Expect trade deadline to come and go ... quietly

The NFL trade moratorium arrives on Tuesday at 4 p.m. and, barring the unexpected, the deadline is likely to pass much as it has in recent seasons: without a blockbuster deal.

The Colts acquired Anthony McFarland from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the trade deadline last season, in exchange for a second-round selection in this year's draft, and the standout defensive tackle played a big part in bolstering a shoddy run defense in Indianapolis' surge to the Super Bowl title.

But such meaningful deadline deals simply don't often occur in the league. Even with the increase in offseason bartering over the past four years, in-season trades in the NFL, at least those of any real consequence, remain a rarity.

And this year isn't likely to be an exception.

There might be, as there almost always is, plenty of dialogue. What there won't be, though, is a lot of wheeling and dealing. About the only people likely to better their lot are the folks who control the stock in any of the long-distance phone carriers.

It just doesn't happen in the NFL the way it does in other professional sports, particularly in baseball, where the run-up to the trade deadline is traditionally a frantic time. Such is the anticipation of baseball "deadline deals" that ESPN usually schedules a special show around the event. In contrast, Tuesday's edition of "NFL Live" isn't likely to kick off with a breathless Trey Wingo analyzing the ramifications of a dozen 11th-hour trades.

"We may be searching [for a running back] right now," said Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden, whose team has been attempting to acquire Minnesota backup Mewelde Moore to address a spate of injuries at the tailback position. "But 'searching' and 'collecting' are two different issues. You can search all you want, but there aren't a lot of teams in football that are willing to part ways with a good running back or good players [in general]."

Since 1990, there have been only 20 "deadline deals" in the NFL. Over the past 10 years, six deadlines have passed without a trade being made. Perhaps the most notable player dealt in the past 20 years was Jerry Rice, who went from Oakland to Seattle just before the 2004 deadline. But Rice, who some consider the greatest player ever, was 42 at the time. He had already left the San Francisco 49ers, the franchise he is most associated with, and was clearly in decline.

Only a few years ago, the most cited excuse for the lack of action on deadline day was the salary cap and the restrictions it might present. But teams are flush with cap room this season -- at least 10 franchises have more than $10 million each in available space, more than enough to take on even a fairly weighty contract -- and there still won't be much bartering. One reason is, as noted, that teams' front office personnel have talked themselves into a state of inertia. The other is that many general managers and coaches still believe it is difficult to assimilate a player into their system after the first month of the season.

That's why there has been no discernable ground swell to move the trade deadline back to a later juncture in the schedule, as baseball has. In baseball, a team can add a pitcher for the final month of the season and make a difference. In the NFL, it would probably take a player two weeks to merely gain a cursory familiarity with a scheme.

Chances are there will be two or three minor deals next week, perhaps with the Bucs, who have made a deadline deal each of the past three seasons, getting a veteran tailback. And there are teams attempting to bolster the depth on their offensive and defensive lines as well. There could even be a little more action than usual, simply because competition in some divisions is more wide open than anticipated and a few franchises sense the chance to steal a division title by acquiring a role player.

It will be a surprise, though, if any truly high-profile players change teams.

"Even if you moved the deadline," said Atlanta Falcons' team president Rich McKay, co-chairman of the league's competition committee, "I don't think it would increase the likelihood of more trades. People suggest it every so often, but I don't think there's any kind of strong sentiment to do it."

And so things figure to remain status quo. Which probably means status no on any significant deals before Tuesday's deadline.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.