The NFL trade deadline has historically been somewhat of a disappointing affair. However, since 2000, some of the biggest NFL trades have happened under the pressure of that deadline. Let’s take a look back at some of the biggest NFL trades to have taken place ahead of the trade deadline.
Biggest NFL trades at the deadline since 2000
What are five of the biggest NFL trades to have taken place before the NFL trade deadline.
Jalen Ramsey | Jacksonville Jaguars to Los Angeles Rams (2019)
Since entering the NFL as the fifth overall selection in 2016, Jalen Ramsey has been considered one of, if not the best cornerback in the NFL. After playing three seasons with the Jaguars, Ramsey had an altercation with head coach Doug Marrone before demanding a trade.
On October 15, 2019, Ramsey was traded to the Los Angeles Rams in a blockbuster deal. The Jaguars received two first-round picks (2020 and 2021) and a fourth-round selection (2021). Less than a year later, the Rams made Ramsey the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history.
Amari Cooper | Oakland Raiders to Dallas Cowboys (2018)
Another NFL Draft top-five selection was traded the year before Ramsey. Amari Cooper had quickly become a star with the Raiders in his first two seasons. However, a tough third season in 2017 left question marks around whether Cooper should receive a big second contract.
After starting the 2018 season with the Raiders, Cooper was traded to the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys gave up relatively little (a 2019 NFL Draft first-round selection) to acquire Cooper, but they have reaped the benefits ever since.
Cooper almost cemented his position as one of the biggest ever in-season NFL trades. In nine games with the Cowboys, he turned 76 targets into 53 receptions for 725 yards and 6 touchdowns. With Cooper on board, the Cowboys went 7-2 as they made the playoffs. Just 18 months later, Cooper signed a $100 million contract extension with the Cowboys.
Jimmy Garoppolo | New England Patriots to San Francisco 49ers (2017)
Any time a QB seen as a potential starter is traded, it’s immediately viewed as one of the biggest NFL trades of all time. Despite the price not blowing anyone anyway, the trade of Jimmy Garoppolo is one of the more defining NFL trades made at the deadline in NFL history.
The 49ers only gave up a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to acquire Garoppolo. However, he was viewed as the QB who could come in and make Kyle Shanahan’s system tick. In contrast, moving out of New England in 2017 was controversial.
Tom Brady was 40 at the time. The belief was he did not have long remaining in his illustrious career. Therefore, giving up a potential successor left many scratching their heads.
Four years later, the trade has a very different look about it. Tom Brady has gone on to win two more Super Bowls. Meanwhile, Garoppolo, who signed a big contract at the end of the 2017 season and led his team to a Super Bowl appearance in the 2019 NFL season, could see Trey Lance take over his starting role in 2021.
Marshawn Lynch | Buffalo Bills to Seattle Seahawks (2010)
When you think about the NFL running back position, Marshawn Lynch is one of the names that come to mind. Lynch led the league in rushing touchdowns in two straight years, was selected to the 2010s All-Decade Team, and produced what is considered one of the greatest runs in NFL history: The Beast Quake.
While Lynch is most remembered for his performances with the Seattle Seahawks, he actually started his career as a first-round selection in 2007 for the Buffalo Bills. However, after injuries blighted his third season in Buffalo and then again to start the 2010 season, he was traded to Seattle for just fourth and fifth-round draft picks in the subsequent two drafts.
The price may be underwhelming, but the outcome of the trade makes it one of the biggest in NFL history.
Roy Williams | Detroit Lions to Dallas Cowboys (2008)
Another former first-round pick moved ahead of the NFL trade deadline, Roy Williams did not quite bring the same success. The Detroit Lions drafted Williams with the seventh overall selection in the 2004 NFL Draft. In his first four years, Williams would score 28 touchdowns while totaling 3,652 receiving yards.
After a long pursuit, the Cowboys finally completed a trade for him. Dallas gave up a first, third, and sixth-round selection for Williams. Unfortunately, despite being one of the biggest trades ever at the NFL deadline in terms of price, Williams could not replicate his success in Dallas.
In the next three seasons, Williams would catch just 94 of his 195 targets for 1,324 receiving yards. He did manage to score 13 receiving touchdowns, meaning that while the trade was not a complete success, it was not a total failure either.
Honorable mention as one of the biggest NFL trades since 2000
While not exactly a blockbuster trade, the name involved in one trade and the feat he achieved during that season made this trade worthy of inclusion in this article.
Jerry Rice | Oakland Raiders to Seattle Seahawks (2004)
Anytime a historic NFL player like Jerry Rice is traded, it instantly goes down as one of the biggest NFL trades in history. The 2004 season would be Rice’s last time on an NFL field. Nonetheless, despite being 41, it was a remarkable season.
Rice played six games for the Raiders prior to being traded. However, during those first six weeks, the Seahawks had their bye week. Therefore, when Rice arrived at Seattle, he would play all 11 remaining games for the Seahawks. As a result, in his final season in the NFL, at the age of 41, Rice managed to play 17 games in what was at the time a traditional 16-game season.