The trade deadline was always going to be wild. We'd already seen some high-profile moves in the days leading up to it -- such as Carolina sending Christian McCaffery to San Francisco and Robert Quinn moving from Chicago to Philadelphia -- so you knew there had to be more coming. We wound up with 10 deals on the actual day of the deadline. That's a new record in a league where wheeling and dealing is becoming more normalized.
All that movement made sense because there's so much parity. We can all agree that three teams are really good -- Buffalo, Philadelphia and Kansas City -- and then there are countless others trying to figure this thing out on the fly. Maybe one or two moves ultimately change the trajectory of somebody's season. From what we saw Tuesday, a lot of people believe it's worth giving that mindset a try.
So, here are the winners and losers from Tuesday's trade deadline.
1) Ravens defense: Baltimore hasn't been playing defense like we've been accustomed to seeing. The Ravens have blown two 17-point leads in losses, and their pass rush has been so erratic that they picked up the aging Jason Pierre-Paul to provide any semblance of help. This is why the trade that delivered linebacker Roquan Smith from the Chicago Bears (reported on Monday and official on Tuesday) was so huge. He's exactly the kind of linebacker who can be a difference-maker on a unit that needs more of them. Smith is a tremendous tackler and blitzer, and he fits perfectly with the kind of versatile players defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald wants to utilize in his scheme. Smith also shows up at a perfect time. The AFC North is experiencing its share of upheaval -- the Bengals, for one, are especially vulnerable with Ja'Marr Chase sidelined with a hip injury -- and Baltimore is now poised to make a run at the division crown with an improved defense.
2) Justin Fields: It's no secret that the Bears need to give their second-year quarterback more help at receiver. The addition of Chase Claypool, formerly of Pittsburgh, should be an immediate upgrade. Claypool was a solid weapon in his first two seasons with the Steelers, but he's only been averaging 9.7 yards per catch this season. He'll find more targets in Chicago and more opportunities to make big plays for a quarterback who now has another supersized weapon to go along with N'Keal Harry. Claypool is especially skilled at contested catches. He'll make life much easier for Fields, who's starting to find a comfort zone in the Bears' offense.
3) Mike McDaniel: The Dolphins head coach can't complain about resources. Miami followed an aggressive offseason with an aggressive approach at the trade deadline. Need some help getting after the quarterback? Here comes edge rusher Bradley Chubb from Denver. Need another back to boost a rushing attack that ranks 28th in the league? Here comes Jeff Wilson Jr. from San Francisco. Miami clearly isn't buying the narrative that Buffalo simply will roll to a championship. These are the kind of moves that suggest the Dolphins very much believe they can make a deep playoff run of their own behind their first-year head coach.
4) T.J. Hockenson: This talented tight end started the day on a one-win Detroit Lions team that was mired in last place in the NFC North. He ended it by joining the first-place Minnesota Vikings, a team that has lost just once this season. The Vikings don't feed the ball to their tight ends constantly but it's not hard to see Hockenson thriving with his new squad. He's effective as both a blocker and receiver and he was named to the Pro Bowl in 2020. He's also now playing in an offense with dynamic weapons like wide receiver Justin Jefferson and running back Dalvin Cook. The Vikings sought Hockenson after losing tight end Irv Smith Jr. to a high ankle sprain injury. Hockenson should end up being an upgrade as a result.
5) Buffalo Bills: Buffalo is already loaded on offense, so adding a pass-catching running back in Nyheim Hines who can create more matchup problems makes perfect sense. There was talk about Buffalo chasing Christian McCaffrey. This isn't a bad Plan B. Buffalo already had a great team. It just got better.
1) Aaron Rodgers: The Green Bay Packers are mystifying. There were concerns about their wide receivers in the offseason, in training camp and after the regular season began. Those same concerns still exist today after the Packers failed to find anybody who could help their beleaguered passing attack at the trade deadline. Unless the Packers are planning on chasing Odell Beckham Jr. as they did last season -- and let's face it, that is even a risky proposition given that he's coming off a torn ACL and mulling his best available options -- it's impossible to see Rodgers becoming any happier with the players catching his passes. The Packers' receiving corps is both banged up and unreliable. Good luck turning things around with that combination.
2) Brandin Cooks: Cooks was the most discussed wide receiver as the trade deadline neared. He also was the most expensive, as he's due to make $18 million in base salary next year. The only way another team would take on that kind of obligation was with the Texans paying a decent chunk of that deal. That clearly wasn't something Houston general manager Nick Caserio was willing to do. So, Cooks remains the best receiver on a last-place team instead of finding a new home with a playoff contender.
3) Cam Akers: The Rams running back Akers has been unhappy for quite some time, so much so that even head coach Sean McVay acknowledged that it was probably best for the third-year running back to find a new home. Akers started the season as a backup and hasn't played in the last two games. He's biding his time, but now he'll have to spend the rest of the season wondering when he can move on. The good news is that the situation is reportedly civil. The bad news is that it's still a situation, a very awkward one at that.
4) Kareem Hunt: The Browns running back is not that far behind Akers when it comes to frustration. He's openly talked about wanting to be traded. He also wore a Joker mask while talking to reporters after the Browns' win over Cincinnati on Monday Night Football, a clear indication of his resentment as he fielded questions about what he'd be doing as the trade deadline neared. Hunt's irritation is understandable. He led the league in rushing as a rookie in Kansas City in 2017, and now he's a backup to Nick Chubb. On the other hand, the Browns aren't just going to give away talented players. They're still hoping to stay alive in the playoff race until quarterback Deshaun Watson finishes his 11-game suspension. Hunt can help them do that, even if he's not crazy about his role.
5) Broncos defense: Arguably the only positive for the Broncos this season has been the stellar play of their defense. That unit just lost its best pass rusher when the team traded Bradley Chubb to Miami. The move made sense because Chubb is coming to the end of his rookie deal, and his injury history makes him a risky candidate for a long-term extension. The Broncos already gave Randy Gregory big money, and they made a trade to pick up Jacob Martin from the Jets after dealing Chubb. They're hoping there's enough talent in that mix to make up for losing one of their stars.