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Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Are NFL trades worth making?

By John Clayton
ESPN.com

The trade deadline passed quietly Tuesday with only one minor deal.

Overall, the 2013 trade season provided little impact for teams acquiring new players. Of the 38 trades, involving 50 players, very few included game-changers.

The offseason trade of QB Alex Smith to Kansas City for two second-round picks may turn out to be the biggest winner. Some other deals of note: WR Anquan Boldin got the San Francisco 49ers through a 6-2 start with 38 catches at the cost of a mere sixth-round pick. Parys Haralson bailed out the New Orleans Saints at outside linebacker for a seventh-round pick, while QB Carson Palmer has helped get the Arizona Cardinals to .500.

Many of the other big-name trade acquisitions have failed to deliver the expected production. The trade of CB Darrelle Revis to Tampa Bay was one of the main headliners of the offseason, but the Bucs are winless and Revis spent a good portion of the first two months of the season playing zone. Injury has prevented WR Percy Harvin from suiting up for the Seahawks, and RB Trent Richardson went to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round pick but has averaged only 3 yards per carry since the deal.

On Tuesday, Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff explained why he usually stays away from in-season trades. "There is oftentimes a reason why some players are available via trade in-season, and that does not always fit with our team-building philosophy,'' Dimitroff said.

If you look closely at 2013 trades, you can see why. Because of a tight salary cap, teams are more reluctant to surrender draft picks in the first four rounds. Those picks have to be looked at as potential starters and low-cost options to balance the cap.

Alex Smith
Trading for Alex Smith in the offseason has propelled the undefeated Chiefs to the top of the NFL standings.

Only six players -- Alex Smith, Harvin, Revis, Chris Ivory, Richardson and Eugene Monroe -- were moved for picks higher than the fourth round. Davone Bess went to Cleveland for a fourth and fifth, but the Dolphins had to give back a fourth and seventh, which takes the value below a fourth-rounder.

Fans clamor all the time for trades. If the season isn't going according to plan, they want teams to trade assets for future picks. The reality is that most trades net late-round draft picks, and in this past draft, less than 50 percent of those players made it to a 53-man roster.

That's not much in the way of team-building. Trading a starter away isn't necessarily bringing back a starter. And in some cases, teams are just looking to dump contracts. The Arizona Cardinals were so insistent on unloading Levi Brown's contract, they paid off most of his 2013 salary and gave him to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a conditional seventh-rounder in 2016. After Brown tore his triceps in pregame warm-ups a few weeks ago, the Steelers were off the hook as far as giving the Cardinals a draft choice.

Trades are an important part of the game, but far too often the expected impact is overrated.

From the inbox

Q: People are complaining that field goal percentages are going up. Easiest way to make the game more exciting? Change the rule so only players that were on the field for the prior play can be eligible to kick a field goal.

Bob in Philadelphia, PA.

A: Field goals aren't exciting, but they count as points. Kickers are making 86 percent of their field goals this year. There have been 410 field goals made in the first 120 games. Teams have converted fourth downs at a 45.4 percent clip this season, and teams going for it on fourth-and-1 have been successful 60.2 percent of the time. What I'm saying is any change that negatively affects accurate kicking would create more plays that fail than succeed and would bring down scoring. That's not a good thing. At the current pace, field goal kickers account for 10.25 points of the 46.2 total points scored in games. Because you wouldn't necessarily get more touchdowns, I would project that scoring would go down to 20 to 21 points a game per team. Fans like more scoring, not less.

Q: I am a big Patriots fan. Even at 6-2, I am pretty concerned about our ability to compete for a Super Bowl this year. With the Patriots lack of depth and several untimely injuries, why didn't they leverage Ryan Mallett to one of these quarterback-hungry teams? I could easily see Cleveland giving up Josh Gordon for Mallett and a second rounder. I can't see Mallett re-signing with the team to sit in Brady's shadow some more, so why not strike while the iron is hot?

Michael in Kansas City, Mo.

A: I'm with you on the Josh Gordon deal. Mallett and a high draft choice should have been a consideration for the Patriots. You have to think they talked to the Browns about Gordon, and maybe the Pats made an offer. I thought they made a good move getting Isaac Sopoaga to help out at defensive tackle, but I don't know if they have enough at receiver. Danny Amendola has a long injury history and Rob Gronkowski is coming off five surgeries. The young receivers have been inconsistent and Tom Brady's stats have crashed. I knew they would be good enough to win the division and be in position to get a No. 2 or No. 3 seed. But if a few more things go wrong, they could be very beatable in the playoffs.

Q: Why not consider two teams in London? When teams travel to London for games, they could stay for consecutive weeks and play both teams. NFL teams would only have to make the London trip every four years. The NFL could sell a package of early, early games for TV. You would also give the teams – perhaps, based in Wembley and the Olympic Stadium -- an instant rivalry.

Garrick in Tampa, Fla.

A: So which two NFL cities would you want to lose their teams? The NFL has no current plans for expansion. In my opinion, it should be more of a priority to get a team in Los Angeles before getting one or two teams in London. To your point, though, that would be a better way to build the brand in London because it would create a competition. What I don't know is whether there are enough fans to support the two franchises in London. Could they sell enough tickets and sponsorship? That is the unknown element.

Q: What happened to the Vikings offensive line this year? They returned all five starters from last year but they have not been able to run block or pass protect at all this year. They seem to be missing critical blocks to open running lanes and overall letting defensive lines push them around a lot more easily than they did last year.

Alex in Fort Collins, Colo.

A: Part of the problem is that teams adjusted to them with the problems the Vikes are experiencing at quarterback. Only the San Francisco 49ers have seen more eight-man fronts than the Vikings. Defenses could do that because they knew QBs Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel weren't going to beat them deep with the pass, and Josh Freeman was a disaster in his first game. But teams know they have to stop Adrian Peterson. Last year, Peterson beat the loaded box. This year has been much tougher. Tackles Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt have had slow starts after having good seasons in 2012. You're right, though. There has been a drop-off in blocking across the line.

Q: The Philadelphia Eagles management has drastically overrated their talent over the past five years -- so have the fans. It is my belief that the talent of the roster as a whole is in the bottom quarter of the league, if not worse. Am I correct?

John in Philadelphia

A: I would say you are 50 percent right. I think they have enough good offensive players. Injuries at the receiver position have pulled them down, but they have good backs, DeSean Jackson, decent tight ends and H-backs. Where you are right is on defense. The moves to fix the secondary haven't worked. I'm still not sure switching to a 3-4 was a good idea. They had a pretty decent talent group for the front seven of a 4-3. They have to figure it out going forward.

Q: I have read quite a few articles discussing the Minnesota Vikings trading Adrian Peterson. He is clearly the best running back in the league and is such a special player. Yet considering the league is more pass-orientated and his large long-term contract (not to mention what he means to the team), the odds of him going anywhere are really low. Yet why has there been no mention of trading some of the other assets that the Vikings have: Jared Allen and Kevin Williams, specifically. Both are at the end of their contracts, still have great talent, and defensive line help seems to be a need with plenty of playoff-caliber teams.

Joe in Moosup, Conn.

A: There was interest in Jared Allen, but his contract is too big for the Vikings to get any decent offers. They would have wanted a second- or third-rounder in return. Moving his $14 million-plus salary doesn't fit most team's caps. They would have to pay a good portion of his salary to make something work. Age hurt Kevin Williams' value. It also hurts that each is in the last year of his contract. Why give up a good draft choice for an aging player who might be there for only seven games?