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May 28, 2024

2023 NFL Trade Deadline Winners and Losers

2023 NFL Trade Deadline Winners and Losers

2023 NFL Trade Deadline Winners and Losers 0 of 6

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The NFL’s yearly trade deadline isn’t like those of other professional sports. But a Jekyll-and-Hyde attitude exists when it comes to whether it truly matters, which still makes for an exciting build.

“There’s a win-now, stay-relevant mentality,” a team executive told The Athletic’s Jeff Howe.

Conversely, another exec told Mike Sando, “What you’ll find if you go through all these midseason trades is that very few make any kind of impact on their teams, and even fewer make an impact on the league.”

More of a willingness to part with players midseason occurred in recent years as younger and forward-thinking general managers took the reins.

A year ago, 13 players swapped teams at the deadline, which was the most movement over the last 30 years. This year’s version didn’t spur quite as much action. However, quite a few moves were far from insignificant with the potential to boost some squads.

Some teams took advantage of opportunities; other didn’t. Certain players are in better situations than when the day started; others aren’t. The give-and-take of the final day to make a big splash this season creates tension, no matter how eventful it really is.

Winner: Chase Young 1 of 6

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All one has to do is look at the Washington Commanders right now to understand that Chase Young is in a better place than where he started his professional career.

Washington traded the 2020 second overall pick to the San Francisco 49ers for a 2024 third-round draft pick, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

A torn ACL and patellar tendon in his right knee destroyed any momentum Young had previously built to become the dominant defender many expected when he came out of Ohio State. Washington chose not to pick up his fifth-year option this past offseason. But the 24-year-old defender is starting to look like his old self as a force off the edge.

Washington likely saw an injury-plagued performer about to enter free agency. The Commanders capitalized by adding extra draft assets, along with the second-round pick they acquired as part of the Montez Sweat deal.

In contrast, the San Francisco 49ers are playing for more this season. They have lost their last three games. But they’re in their bye week. The team can get a little healthier. Young can be incorporated into the lineup. He can help one of the league’s better teams get back on track.

Young goes from a squad clearly entering a rebuild (more on that in a bit) to a franchise with Super Bowl aspirations. More importantly, he gets to pair with former Buckeyes teammate Nick Bosa. Obviously, opponents will game-plan for Bosa, which will create more opportunities for Young. But the partnership should benefit both.

According to ESPN’s Brian Burke, Young ranks 11th in pass-rush win rate for edge-rushers. If and when blocking schemes leave him locked into one-on-one matchups, he can and will make opponents pay.

Loser: Washington Commanders Head Coach Ron Rivera 2 of 6

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The Washington Commanders’ decisions strongly suggest a full-blown rebuild is coming.

First and foremost, Josh Harris and his ownership group finalized a deal to take over the franchise in May. Harris has no ties to anyone in the front office or coaching staff. The team, as it’s currently constructed, was built under Daniel Snyder’s purview.

Second, Washington dumped its two most tradeable assets at the deadline by moving both Montez Sweat and Chase Young. Washington now has one first-round selection, two second-rounders and two thirds in the 2024 draft.

Generally, the next step is bringing in an ownership-preferred regime, which means head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew could easily find themselves out of their current jobs once the season ends.

Rivera’s time leading the franchise has been marred by mediocrity. Actually, Washington has been a half-step below mediocre. Since Rivera took over in 2020, his squad owns a 25-32-1 record. One division title three years ago after a 7-9 season won’t be enough to save his job.

Furthermore, the Commanders are not better today than they were coming into the week. The season might not spiral out of control, but some type of change is coming, and it will likely start with a new head coach.

Winner: Donovan Peoples-Jones 3 of 6

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Wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones once looked a future breakout star with the Cleveland Browns. But it never happened.

Peoples-Jones led the Browns in receiving yards during the 2021 campaign and then set career highs last season with 61 receptions for 839 yards.

But his usage in Cleveland’s offense lessened this year. While still serving as a starter opposite Amari Cooper, DPJ saw his targets decrease. Through seven games, the Browns’ quarterbacks threw his way on only 18 occasions, which ranked fifth on the team.

On Tuesday, the Browns shipped the 24-year-old receiver to the Detroit Lions for a 2025 sixth-round draft pick, per ESPN Adam Schefter. The move immediately improves Peoples-Jones’ situation on three different levels.

First, more opportunities should come the fourth-year veteran’s way. The Lions have excellent weapons in Amon-Ra St. Brown, tight end Sam LaPorta and running back Jahmyr Gibbs. But Detroit’s roster lacks a distinct difference-maker among its outside options. Josh Reynolds and Jameson Williams are talented but inconsistent. Peoples-Jones could immediately take over a starting role on one of the NFC’s best squads.

Second, the wide receiver goes from one of the league’s least stable quarterback situations to a well-established veteran who’s playing well within Ben Johnson’s offensive scheme. The Browns have had to deal with Deshaun Watson’s injury, Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s rookie debut and P.J. Walker making multiple appearances, whereas Jared Goff has started every game for Detroit over the last two seasons. He sports a career-high 68.3 completion percentage.

Finally, Peoples-Jones returns to his hometown. He’s from Detroit. He played for the Michigan Wolverines. It’ll mean a little more this time, especially if he can help the Lions continue their recent winning ways.

Loser: Jaylon Johnson 4 of 6

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Deadlines are supposed to spur action. But they didn’t in the case of Chicago Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson. More importantly, the Bears missed an opportunity to add further assets.

Johnson asked to be traded from the Bears, and his agent was given about 16 hours to make it happen, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Nothing materialized.

The request surfaced as Johnson and the Bears failed to reach an agreement on a contract extension. The defensive back is scheduled to be a free agent after this season.

Problems could stem from this lack of movement.

Clearly the 24-year-old defender, who happens to be the Bears’ best cover corner, didn’t want to be in Chicago anymore. It would seem that his motivation is now almost purely financial. He’ll work toward free agency and getting the best deal possible.

He’ll also re-enter a locker room full of teammates who know he wanted out and wasn’t fully committed to this season.

Interestingly, the cornerback market wasn’t entirely barren. Rasul Douglas landed with the Buffalo Bills. Douglas likely came with a far less expensive price tag—the Packers receiving a third-round pick for Douglas and a fifth-round pick—and the veteran still has a year remaining on his current deal.

What Johnson likely found is that the asking price–both from the Bears and himself–was too much for another franchise. So he’ll have to bide his time until the offseason before getting what he wants.

It’s almost like the Bears think they can actually win at a relatively high level this year, especially with Montez Sweat coming into town via trade. Their actions don’t jibe with their 2-6 record.

Winner: Trevor Lawrence 5 of 6

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Any time a team improves its offensive line, its quarterback benefits.

In the case of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Trevor Lawrence should be quite happy with the acquisition of guard Ezra Cleveland. The Vikings traded their former starter to the Jags for a 2024 sixth-round pick, according to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert.

In four seasons, the 2020 second-round pick started 49 games for the Vikings. The move became possible because Cleveland has been dealing with a foot injury, while his replacement, Dalton Risner, clearly established himself as a strong starting option.

“Obviously, we’re getting a good player to come in here and help us,” Doug Pederson said during an interview on The Pat McAfee Show. “We’ve already got a good offensive line. Ezra can come in and give us some really good depth. It’s just a matter of getting him caught up and getting him in the room.

“… Getting a guy like Ezra, he’s a starting-type guard, really solidifies our offensive line and makes us better.”

It just so happens that Cleveland will find a familiar face among Jacksonville’s offensive line room, since his former line coach, Phil Rauscher, is now his current line coach. As long as his injured foot gets healthy, the fourth-year veteran can step into the lineup relatively soon.

Lawrence has been sacked 19 times, which is tied for the ninth-most in the league. Cleveland could displace Walker Little at left guard. Or, the Jaguars made the move just to add experienced offensive line depth, which is truly a luxury in today’s game. Either way, the Jaguars are better up front, and Lawrence should continue to play at a high level as a result.

Loser: Cleveland Browns’ QB Situation 6 of 6

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The Cleveland Browns could be Super Bowl contenders if they simply received adequate play from their quarterbacks. Instead, they’re a fringe playoff team because the game’s most important position is a disaster.

Deshaun Watson’s rotator cuff injury continues to linger. The exact timetable for his return remains a mystery. The Browns don’t even know what version will show up once he’s back. Rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson clearly wasn’t ready to play upon making his debut in Week 4. P.J. Walker has missed reads, made mistakes and can’t even complete 50 percent of his passes.

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot, it’s unknown whether the Browns inquired about any quarterbacks, particularly two with previous experience playing in Cleveland under head coach/offensive play-caller Kevin Stefanski. If they didn’t, they should have.

Of the Browns’ two backups last season, only one of the two actually moved before the trade deadline.

The Arizona Cardinals sent Joshua Dobbs and a seventh-round pick to the Minnesota Vikings for a sixth-round pick. The Washington Commanders chose not to part with Jacoby Brissett. Or, no suitor was willing meet their asking price. According to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, they were asking for a Day 2 draft pick.

In the end, the Browns stood pat with what they currently have behind center. It’s not good enough. This team should be operating with more urgency based on how well the rest of the roster is playing. Cleveland can make some noise this season. Instead, the Browns may have just stared at the opportunity to do so and let it pass.

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