With the deadline representing the final significant chance for general managers to upgrade their rosters before the stretch run of the regular season, clubs have gotten more aggressive in making moves. Sure, a few veteran free agents, like Odell Beckham Jr., will sign in the coming weeks, but those are few and far between. (Not every team can sign OBJ, despite rumors suggesting every contender seems in play.)
Now that the trade deadline is passed, clubs are mostly set. For better or worse.
We watched contenders like Philadelphia, San Francisco, Minnesota and Miami make maneuvers to position themselves for a January run. Others stayed silent.
With a mass of teams clustered in the middle of the standings, a handful of clubs could come to regret not consummating a trade this week, leaving questions that the coaching staffs will have to cover to make a playoff push.
General manager Brian Gutekunst and the Packers once again stood pat while watching the rest of the NFC North have a busy trade deadline. Green Bay clearly had a need at receiver, where the team has dealt with struggling youth and injuries to Allen Lazard (shoulder), Randall Cobb (ankle) and Christian Watson (concussion). The Packers were reportedly in on Chase Claypool but lost out to rival Chicago. Always the rumored bridesmaid, never the bride.
I understand the fiscal responsibility of Green Bay not saddling itself with an onerous contract for 2023 by adding a player like Brandin Cooks (who is due $18 million guaranteed next season). I don't have to agree with the decision. With Aaron Rodgers under center, the Packers will always be in win-now mode. But they haven't been doing much of that winning lately. They're stuck in the mud. They needed a big push. Instead, they're left spinning their wheels, hoping the formula they were counting on at the start of the season finally hits solid ground.
The defending Super Bowl champs swung and missed on Christian McCaffrey and couldn't muster any upgrades to a struggling roster at the deadline. With needs on the O-line, at running back and at pass rusher, L.A. came up empty. GM Les Snead likely didn't have the draft capital in 2023 (the team currently has one second-round pick and one third-rounder within the first five rounds) to compete with other offers or to convince, say, the Browns to part with Kareem Hunt for cheap. Thus, L.A. is left to piece together an offense that can't protect Matthew Stafford or run the ball. Now it's on Sean McVay to work with what he has and create magic. Per NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero, the Rams elected not to offload disgruntled running back Cam Akers at the deadline. On the bright side, at least the Rams will have a few draft picks to work with in April.
The Cincy front office has a reputation for caution, particularly when it comes to shelling out draft picks. But the defending AFC champs certainly could have used some help. With injuries mounting, including corner Chidobe Awuzie's suspected ACL injury, Cincinnati's defense is in bad shape. The Bengals are banged up in the secondary and have struggled all season in the middle to plug the run. Adding some beef up front would have been nice after we watched the Browns run over them on Monday. Now the Bengals are left hoping receiver Ja'Marr Chase's hip heals quickly and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo can coax starter-level play from his replacement secondary players.
Yes, Dallas imported Johnathan Hankins on the cheap last week, but it felt like Jerry Jones had something else up his sleeve. Instead, the Cowboys were quiet at the deadline while other contenders upgraded their rosters. A splash move for a receiver could have helped counter the Eagles' Robert Quinn trade. Dallas reportedly was in talks for Brandin Cooks, but per that report, unsurprisingly, the 2023 guaranteed money scuttled the deal. The Cowboys spent the offseason being frugal, presumably to help themselves stay out of cap hell down the road; it's not too stunning that Dallas didn't pivot from that strategy midway through the season. Still, Jones always talks about how every year is an all-in season for the Cowboys. That they did not make another move suggests they have faith the pieces on the roster are good enough to make a postseason run in the gettable NFC.
When a 45-year-old Tom Brady is under center, by default, you're all-in. But GM Jason Licht stayed silent at the deadline despite a roster littered with holes. The offensive interior continues to struggle, but there were likely no trade upgrades to be seen. The Bucs could have chased a pass rusher to help smooth over the loss of Shaq Barrett. Even after overtly struggling this season, Tampa could still win the moribund NFC South as currently constructed. However, after making zero upgrades at the deadline, they're counting on Brady recapturing his magic for any sort of postseason run to materialize.
L.A.'s offseason bid to threaten the Kansas City Chiefs already hit several speed bumps. Free-agent addition J.C. Jackson struggled and then suffered a season-ending injury. Star edge rusher Joey Bosa (groin) has been on the shelf. Keenan Allen had already been dealing with an injury. Now wideout Mike Williams is expected to miss weeks with an ankle injury. Even with the injuries, the Chargers remain in the hunt in the AFC. I'd have liked to see GM Tom Telesco take a deadline swing, either for help at receiver or, more likely, to shore up the run defense. A move would have signaled that the Chargers, indeed, tend to milk the most out of Justin Herbert's rookie contract. Instead, the Bolts will attempt to hold their heads above water in hopes some of their major pieces (including left tackle Rashawn Slater) can return for the stretch run.
The Giants shipped former first-round pick Kadarius Toney to Kanas City, but that was more about the future than the present. In 2022, Big Blue still had a need at receiver, and injuries left them thin along the defensive line. Given the deadline prices, it's not shocking that GM Joe Schoen elected to keep his draft assets in his pocket. While the 6-2 Giants have played well, this isn't a club that's one player away from being dominant. Still, as the Eli Manning Giants showed us, all it takes is a chip and a chair to make a postseason run. New York could have used the deadline to shore up some holes and announce it's here to stay. If the season putters out down the stretch, Schoen might be left wondering if he could have done more to aid the 2022 campaign.
We finally land at a club that should have been more active sellers at the deadline. At 1-5-1, Houston is headed back toward a top-five draft pick. GM Nick Caserio could have added to his draft coffers by shedding some veteran players who won't be around for the rest of the rebuild. Unfortunately, not only did Houston not make a move, but they also seem to have agitated receiver Brandin Cooks in the process, opening up another can of worms. With how things are headed in Houston, it could get a whole lot darker before the light shines again. But, hey, at least Dameon Pierce is a stud.