Commentary

Recent trend not on Seattle's side

Traded skill position players have been falling short; will Winslow's numbers dip?

Originally Published: May 30, 2012
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

NFL trades are funny.

Because of the salary cap, it's hard for teams to find value for high-priced players they are trying to unload. Positions such as running back garner virtually no trade value. Only a desperate team is willing to give up a good draft choice to get a back, and it's hard to move a back who is 27 or older.

What brings this to mind is last week's Kellen Winslow deal. Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano wanted to show that he is control of his new team. Knowing Winslow missed the first week of voluntary OTAs and wouldn't be able to practice much during the season because of knee problems, Schiano shipped Winslow to the Seattle Seahawks for a seventh-round choice.

Winslow for a seventh? It was a no-brainer for Seattle, and it leaves the Bucs' tight end position in question. Despite six knee operations, Winslow is a 28-year-old tight end who can catch 70 to 80 passes a season. Seattle coach Pete Carroll couldn't turn down such a deal.

Where fantasy meets reality, though, is looking at the recent history of similar trades. Most often, trades that look to be steals have been disappointments.

[+] EnlargeWinslow
Mary Langenfeld/US PresswireSeahawks fans would be wise to temper their expectations when it comes to Kellen Winslow's 2012 numbers.

• Last season, Patriots coach Bill Belichick thought he found the right outside receiving threat in Chad Ochocinco for fifth- and sixth-round choices spread over two drafts. Ochocinco watched his numbers drop from 67 catches in his final season in Cincinnati to 15 in his first season with the Patriots.

Lee Evans cost the Ravens a fourth-round pick, but he caught only four passes in nine injury-filled games and is now in Jacksonville trying to resurrect his career.

• The 49ers thought they stole Ted Ginn Jr. from the Miami Dolphins for a fifth-round choice. Although he has been a good threat as a returner and a solid complementary receiver, Ginn has only 31 catches over two seasons with the 49ers.

The trend in trades for skilled offensive players seems to be a drop-off in production. Winslow might come to the Seahawks with a 70-catch history, but it might be better to figure he may grab only 50 to 55 catches if recent history holds up.

I say that while also looking at some of the successful trades. Two years ago, the Jets jumped at the chance to take Santonio Holmes after the Steelers got tired of his off-the-field issues. Holmes immediately became a No. 1 receiver for the Jets on a playoff-caliber team. But as good as he is, Holmes hasn't put up a 1,000-yard season in two years with the Jets.

In Holmes' last year with the Steelers, he had 79 catches for 1,248 yards. With the Jets, he's had 52 and 51 receptions and a combined 1,400 yards. Although it can be argued the Jets are a running team that doesn't produce as many chances for a top receiver, Jets fans probably expected more yards and more catches from Holmes.

The Ravens haven't looked back after their trade two years ago for Anquan Boldin. He's one of the reasons the Ravens have been one of the best teams in the AFC for the past two years. He's a great leader and mentor along with being one of the game's top slot receivers.

Nevertheless, Boldin's yardage numbers have been in the 837- to 887-yard range, not the 80-plus catch, 1,000-yard numbers he posted in Arizona. Ravens management is happy with the deal. Ravens fans with fantasy interests probably are disappointed.

Over the past four years, it's rare for a traded wide receiver, running back or tight end to have a career year with his new team. The one success was Reggie Bush, who cost the Miami Dolphins a sixth-round pick and safety Jonathon Amaya. Bush had his first 1,000-yard rushing season with the Dolphins, but with a new coaching staff and a different offense, he is trying to figure out how he fits in this year.

Trades generate plenty of excitement for the teams acquiring a big-name player. First reviews usually are positive because these trades often fill needs. But general managers have reasons for letting good players go. They unload players for either financial reasons, attitude, declining skills or salary-cap considerations.

One of last year's blockbuster deals involved QB Carson Palmer going to the Oakland Raiders. Palmer didn't have a training camp, because he stayed away from a Bengals team he didn't want to be with anymore.

Palmer was average at best during his first half-season with the Raiders. He wasn't the one acquisition that put Oakland over the top.

Based on recent history when looking at trades, it's wise to lower expectations by about 20 percent. Take the under. The initial excitement often doesn't carry through to the season, even though the trade initially looks good on paper. Winslow, for example, should be a good deal for the Seahawks, but don't go overboard in thinking about his numbers.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer