3 Reasons the NFL Should Move the Trade Deadline

We've seen more NFL trade deadline action in recent seasons than ever before. But there might be even more deals if the NFL pushed back its deadline.

The NFL trade deadline has become more of a spectacle in recent seasons. Trade quantity has increased, and so has trade magnitude.

In 2021, the Los Angeles Rams acquired future Hall of Famer Von Miller from the Denver Broncos in an effort to boost their Super Bowl hopes. Last season, the San Francisco 49ers gave up the equivalent of a first-round pick to add Christian McCaffrey.

But shouldn’t the trade deadline for America’s most-watched sports league be an even bigger deal? Here’s why the NFL should consider moving its trade deadline to later in the season.

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Why the NFL Trade Deadline Should Be Pushed

The NFL altered its trade deadline timing in 2012, when the league and the NFLPA agreed to move the deadline from after Week 6 to after Week 8. But that was over a decade ago, and it’s time to change the schedule again.

The NFL Allows Less Time for Trades Than Other Pro Sports Leagues

Trades are less common in the NFL than in MLB, the NBA, or the NHL, and at least part of the reason for the reduced action is pure timing.

Here’s how the NFL’s trade deadline placement compares to other professional sports leagues:

  • NHL trade deadline: 21% of regular season remaining
  • MLB trade deadline: 32% of regular season remaining
  • NBA trade deadline: 38% of regular season remaining
  • NFL trade deadline: 57% of regular season remaining

The NFL is the only major sports association whose trade deadline hits with half of the regular season still on tap. Every other league gives clubs far more time to assess their rosters.

NFL Teams Aren’t Sure If They’re Contenders at the End of October

Because the NFL trade deadline arrives so early, teams can’t correctly determine if they’re a contender.

That’s especially true this season. Twenty-two of the league’s 32 clubs have between two and four wins. There are still two weeks until the NFL’s Oct. 31 trade deadline, so the standings could clear up before then — but they won’t look all that different.

MORE: NFL Playoff Picture After Week 7

Just look at last year’s McCaffrey trade. The 49ers were 3-3 when they acquired CMC and reportedly outbid the division-rival Los Angeles Rams, who were also at .500 at last year’s deadline.

Both teams thought they were contenders at the deadline, but only one club was correct about its outlook. San Francisco ended up 13-4 and made the NFC title game, while L.A. collapsed and finished 5-12.

Moving the deadline back, even to Week 10 or so, could make contending teams more willing to supplement their roster via trades and might force pretenders to face reality and sell off parts.

NFL Trades Are More Prevalent Than Ever Before

While the NFL’s trade bonanza isn’t yet at the level of other sports leagues, there has been a consistent uptick in swaps over the past decade. Whether it’s due to younger general managers who are more comfortable with trades or because teams are more willing to take on salary (or dead money in the case of clubs trading players away), midseason deals are on the rise.

Here are the number of trades that took place after Oct. 1 in each season over the past decade:

  • 2022: 19
  • 2021: 12
  • 2020: 13
  • 2019: 14
  • 2018: 9
  • 2017: 8
  • 2016: 5
  • 2015: 3
  • 2014: 4
  • 2013: 4
  • 2012: 1

We’ve already seen five NFL trades since the start of October, but all of them were salary dumps as cornerback J.C. Jackson, edge rusher Randy Gregory, and wide receivers Chase Claypool, Van Jefferson, and Mecole Hardman all found new homes.

MORE: NFL Trade Rumors — Intel on Eagles, 49ers, Browns, and More Ahead of Deadline

Trades can help push clubs over the top, but roster movement is also just pure fun. The rise of fantasy sports has turned every fan into a wannabe general manager, and trades and transactions only drive more interest in the league.

Former NFL general manager Randy Mueller said teams consistently pressed the league office before it decided to push the deadline in 2012. It’s probably time for clubs to speak up again.

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