While four teams are still in contention for Super Bowl LV, the entire NFL world is waiting to see how the drama in Houston will play out between the Texans’ front office and star quarterback Deshaun Watson.
The Pro Bowler, coming off a career year in which he led the NFL with 4,823 passing yards, has made it clear that he wants out of Houston. If the Texans do trade him, it would rank among the biggest deals in NFL history.
The league has seen its share of blockbuster deals. In 1999, the Saints traded their entire draft board for the right to draft Ricky Williams. Five years later, the Chargers drafted Eli Manning and then traded him later that day for Philip Rivers. But those were draft-day deals. Nobody knew for sure what the players involved in those deals were going to be.
The team that deals for Watson knows what it’s getting — which is why the compensation will be massive.
To put it in perspective, here are the five biggest trades in NFL history that involved established NFL stars:
Eric Dickerson, 1987
In his first four NFL seasons, Eric Dickerson averaged 1,742 rushing yards per season. But a contract dispute led the Rams to trade Dickerson to the Colts in a massive three-team deal. In exchange for the Hall of Fame running back, the Rams received three first-round picks (two from the Bills, one from the Colts), three second-round picks (two from the Colts, one from the Bills) and two veteran running backs (Greg Bell and Owen Gill). The Bills, for their part, received the rights to Colts rookie linebacker Cornelius Bennett, who went on to have an All-Pro career in his own right.
Khalil Mack, 2018
Mack was the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year with Oakland, but a contract dispute led him to be traded at the start of the 2018 season. The Raiders traded Mack, a 2020 second-round pick (Cole Kmet) and a 2020 seventh-round pick (Arlington Hambright) to the Chicago Bears for 2019 first-round pick (24th overall, Josh Jacobs) and a 2020 first-round pick (19th overall, Damon Arnette), as well as 2019 sixth-round and 2020 third-round selections.
Ollie Matson, 1959
Ollie Matson’s best years were behind him when the Chicago Cardinals traded him to the Los Angeles Rams, but the future Hall of Famer was still only 28. The Rams gave up nine players to get him: T Frank Fuller, DE Glenn Holtzman, T Ken Panfil, DT Art Hauser, E John Tracey, FB Larry Hickman, HB Don Brown, the Rams’ second-round choice in 1960 (Mike McGee, G, Duke, 14th overall) and a player to be named later. Matson was a star attraction in L.A., but he never made the Pro Bowl after six Pro Bowl seasons with Chicago.
Joe Montana, 1993
Can you imagine trading away a three-time Super Bowl MVP? That’s exactly what the San Francisco 49ers did in 1993, and the move actually paid off for both sides. Joe Montana had been out with an elbow injury and Steve Young gained a firm grip on the starting QB job. So the 49ers sent Montana, safety David Whitmore and a third-round pick to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for the Chiefs’ first-round pick. San Francisco used that pick to draft DT Dana Stubblefield, a Pro Bowler who started on their Super Bowl XXIX team. The Montana deal led another Super bowl MVP, Marcus Allen, to sign with K.C. just a few months later. Montana and Allen helped the Chiefs reach the AFC title game in ’93.
Herschel Walker, 1989
Herschel Walker made the Pro Bowl in 1987 and ’88 with the Cowboys. In ’88, the former Heisman Trophy winner amassed 2,019 scrimmage yards, but Dallas went 3-13. So when Jimmy Johnson took over in 1989, he cashed in his biggest bargaining chip. Walker went to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for four veteran players, Minnesota’s first-, second-, and sixth-round choices in 1990, its first- and second-round choices in 1991, its first-, second-, and third-round choices in 1992. That draft bonanza played a big part in Johnson’s development of a dynasty in Dallas.