(Image via marca.com)
Staff Writer: Tom Dunford
We are halfway through the NFL season, and while some teams are eyeing playing football in late January, others are counting down the days until the 2023 offseason, where they can work toward significant improvement.
Some teams are looking for that extra piece to push them over the edge; now is the last time to pounce on that opportunity. Some teams made phenomenal deadline deals, while others left fans scratching their head at the plan.
So, without further ado, let’s grade the four biggest deals the 2023 NFL trade deadline had to offer.
Kevin Byard Flies to the Eagles
The Eagles have struggled all season with a weak secondary, and they addressed this issue by trading for former Tenessee Titans safety Kevin Byard.
Byard has been one of the best safeties in the game, being a two-time All-Pro and two-time Pro Bowler. The star safety has registered 30 solo tackles this season, along with one fumble recovery in 6 games with the Titans. He does his job, and although he may not make the “flashy” play, he makes the right ones.
The Eagles didn’t give up much, only trading Terrel Edmunds, a fifth-round pick, and a sixth-round pick in the upcoming 2024 NFL draft.
Philadelphia Eagles: B+
Philadelphia has been hurting this season defensively.
Trading for Byard will hopefully push them over the edge and be that missing piece. Putting Byard on the same defense as stars like Darius Slay and Jalen Carter is dangerous, and the rest of the NFC might pay come playoff time.
Tennessee Titans: D
Pre-deadline day, this trade would’ve been a bit higher.
If the Titans had dealt star running back Derrick Henry and announced they would rebuild, this trade would have made some sense. But post-deadline day, with Henry still on the team, this trade is baffling. They are not contending yet to continue to go about the season with no real plan in mind.
This tram will kick the can down the road, and it may haunt them in the future.
49ers are Chasing A Ring, and Chase Young Will Help
When the San Francisco 49ers made the call to Washington, they had one player in mind they wanted to acquire: Chase Young.
The former second-overall pick in the 2020 draft has been underwhelming, to say the least. The Washington Commanders opted not to pick up Young’s fifth-year option, causing this year to be a prove-it year for the former Ohio State defensive end.
The 49ers acquired the struggling defensive end for a third-round pick, which means trouble for the other NFC quarterbacks.
San Francisco 49ers: A+
Just close your eyes and imagine yourself as an NFL quarterback. You yell hike, snap the ball, and take three steps back in the pocket. To the left of you, you see 6’4, 266-pound Nick Bosa charging at you. You decide to turn right to run away when you see 6’5, 264-pound Chase Young gunning for you.
This is how the NFC will feel come playoff time, and for the 49ers, they just got a gem.
Washington Commanders: F
This grade is not just for the trade itself; it’s for the situation at large.
The Washington Commanders drafted Chase Young second overall in the 2020 draft over star players like quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert, wide receivers like Ceedee Lamb and Justin Jefferson, and cornerback A.J. Terrell. These players aren’t just good; they are game-changers on the field. Drafting Chase Young at the time looked like a brilliant move, but the Commanders have taken a generational prospect and tainted him.
To acquire a third-round pick for a player with limitless potential is a failing grade.
Don’t Sweat It, Bears Fans, You Have Montez Sweat
Did I say it gets worse for Washington Commanders fans? No? Well, it gets way worse.
While dealing with Chase Young may have hurt fans, trading defensive end Montez Sweat has tested a lot of fans’ loyalty to the franchise. The Bears needed help on defense, as they sit twenty-eighth in the league for points against per game with 27.3 and thirty-second in the league for defensive sacks with ten all season.
Montez Sweat will help bolster their defensive line and also the Bear’s defense as a whole.
Washington Commanders: C-
It’s challenging to dissect this trade without discussing the former Chase Young deal.
Most of the Commander’s front office was okay with losing Young, who went off script and tried to play hero instead of following the coach’s game plan. But to lose Montez Sweat, a defensive end who did his job, shut down opposing teams rushing ability, and kept his mouth shut, this one stings for the Commanders.
There is a reason for hope, however, as the Bears sit at 2-6 with no real sign of hope for this season. This second-round pick could be in the early 30’s, which could be huge for the Commanders to retool.
Chicago Bears: C+
If there is a contract extension, bump this trade up a letter grade.
Montez Sweat is a danger on every snap, accounting for 6.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in eight games with the Commanders. The Bears’ defense has seen improvement over the last three games, and the hope is they can continue to play a bend-don’t-break style.
The Bears acquired a star defensive end for a position they desperately needed at a reasonable price, so what’s with the low grade? Two words: Chase Claypool. The Bears traded a second-round pick for the former Pittsburgh Steeler, and that second ended up being the 32nd overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft. Claypool struggled so much in the Bears system that he was dealt to Miami for a petty seventh-round pick.
If Montez Sweat leaves in free agency, and the Bears give up a high-end second-round pick for a player who didn’t help them now or in the future, then this is a horrid deal.
Josh Dobbs Finds New Terrain In Minnesota
When the Arizona Cardinals kick-started the year, questions began circling the organization.
The former 2019 first overall pick Kyler Murray had torn his ACL and would be out for at least half of the 2023 NFL season, leaving questions about his playing capability. They had a new head coach, and it felt like this would be a year that Cardinals fans would choose to forget. Starting quarterback Josh Dobbs was signed a week before the season, and it felt like he would be a placeholder for the team. However, he played exceptionally well, keeping the Cardinals competitive in games despite going 1-6.
The Minnesota Vikings were also left in a devastated state. They had lost the best receiver in football, Justin Jefferson, for at least four weeks, they had no rushing attack, and now their starting quarterback Kirk Cousins had torn his Achilles, leaving him out for the rest of the season.
The Vikings called Arizona and got their guy in Josh Dobbs, trading a sixth-round pick in exchange.
Minnesota Vikings: B+
It feels like it can’t get worse for the Minnesota Vikings.
After going 13-4, every hater and non-believer was proven right about the fluky Vikings, who lost a wild-card game to the New York Giants. The Vikings had a lot of pressure to perform this season, and in eight games, they sit 4-4 but have lost a lot of talent on both sides of the ball.
Josh Dobbs, however, opens many new doors and opportunities for the franchise; with his dual-threat rushing ability and talent of getting through to a locker room, he has formed himself into a proven leader whom the Vikings believe in.
Arizona Cardinals: A-
The Cardinals didn’t get much in return for Dobbs, but that wasn’t the goal of the organization’s trade. This repels any controversy the media may say about Kyler Murray when he returns to the football field. If Murray plays poorly, major criticism will come, and rumors will rumble if the Cardinals are better off without him.
This trade makes a straightforward statement: the Cardinals want Murray. They want him to know they trust him, and by making this trade, it proves he is their guy for this season and beyond.