Skip to main content

Grading 2019's NFL trades: Who won Brown, Beckham swaps?

The free agency period was certainly frenzied, but the biggest blockbusters came in the form of trades, with some of the most notable names in sports (not just football) changing teams in the past week. Forget about baseball -- the NFL had the true hot stove this year. Here's a look at the biggest swaps of the offseason thus far, along with my grades for each side involved.

Steelers trade WR Antonio Brown to Raiders

Raiders acquire: Brown
Steelers acquire: 2019 third-round pick (No. 66) and 2019 fifth-round pick (No. 141)

Grade for Raiders: A+. If you look at the Amari Cooper and Brown trades together instead of in a vacuum -- which is what I'm choosing to do here -- the Raiders walked away with Brown and Dallas' first-round pick in exchange for Cooper, a third and a fifth. (I even saw some online writing that painted the Khalil Mack trade in a favorable light, which made me wonder if the Raiders actually do know what they are doing.) It will be interesting to see how this acquisition impacts quarterback Derek Carr. He's never been much of a downfield thrower in the NFL, breaking the top 20 just three times in yards per pass attempt. But pairing him with Brown (who also landed a new deal with Oakland for three years and $50.125 million, including $30.125 million guaranteed) could change all of that. Brown averaged 11.2 air yards per target last season.

Grade for Steelers: D. Brown is the best receiver of the past decade, so this was a disappointing haul for Pittsburgh, especially when you consider what Cooper and Odell Beckham Jr. (see below) fetched in their own trades. Even at Brown's age (he'll be 31 when the 2019 season begins), this was underwhelming. One thing of note: The Steelers have landed guys like running back James Conner and tight end Jesse James in the third and fifth rounds in recent years, so they do have a track record of finding value in the middle rounds.

Browns and Giants make blockbuster deal

Browns acquire: WR Odell Beckham Jr., DE Olivier Vernon
Giants acquire: OG Kevin Zeitler, S Jabrill Peppers, first-round pick (No. 17) and third-round pick (No. 95) in 2019 draft

Grade for Browns: A+++. Unbelievable move for the Browns. It's fitting that the team from the town that coined the term "rock and roll" would assemble the best super group since Temple of the Dog. Say Hello 2 (Football) Heaven. All right, that was really bad, but this move is amazing. OBJ's 44 career touchdown passes and 5,476 receiving yards rank third and seventh in the NFL since he entered the league -- and you could reason that he hasn't even reached his full potential yet, because he played with a quarterback (Eli Manning) on the downside of his career in New York. Browns QB Baker Mayfield broke Peyton Manning's rookie TD record in just 14 games last season, and he had the second-most passing yards per game in a rookie season ever (266.1). He was 12th in yards per pass attempt in 2018, despite the Browns having a six-percent drop rate. His red-zone passer rating was 116.5, and he threw 20 TD passes with no picks. His overall passer rating was 106.2 in the games after coach Hue Jackson was fired (Week 9 on). This is a great move. Maybe the greatest move the Browns have ever made.

Grade for Giants: F (for now). It's easy to bash Giants general manager Dave Gettleman for trading away a transformative and beloved New York icon. The optics are terrible, especially in March -- but Gettleman now has two first-round picks (Nos. 6 and 17 overall) to play with, plus an additional third to go with two veteran players (Zeitler and Peppers) that he desperately needed. Who knows, maybe he can get into the mix for Kyler Murray, or, at worst, swing a deal for Josh Rosen if the Cardinals nab the Oklahoma QB? This is a PR hit, but I'll be willing to give Gettleman the benefit of the doubt. I mean, people made fun of the Browns a couple of years ago, too.

Bucs ship WR DeSean Jackson to Eagles

Eagles acquire: Jackson, 2020 seventh-round pick
Buccaneers acquire: 2019 sixth-round pick (No. 208)

Grade for Eagles: B+. After trying for years to find a DeSean Jackson-type to replace the receiver who was unceremoniously dumped by former coach Chip Kelly in 2014, the organization did the right thing and just brought Jackson back to the fold (they also gave him a new three-year deal). Jackson led the NFL in air yards per target last year, with 19.1. That's well ahead of the No. 2 receiver, the Jets' Robby Anderson (16.5), among receivers with at least 50 targets.

Grade for Buccaneers: C. I mean, the fact that Tampa got anything for a player who was probably going to be cut loose anyway should be seen as a victory. Jackson and the Bucs had some nice times over the past two seasons (he posted a league-high 18.9 yards per catch last season), but the pairing never really lived up to its potential.

Patriots acquire DE Michael Bennett from Patriots

Patriots acquire: Bennett, 2020 seventh-round pick
Eagles acquire: 2020 fifth-round pick

Grade for Patriots: A. This is a typical Patriots move right here. After losing Trey Flowers to free agency, they complete a cost-effective transaction to actually improve. How is this possible? What's interesting to note here is that since 2014, only Khalil Mack and Von Miller have been better than Bennett at rushing the passer among edge rushers, according to Pro Football Focus; Bennett generated 374 pressures in that span, behind Miller's 405 and Mack's 386.

Grade for Eagles: C. From 2009 to 2017, Bennett split his time between the Bucs and Seahawks, but now, after one year in Philly, he's on to another new team -- the 33-year-old is at the mercenary stage of his NFL career. Bennett not only wouldn't take a pay cut to stay with the Eagles, but he wanted a raise. So even though they're losing a player who recorded nine sacks last season, this move did make some sense for them.

Broncos make deal with Ravens for QB Joe Flacco

Broncos acquire: Flacco
Ravens acquire: 2019 fourth-round pick (No. 113)

Grade for Broncos: D. Say what you want about GM John Elway, but he certainly has a formula. I mean, he's already won a Super Bowl with one former Super Bowl MVP coming off an injury, so why not try to capture that magic again? I mean, we all kee playing the same lottery numbers, right? And if Flacco does become Peyton Manning 2.0, I will be happy to apologize.

Grade for Ravens: A. Baltimore has Lamar Jacksonand reaped a fourth-round pick for a quarterback they weren't going to keep anyway? I'm not sure you could have asked for much more than this.

Redskins land QB Case Keenum in swap with Broncos

Broncos acquire: 2020 sixth-round pick
Redskins acquire: Keenum, 2020 seventh-round pick

Grade for Broncos: C. It's like selling CDs at a garage sale. You have no use for them anymore, so at least you get something back for them. But then you get depressed when thinking about the amount of money you first spent on them. In the Broncos' case, they handed Keenum a two-year, $36 million deal last year, and he proceeded to compile a 6-10 record, 18:15 TD-to-INT ratio and a passer rating of 81.2; he'll also count for $7 million in dead money against the cap for them this year, according to Over The Cap.

Grade for Redskins: C (for now). On one hand, Washington has added Keenum to a roster that already included Colt McCoy. (Insert Spider-Man pointing meme here.) But I'm willing to wait and see if the team drafts a quarterback or takes a run at Rosen if the Cardinals draft Murray. Keenum would be an ideal bridge quarterback.

Dolphins trade QB Ryan Tannehill to Titans

Titans acquire: Tannehill, 2019 sixth-round pick (No. 188)
Dolphins acquire: 2019 seventh-round pick (No. 233), 2020 fourth-round pick

Grade for Titans: B. I don't hate this move. Quarterback Marcus Mariota has battled injuries in recent years, so what's the harm in having a credible backup? If the Titans get creative enough, they could turn the former college receiver into the AFC South's version of Taysom Hill.

Grade for Dolphins: A. I mean, this is all just an elaborate ruse to say aloha to one of the top QBs in 2020, right? And the Dolphinsdid grab Ryan Fitzpatrick. Seriously, I can't wait for those three weeks when Fitzmagic is the best quarterback in the NFL -- followed by the week he throws six picks against the Jets. It's going to be amazing.

49ers land OLB Dee Ford from Chiefs

49ers acquire: Ford
Chiefs acquire: 2020 second-round pick

Grade for 49ers: A. Am I wrong for loving this move? This is a like a poor man's version of the Khalil Mack trade that the Bears made last year. Like how "The Mentalist" was really a low-rent version of "Psych" a few years back. Ford (who also got a new contract out of the deal) is not on Mack's level (nor will he be). But he should help raise the profile of the 49ers' defense, in the same way that Mack did for the Bears' D. Especially when it comes to players like DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas. Seriously, if Ford could help get Thomas -- who's collected just four sacks and 72 tackles in two seasons since being drafted third overall -- to develop, I might give Ford the MVP award.

Grade for Chiefs: B. I mean, I don't want to be the conspiracy theorist who believes Ford couldn't return to the Chiefs after his ill-fated offsides penalty in the AFC Championship Game. I also don't want to be the guy who hits the snooze button repeatedly in the morning. But it turns out, I am that guy. Would have liked the Chiefs to get a first-rounder for Ford. But I'm not mad at this.

Raiders send OG Kelechi Osemele to Jets

Jets acquire: Osemele, 2019 sixth-round pick (No. 196)
Raiders acquire: 2019 fifth-round pick (No. 140)

Grade for Jets: B. Great job, Jets! You went all in on Le'Veon Bell. You're developing Sam Darnold. This is the kind of move that you needed to make, especially after your offensive line was rated the worst by Football Outsiders. Obviously, it comes with some risk, because Osemele is turning 30 in June and missed time with separate knee and toe injuries last season. But when he's right, he's one of the best guards in the game. He's a former Super Bowl champion, a two-time Pro Bowler and a one-time first-team All-Pro selection.

Grade for Raiders: B. I'm not mad at the Raiders for moving on from Osemele. Since they're spending a lot of money on Brown, they can fill Osemele's spot with one of the 119 draft picks they have this year.

Steelers trade OT Marcus Gilbert to Cardinals

Cardinals acquire: Gilbert
Steelers acquire: 2019 sixth-round pick (No. 207)

Grade for Cardinals: B. The Cardinals' offensive line was also rated among the worst in the NFL by Football Outsiders, so something had to be done. Rookie center Mason Cole was the only consistent presence last season, with 11 different guys playing significant snaps for Arizona. Gilbert is another player on the wrong side of 30 who missed 20 games over the past two seasons due to injuries and a four-game suspension in 2017 for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances. But for the cheap asking price, the Cardinals needed to make the move.

Grade for Steelers: B. I mean, you're already saying goodbye to Brown and Le'Veon Bell, so what does this matter? I'm not trying to be rude. But the Steelers have been historically good at moving away from players when the time is right. Although they kind of didn't do that with Brown and Bell, but typically, this is something the Steelers do well.

Follow Adam Rank on Twitter @AdamRank.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content