin Kaepernick and traded Smith to the Chiefs in 2013. It was a deal that made sense for both parties because Kansas City needed a starter. Meanwhile, the trade gave San Francisco more options in the Draft. They received a second-round and third-round pick in exchange for the quarterback (via NBC Sports).


In the end, this was one of the better trades of the past decade. Smith didn’t set the world on fire but he was a reliable option as he helped the Chiefs to four postseason appearances in five years. Meanwhile, his presence helped Andy Reid to develop Patrick Mahomes into the current best quarterback in the league after they redshirted the former Texas Tech star for his rookie season.

Sky Sports

Carson Wentz

It’s difficult to know where to start with Wentz because it’s been an unmitigated disaster recently. The Eagles traded up the 2016 Draft for the quarterback after he impressed for North Dakota State. Wentz was on pace for an MVP year and helped the Eagles reach the Super Bowl in 2017. But Nick Foles stole his thunder, winning the title after Wentz hurt his knee late in the regular season. Then his career went downhill like a landslide (via Indy Star).

Sports Illustrated

Wentz’s production decreased and he began throwing interceptions like frisbees to a dog. Eventually, Jalen Hurts usurped him as Philly’s starter and they traded him to the Colts. Indy gave up two picks for the QB but he didn’t show any consistency. Then they traded him to Washington where he struggled again. It’s one of the craziest stories of the past decade.

Bay Area News

Jimmy Garoppolo

In 2018, the 49ers swooped to snatch ‘Jimmy G’ from the Patriots. This came against Bill Belichick’s wishes because he wanted to keep the quarterback. Garoppolo impressed in flashes for the franchise and Belichick reportedly saw him as Tom Brady’s long-term replacement. The problem was that it seemed like Brady wasn’t going anywhere soon.

NBC Sports

Finally, the Patriots agreed to send him west in exchange for a second-round pick. It was a relatively good deal because Garoppolo became their starter for the next half a decade. However, he never convinced everybody that he was the answer. Yes, they had a Super Bowl appearance with Jimmy G. under center but he was far from the best in the league (via Bleacher Report).

AP Photo

Patrick Mahomes

It’s important to remember that the Chiefs didn’t technically need a quarterback when they drafted Mahomes. They had Alex Smith under center who helped them to four postseason appearances and was a safe pair of hands. But the team also needed a little bit more from the position to get them over the postseason hump. They identified Mahomes as a generational talent and traded up in the draft for the Texas Tech star.

The Sports Rush

They traded two 2018 picks as well as their 2019 first-round pick to Buffalo to secure Mahomes. It’s safe to say that this was the smartest piece of business of the past decade. Mahomes has already led the franchise to two Super Bowl wins including their first in 50 years. He also made the Pro Bowl every season as a starter and won two regular-season MVP awards (via

New York Post

DeAndre Hopkins

On paper, this was one of the worst trades of the past decade because the Cardinals robbed the Texans. They stole Hopkins from Houston in exchange for a 2020 second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick. Meanwhile, they also threw David Johnson into the mix for good measure. We’re not exactly sure why, but the Texans accepted.

AZ Central

This was also one of the reasons why Deshaun Watson didn’t want to play for the franchise anymore. They gave away one of his best weapons for next to nothing. This wasn’t one of the biggest trades in terms of pieces. But Hopkins had outstanding name value and was in the prime of his career. He also made the Pro Bowl again in his first season in Glendale (via Clutchpoints).


Lamar Jackson

Nobody thought that this would be one of the biggest trades of the past decade when it happened. But the Baltimore Ravens saw something in Jackson that other franchises overlooked. They capitalized on their gamble to sign a future MVP. However, first, they had to work out the details with the Eagles (via Bleacher Report).


On the face of it, Baltimore didn’t give up much to secure Jackson’s services. They gave Philadelphia second and fourth-round picks to move up the Draft and snatch the player. Remember, many critics thought that Jackson was a glorified running back. He still carries that label to some degree but he’s proven his skills on the field, becoming the highest-paid player in NFL history in the process.

Emmanuel Sanders

An experienced wide receiver is valuable to any team. That’s why the Niners wisely decided to bring him to San Francisco. They gave up several picks for the veteran as they lured him from Denver. Sanders was productive during his time in Mile High City but suffered from injuries during his late career (via Fox News).


Some analysts thought that the 49ers took a big risk by trading for Sanders. But he helped them to an appearance in Super Bowl LIV before walking away as a free agent. It’s fair to say that he had a reasonable impact even if he never hit his greatest heights. He had three catches in the Super Bowl but they couldn’t win the game after a potential long touchdown pass from Jimmy Garoppolo missed an open Sanders.


Mohamed Sanu

It’s fair to say that Sanu was one of the most pointless Patriots trades in recent memory. The wideout is a decent player but he didn’t do anything noteworthy for the franchise. They gave up a second-round pick for the Rutgers product as they brought him from Atlanta. But it turned out to be a bad move because he only started six games before leaving.


His single touchdown was a dismal return because they could have got a better option in the Draft. Hindsight is an amazing thing but this was a deal that the Patriots don’t like looking back at. Usually, the legend Bill Belichick gets it right but this was a rare blemish in his book. Sanu bounced around the league for a couple of years before disappearing (via Forbes).


Minkah Fitzpatrick

The Dolphins made Fitzpatrick a first-round pick in 2018 and he stayed in Florida for two seasons. But he felt the franchise was going backward and Miami needed a rebuild. Pittsburgh leaped at the chance to sign the safety and made one of the biggest trades of the past decade (via Sports Illustrated).


It was a great decision because Fitzpatrick displayed Pro Bowl form and even had one of the longest pick-sixes in history. Miami usually doesn’t give up first-rounders without a fight but they saw the sense this time. Pittsburgh assembled one of the best defenses in the league by adding him to their roster.

Dallas Cowboys

Amari Cooper

Cooper enjoyed two successful seasons with the Raiders before things began to fall apart. Nobody expected him to leave the franchise after a pair of Pro Bowl seasons. But then Jon Gruden landed in Oakland and Cooper’s on-field relationship with Derek Carr fell apart. They were both good players but they didn’t sync with each other anymore.

Tim Heitman

That’s why the Raiders agreed to trade Cooper to Dallas in one of the biggest deals of the past decade. Jerry Jones handed the Raiders their first-round pick on a platter for the proven starter. Cooper enjoyed Pro Bowl form in his first two seasons but left for the Browns in 2022 (via the Guardian).

New York Post

Duane Brown

The Texans have made some strange trades over the past decade but this was up there with the most confusing. They sent Brown and a fifth-round pick to Seattle after the tackle forced an exit. They received second and third-round picks for the player but it was still a blow to lose his services (via PFF).

AP News

However, Brown wasn’t happy about his contract situation and held out throughout the summer. In the end, he missed six games in 2017 before they finally traded him. Brown refused to take no for an answer and bulldozed his way out of the franchise. Nobody could blame him because the Texans were in a hole.

CBS Sports

Khalil Mack

Mack was one of the best pass rushers in the league and won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2016. The Raiders didn’t expect him to go anywhere but he cost them a lot of money. That’s why they reluctantly traded him to Chicago in 2018. The Bears rejoiced and made him the highest-paid defensive player ever (via Sporting News).

NBC Sports

The All-Pro star played well in Chicago and helped them to the playoffs. But he also suffered from injuries during his time in “The Windy City”. In the end, he left them with a difficult choice because he took up a lot of cap space. They traded him to the Chargers because it was good business. The Bears narrowly won the trade with the Raiders but gave up a lot.

Fox News

Jalen Ramsey

The Ramsey trade was a fine example of player power. He forced an exit because he didn’t want to play for Jacksonville anymore. That was fair because the Jaguars didn’t appear to be going anywhere in 2019. But it took a lot for the Rams to secure an elite cornerback in the prime of his career (via

The Oakland Press

However, they saw a great opportunity and they took it. They traded two first-round picks and a fourth-round pick for the Pro Bowler. This was enough for the Jaguars to back down. Then Ramsey stopped pretending that he had a back injury and continued where he left off. It was one of the best trades of the past decade because he helped the Rams to a Super Bowl win.

Sky Sports

Jay Ajayi

It may come as a surprise to some, but this was one of the biggest trades of the 2017 season. The Dolphins sent their running back to Philadelphia in a shocking move. The London-born star earned a Pro Bowl selection for his efforts during the previous season. That’s why it was a surprise when Miami traded the British Ajayi to the Eagles.

Ajayi won a Super Bowl ring with Philadelphia so he’ll be happy with his overall legacy. However, injuries soon took their toll and he prematurely retired from the sport. It’s a shame that he couldn’t keep playing but his body let him down. Unfortunately, that happens to many NFL athletes because football is such a brutal sport (via Bleacher Report).

Matthew Stafford

The Rams decided to buy the Super Bowl in 2021 by assembling one of the strongest rosters in recent memory. They had Pro Bowl talent all over the field but they were missing the most important piece. They decided Stafford was the man to lead them to the promised land because Sean McVey didn’t trust Jared Goff (via CBS Sports).

New York Post

Stafford had been consistent for a decade as he tried his best to propel the downtrodden Detroit Lions to postseason success. Finally, the Rams rewarded his patience and plucked him from the barren wilderness. The Lions received a pair of first-round picks and Goff for their star. Yes, he threw a few bad interceptions throughout the season but in the end, they lifted the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Cincinnati Enquirer

Carson Palmer

The Raiders went all-in on JaMarcus Russell in 2007 and he became arguably the worst draft bust in NFL history. This left them treading water for a couple of seasons as they tried to find another franchise quarterback. Finally, they pursued Carson Palmer as they lured him from the Bengals. They swapped first and second-round picks for the signal-caller (via Bleacher Report).

Arizona Cardinals

It made sense on paper because Palmer worked with Raiders Head Coach Hue Jackson at USC. They also knew each other from Cincinnati when Jackson was their wideouts coach. In the end, it didn’t matter because Jackson received his pink slip after a season. Palmer only lasted one more before he had an Indian summer in Arizona.

Sky Sports

Mitchell Trubisky

A wise man once said that Chicago is where quarterbacks go to die. Ask Trubisky because he knows all about this. The 49ers and the Bears swapped first-round picks along with a clutch of others to secure the former North Carolina star. It’s easy to forget that things started well for Trubisky but it all came crashing down.

The 2018 Pro Bowl selection suffered a serious decline after they signed Nick Foles. He had an awful 2020 season and everybody was calling him a bust. Finally, Chicago decided not to offer him an extension and now he’s bouncing around the NFL as a backup. Unfortunately, that’s usually the way it goes and Trubisky will forever be known as the player who was picked before Patrick Mahomes (via NBC Sports).


Christian McCaffrey

The Panthers made McCaffrey the highest-paid running back ever in 2018. But then he had a couple of injury-riddled seasons and the franchise regressed without him. It was an unfortunate series of events because the Panthers couldn’t find a quarterback. Finally, McCaffrey sustained enough fitness to force a trade.

NBC Sports

In 2022, the 49ers decided that he was their man. San Francisco gave the Panthers 2023 second-round, third-round, and fourth-round picks and a 2024 fifth-rounder for the star running back. McCaffrey immediately settled in the Bay Area and showed why he’s one of the best in the world. In the end, it suited all parties to make this trade happen (via PFF).

Fox News

Jared Goff

The Rams bet the house on Goff in 2016 when they made him the first overall pick. But he didn’t fall into their hands because they traded six draft picks for the former Cal Golden Bears star. The Rams identified him as their franchise quarterback but it didn’t work out that way for the future Pro Bowl selection (via The Athletic).

L.A. Times

Goff rebounded after a rough rookie season as he suddenly burst into life. He had two decent seasons with the franchise as he helped them to a Super Bowl appearance. But he threw a crucial interception in that game and immediately went on the decline. In the end, Ras head coach Sean McVay lost faith and traded him to Detroit where he revived his career in 2022.


Trent Richardson

Mostly everybody thought that Richardson was going to become an NFL superstar. However, he went down as one of the worst busts in NFL history. The Browns drafted him in 2012 and they made him the third overall pick. But they traded him two games into his sophomore year in one of the biggest deals of the past decade (via Fansided).


The Colts gave Cleveland a first-round pick in exchange for the running back. Unfortunately, this was a terrible decision because he didn’t do anything productive for them. Richardson ran for a combined total of 316 yards in two seasons before he flamed out of the NFL. He had a brief foray into Canadian football but never did anything special.

Odell Beckham Jr.

Some trades are more shocking than others but this one rocked the NFL. Nobody expected Beckham to join the Cleveland Browns in 2019. This came after the Giants extended the wideout’s contract as they denied that they wanted to trade him. Beckham became a major star in New York but he had his problems (via Sporting News).


The Browns gave New York a first-round pick, a third-round pick, and safety Jabrill Peppers for their troubles. In the end, this was one of the worst trades of the past decade because Beckham spent most of his time on the bench injured. He also had a tense relationship with QB Baker Mayfield. Beckham abruptly quit the Browns for the Rams and immediately picked up a Super Bowl ring.

Antonio Brown

Here is one of the wackiest stories on this list because it was one of the worst trades of the past decade. Everybody knows that Brown is a volatile character but a brilliant footballer. He signaled that he wanted to leave Pittsburgh and this was enough for Jon Gruden to pursue him. The Raiders gave up third and fifth-round draft picks in exchange for the wideout.

L.A. Times

But he never played a down for the team because of a bunch of off-the-field problems. Brown notoriously froze his feet in a cryogenic chamber; of course, he did. He also missed practices and went head-to-head with GM Mike Mayock. The Raiders released him before the first snap of the season (via Wall Street Journal).


Russell Wilson

This was one of the worst NFL trades of the past decade and it could ultimately end up being the worst. Wilson represent the Seahawks with pride as he won a Super Bowl. But things became stale in Seattle before they traded him to Denver. Some analysts thought that they should fire Pete Carroll instead of shifting their MVP contender quarterback (via SBNation).


But they traded him to the Broncos after Aaron Rodgers rejected Denver’s advances. Denver gave up two first-round picks, a pair of second-round picks, a fifth-round pick, and multiple players for the star. They expected to become immediate contenders but he played atrociously for them. Meanwhile, Carroll put his faith in Geno Smith who won the Comeback Player of the Year.


Aaron Rodgers

There’s no doubt that the recent Aaron Rodgers to New York Jets trade is one of the biggest in modern NFL history. The former Packers quarterback joined the Jets as he followed in Brett Favre’s path. Many people thought that he would retire but he opted to join the AFC East. It’s a shame that Tom Brady isn’t there because it would have been perfect (via The Guardian).

Sports Illustrated

Some people think that it’s one of the worst deals of the past decade. The Jets gave up the 13th overall pick in 2023, as well as a second-rounder, a six-rounder, and the second becomes a potential first-rounder in 2024 if Rodgers plays just 65 percent of the snaps in 2023. It’s a lot but if Rodgers transforms them into contenders they won’t complain. Meanwhile, Jordan Love has the unenviable task of becoming the next Green Bay icon.