Analysis

Grading NFL’s Biggest 2022 Trade Deadline Deals Entering Playoffs

The Rams’ acquisition of edge rusher extraordinaire Von Miller at the 2021 trade deadline was a major factor in the team’s eventual winning of the Super Bowl. There were many trades at the mid-season deadline this year that helped teams reach the playoffs. Will any of these recent additions do for their teams what Miller did for the Rams?

Here’s my review of seven prominent trade deadline deals with my grades based primarily on what we’ve seen on the field in 2022 with the players acquired, but of course we have to factor in future draft picks, which can dramatically affect the final analysis.

Panthers Trade McCaffrey to 49ers

Carolina received:

  • 2023 second-round pick
  • 2023 third-round pick
  • 2023 fourth-round pick
  • 2024 fifth-round pick

San Francisco received:

McCaffrey has played up to his past All-Pro caliber in 11 regular-season games with the 49ers, and they’ve won 10 straight with him as the lead back. He has 746 rushing yards, 52 receptions for 464 yards and 10 total touchdowns since he left the Panthers. He stayed healthy this season, which always is the concern after he missed 23 games over the 2020 and 2021 seasons. His three 100-yard rushing games over the past five weeks have been a major factor for coach Kyle Shanahan in taking some of the pressure off rookie QB Brock Purdy.

The four draft picks are a big price to pay for a back who is an injury risk, but it didn’t cost the 49ers a No. 1 pick. Who knows if the Panthers would have been able to overtake Tampa Bay in the NFC South (they finished one game back) had they held on to the versatile McCaffrey. If they use the picks well, it should be a good deal for them, and it’s a great deal for the Niners if the 26-year-old McCaffrey stays healthy.

Panthers’ Grade: B

The Panthers would still do this deal to get out of a big contract for a player who missed too many of their games. The four picks could help them move up from the No. 9 overall pick in the upcoming draft to grab a potential franchise quarterback they need.

49ers’ Grade: A

It was a risky and expensive (in picks and salary) proposition the 49ers would gladly do again given McCaffrey’s production thus far and age.

Bears Trade Roquan Smith to Ravens

Chicago received:

  • LB A.J. Klein
  • 2023 second-round pick
  • 2023 fifth-round pick

Baltimore received:

The Ravens were willing to pay the reasonable price in draft picks and the big bucks to sign Smith to a $20 million per-year extension for a Pro Bowl linebacker in his prime at 25 years old. The Bears are in rebuild mode and felt Smith was expendable, which is an odd way to view your leading tackler.

As an every-down linebacker who plays the run and pass well, Smith has been a great fit for a Baltimore defense that had to carry the load to earn a playoff spot with Lamar Jackson out the past several weeks. Smith has 66 tackles over the past six games and 86 tackles in his nine games with the Ravens, along with seven tackles for loss.

Bears’ Grade: D

The Bears knew what they had in Smith and reportedly tried to extend him but didn’t think he was worth top linebacker money. Klein was a throw-in who was waived shortly after the trade. The Bears still would make the trade to add the two picks in their rebuilding effort.

Ravens’ Grade: A

The Ravens love Smith’s playmaking and versatility. They’d absolutely jump on this deal again.

Dolphins Get Chubb in Blockbuster

Denver Received:

Miami Received:

After a strong start to the season, the Dolphins limped into the playoffs as the No. 7 AFC seed. They went 4-4 after acquiring Chubb with Tua Tagovailoa’s concussion issues the main problem. Chubb has not made the impact the Dolphins were hoping for with only 2.5 sacks and 13 tackles (he does have 12 QB hits). He is a former top-5 pick and at 26 years old has a long career ahead of him. He should be more effective next year when he’s used to the Dolphins’ system. Miami also extended him for $110 million over five years, so they need him to play like the Pro Bowler he was in 2020.

The Broncos gave up their leading sacker at the time (5.5 in eight games), and the first-rounder they received will likely be very late in the round. They are missing their own No. 1 from the Russell Wilson trade. Edmonds gained only 125 rushing yards and 61 receiving yards and missed four games after the trade. I don’t see the Broncos keeping him at his $6 million salary next season.

Broncos’ Grade: B

The Broncos need that No. 1 pick to upgrade the offensive line to support Wilson or add a replacement pass rusher, and Chubb needs to play better to be worth $22 million per year so they’d still make the trade.

Dolphins’ Grade: B-

This grade could jump if Chubb steps up his play in the playoffs or more likely next year to justify his salary and the first-round pick they gave up. The Dolphins would still do the deal.

Vikings Acquire Hockenson From Lions

Detroit Received:

  • 2023 second-round pick
  • 2024 third-round pick

Minnesota Received:

  • TE T.J. Hockenson
  • 2023 fourth-round pick
  • 2024 conditional fourth-round pick

The Lions traded their former top-10 pick to a division rival and in the process weakened their receiving corps for Jared Goff (who still had a great late-season run). The Lions’ replacement as No. 1 tight end is an average player in Brock Wright (18 catches, 216 yards, 4 TDs).

Hockenson had a big impact on the Vikings’ offense, providing QB Kirk Cousins with an excellent target after Irv Smith Jr. was lost for most of the season with an ankle injury. Smith is back now to give the Vikings a potentially dynamic pair of tight ends in the playoffs. Hockenson helped take pressure off superstar receiver Justin Jefferson, catching 60 passes for 519 yards and 3 TDs in 10 games after the trade. Hockenson is 25, an elite receiving tight end and a good enough blocker. He’s also under contract next year at an affordable $9.4 million for a Pro Bowl-caliber player.

Hockenson probably could have helped the Lions get one more win that would’ve made them a playoff team.

Lions’ Grade: D

I don’t think the Lions would do this trade again, considering the difference Hockenson could’ve made for them, and the late second-round pick they’ll get from the 13-4 Vikings is not worth losing a Pro Bowl player.

Vikings’ Grade: A

The Vikings are thrilled with what Hockenson has added to their offense and definitely would trade for him again while weakening the team that might be their toughest competition in the NFC North next season.

Bears Acquire Claypool From Steelers

Pittsburgh Received:

  • 2023 second-round pick

Chicago Received:

Claypool was third in the Steelers’ receiver pecking order behind Diontae Johnson and George Pickens. They were happy to pick up the first pick in the second round (No. 32 overall with Miami’s first-rounder forfeited, so it’s really the last pick in Round 1).

Claypool was productive but not a 1,000-yard receiver in Pittsburgh and had only 14 catches for 140 yards and no TDs in seven games with the Bears in their run-first offense. The former second-rounder is only 24 years old. He’s a potential upgrade at the position next season when he’s more familiar with the offense and more in sync with Fields.

Steelers’ Grade: A

The Steelers have to love this deal with such a high pick coming in return for their No. 3 receiver.

Bears’ Grade: C-

The Bears could have a starter opposite Darnell Mooney, but they gave up a pick that is too valuable for Claypool, who would bump down to a third receiver again if the Bears use some of their $113 million in projected 2023 salary cap room to sign a premier free agent receiver.

Giants Trade Toney to Chiefs

N.Y. Giants Received:

  • 2023 third-round pick
  • 2023 sixth-round pick

Kansas City Received:

Perhaps hoping for their next Tyreek Hill in the speedy Toney, the Chiefs pounced when the new regime at the Giants (who did not pick Toney in the 2021 first round) gave up on an oft-injured player in only his second season. The Giants traded down from No. 11 overall before taking Toney when they could’ve drafted Micah Parsons if they had stayed put — yikes!

Toney played in only 12 games over his year-and-a-half with the G-Men and had 41 catches, 420 yards and no TDs. The Giants don’t have a true No. 1 receiver for quarterback Daniel Jones and did not have the patience to see if Toney would develop into a top player.

Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes are happy to take a shot with Toney for a late third-rounder and the sixth-rounder. He caught four passes for 71 yards against Denver in Week 17 after catching a TD pass the week before vs. Seattle, giving him 14 receptions for 171 yards, 2 TDs while in Kansas City. And he could be impactful in the playoffs for Mahomes with his speed and quickness. He’s an inexpensive project who’s got two more years plus a potential fifth-year option on his rookie contract.

Giants Grade: D

It might never have worked in New York, but it seems the Giants gave up on him too soon. GM Joe Schoen and coach Brian Daboll would do the deal again since they didn’t draft Toney and didn’t think they could count on him to stay healthy, but they’d probably like to have gotten a higher pick for him.

Chiefs  Grade: B+

The Chiefs would do it again since it was worth the low cost they paid and could reap great benefits this postseason and down the road. But Toney needs to do a lot more to warrant a higher grade.

Bills Acquire Hines from Colts

Indianapolis Received:

Buffalo Received:

Two weeks ago Hines never would have made this list of impactful trade deadline acquisitions, but then he made Buffalo’s play of the year with his 96-yard kickoff return TD to open the emotional win over the Patriots in Week 18. This of course was in the game dedicated to Damar Hamlin after his cardiac arrest the week before. Hines followed up with a 101-yard kickoff return TD later in the game.

Hines was the Colts’ fourth-round pick in 2018 and had good production over his first four seasons as a runner and receiver (1,511 combined yards, 18 TDs). He was Jonathan Taylor’s primary backup until this season, when he fell behind Taylor and Deon Jackson as ball carriers (only rushing for 36 yards) and was limited to being a receiving back with 25 catches for 188 yards. With the Bills over the past nine games, he had only six carries and five receptions, but he’s had a big impact as a kick returner. Hines has a 29.2-yard average with the two TDs on kickoffs and a 9.6-yard average on punt returns.

Moss, a third-round pick of the Bills in 2020, has been productive for a lousy Colts team with 365 rushing yards and a 4.8-yard average, including a 114-yard day on the ground in the season finale against Houston. He should be a good depth player for the Colts going forward.

Colts Grade: B+

Yes, they’d make this deal again even after Hines’ big day last Sunday because Hines was only returning punts this season (but with a 10-yard average) and not getting many carries.

Bills Grade: A-

Moss seems to be the better runner and Hines the better receiving back at this stage of their careers. But Hines’ performance last Sunday to help lift the Bills to the No. 2 seed, and his potential impact in the playoffs and going forward as a returner and depth running back, is significant.

 

Jeff Diamond is a former Minnesota Vikings general manager and Titans team president. He was selected NFL Executive of the Year after the Vikings’ 15-1 season in 1998. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeffdiamondnfl.

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