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NFL Trade Deadline 2023: Grading Every Move

Tuesday's 4 p.m. trade deadline will spur action across the NFL. Some teams are looking to strengthen their rosters for a deep playoff run, and others are already looking to accrue more draft capital ahead of the 2024 NFL Draft.

With that in mind, we will be grading every single deal made at or near the NFL trade deadline.

>> READ: Insider Trade Deadline Rumors

Grading NFL Deadline Trades

Packers Trade CB Rasul Douglas, 2024 Fifth-Round Pick To Bills

Compensation: 2024 third-round pick

Packers: B

The Green Bay Packers have lost four straight games and are among the worst teams in the NFC. They are clearly in rebuild mode, so holding onto a 29-year-old cornerback doesn’t make sense.

What makes the Packers winners is the compensation. Rather than getting back a mid–Day 3 pick, Green Bay did a pick-swap to improve its fifth-round pick to the third round. That could be the difference in 75-80 spots, depending on compensatory picks and where the Buffalo Bills finish. 

This gives the Packers even more ammunition inside the top 100 of next year’s draft. For a team going nowhere this season, this is a smart move by the front office.

Bills: B+

The Buffalo Bills had to make a move at cornerback after losing Tre’Davious White to an injury earlier this season. Last year’s first-round pick, Kaiir Elam, has been a healthy scratch several times this season, and Buffalo just wasn’t getting enough from its cornerback room. 

Rasul Douglas is a massive upgrade for the Bills, and all it cost them was a mid-round pick swap. According to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Douglas has allowed only 6.5 yards per target this season, which is better than every Bills cornerback. Douglas isn’t a lockdown defender, but he is a ball-hawk with 10 interceptions over the last three seasons. 

Lions Obtain Browns WR Donovan Peoples-Jones

Compensation: 2025 sixth-round pick

Lions: B+

The Detroit Lions needed to add a perimeter receiver, especially with Josh Reynolds struggling and the recent release of Marvin Jones. Donovan Peoples-Jones fell out of favor in Cleveland, earning just four targets in the last three games.

But he’ll be in a better spot in Detroit, especially with Amon-Ra St. Brown and Sam LaPorta playing inside. It remains to be seen how many targets he gets, especially with the Lions giving more snaps to Jameson Williams. However, the Lions just added a talented outside receiver at a pretty cheap price. 

At this price, it’s worth a flyer to get a productive, young receiver added to the offense.

Browns: C+

To understand this move for the Cleveland Browns, all you need to do is look back at their 2023 draft class. Despite not having a selection in the first two rounds, their top pick was WR Cedric Tillman at No. 74. 

The Browns had no interest in signing Peoples-Jones to a long-term deal. With his contract expiring after the 2023 season, they moved on now and added a draft pick. Tillman has just one catch for five yards this season, but he is expected to have a bigger role going forward.

The only reason the Browns don’t get a higher grade is because Peoples-Jones has been a productive receiver for them in the past. He had a career year in 2022, racking up 841 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns in 14 starts. He’s only 24 years old and can help on special teams. Getting a late Day 3 pick from him two years from now seems a little cheap.

Commanders Trade EDGE Chase Young To 49ers

Compensation: 2024 compensatory third-round pick

Commanders: D-

The Washington Commanders traded away Montez Sweat earlier in the day for a second-round pick, which was an outstanding deal for Washington. But the thought process behind the deal was that it would free up cap space to sign fellow defensive end Chase Young to a long-term deal. But apparently, that is not the case.

Instead, the Commanders traded Young to the San Francisco 49ers for a third-round pick, which will be in the 90s or early 100s. Young is playing the best football of his career and is only 24 years old. It’s clear the Commanders are throwing in the towel and starting over, but this is horrendous value for a player of Young's caliber and pedigree.

49ers: A+

The 49ers know they are in a Super Bowl window, and there is no sense in waiting around. Trading a late third-round pick for a player like Young is an absolute steal. With Young alongside Nick Bosa, the 49ers now have the NFL’s best defensive line and should dominate on that side of the ball again.

Young might just be a rental for the regular season and playoffs, but San Francisco will get that pick back in 2025 with a compensatory selection. The 49ers just stole Young, and it might be the move they needed to get back to being the favorites in the NFC. 

Vikings Trade OG Ezra Cleveland To Jaguars

Compensation: 2024 sixth-round pick

Jaguars: A-

The Jacksonville Jaguars needed to beef up their interior offensive line, and Ezra Cleveland should certainly help there. He is a former offensive tackle who made the switch to offensive guard in the NFL, and Cleveland has started 49 games during his career, playing left and right guard. He’ll play left guard for the Jaguars, providing a major upgrade over Ben Bartch and Walker Little.

Vikings: B+

After signing Dalton Risner a few weeks ago, Cleveland became an expandable asset for the Minnesota Vikings. While he’s been a solid player throughout his career, Cleveland had fallen out of favor in Minnesota. And with his contract expiring at the end of the 2023 season, it’s smart to move on and recoup a late-round pick. It is a tad surprising that the Vikings weren’t able to get more for Cleveland, but this is still a win for them.

Cardinals Trade QB Josh Dobbs to Vikings

Compensation: 2024 sixth-round pick

Vikings: A

The Minnesota Vikings had to make a move at quarterback after Kirk Cousins tore an Achilles. But with Minnesota sitting at 4-4, the Vikings didn’t want to mortgage their future on a team that might not be playoff-worthy. Instead, they traded for Josh Dobbs, who is a significant upgrade over the rest of the quarterbacks on their roster.

Former NFL general manager Mike Tannenbaum, an analyst for The 33rd Team said, "This trade makes sense. He would've been the third-string quarterback in Arizona. It was a surprise he went from first to third in Arizona. I thought the Vikings were going to sign Colt McCoy, who has prior experience with O'Connell. I would expect Dobbs to start as early as this week for Minnesota."

Dobbs has started 10 games in the last two seasons and has been a viable quarterback. He certainly won’t come close to replacing Cousins’ production, but this move gives the Vikings a solid quarterback they can compete with for the remainder of the 2023 season. They hardly gave up anything to get him, so it’s hard to find fault in this trade.

Cardinals: A-

On Monday, Jonathan Gannon announced the Arizona Cardinals would move forward with Clayton Tune or Kyler Murray as their starting quarterback for the rest of the season. That was probably the right decision, considering Murray is close to returning from his ACL injury and Tune is a rookie who showed a lot of upside in the preseason. 

Another reason why this trade makes sense for the Cardinals is because Dobbs started to regress in the last month. In the first four games of the year, Dobbs had a passer rating of 99.4 with five total touchdowns and zero interceptions. But in the past four games, his passer rating dropped to 65.5 with six turnovers. He averaged just 5.28 yards per attempt, with the offense scoring only 15.75 points per game. 

While you would hope the Cardinals would get more in a trade for a starting-caliber quarterback, his lack of a pedigree and declining play certainly affected the price tag. But that opens the door for Tune and Murray to man the Cardinals’ quarterback position moving forward. 

Commanders Trade DE Montez Sweat to Bears

Compensation: 2024 second-round pick

Bears: C+

The Chicago Bears had to address their lack of pass rush before the deadline, so it wasn’t surprising they were in on all the available rushers. However, giving up a second-round pick for a player on an expiring deal is pretty pricey. Especially when you consider Montez Sweat will be 28 before the 2024 season and has never posted double-digit sacks.

Sweat is a significant upgrade for the Bears. There is no doubt about that. But giving up significant draft capital and being forced to give Sweat a market-value deal is a pretty tough blow. What makes this even more difficult to stomach is that Sweat has just 15 quarterback hurries this season, which ranks 41st in the NFL, according to TruMedia. On his own team, Chase Young (27) and Jonathan Allen (17) had more hurries than Sweat.

The Bears got a nice player, but they certainly didn’t get much value. For the second year in a row, they gave up their second-round pick at the deadline. Sweat is undoubtedly better than Chase Claypool, but this feels like a big overpay for a good pass rusher on an expiring deal.

Commanders: A-

The Washington Commanders were in a tough spot. With both of their defensive ends in contract years, they were forced to decide between Sweat and Young. They made the right decision, giving up Sweat, who has a much lower ceiling. Now that Young is healthy, he has been the better pass rusher and is nearly four years younger.

Getting a second-round pick who could be a top-40 selection is a pretty good haul for Washington, especially for a player they could have lost in free agency if he wasn’t traded. It’s always tough to lose a player of Sweat’s caliber, but the Commanders must be thrilled with this trade.

Giants Send DL Leonard Williams To Seahawks

Compensation: 2024 second-round pick, 2025 fifth-round pick

  Seattle Seahawks: B

The Seattle Seahawks smell blood in the water after the San Francisco 49ers have lost three straight games. Going into Week 9, the Seahawks are leading the NFC West and have a real chance to steal the division. Not only that, but it’s clear there is a window for this team, and now is the time to strike while the iron is hot. 

Despite their 5-2 record, the Seahawks had to get better on the defensive line to compete with the top teams in the NFL, especially after the loss of Uchenna Nwosu. That is why the Leonard Williams trade makes so much sense.

Williams is a perfect fit with Dre’Mont Jones and is still one of the best interior run defenders in the league. While he doesn’t have a ton of sacks, he has created 18 pressures and 12 hurries in seven games. He gives Seattle another quality defensive lineman, which the team desperately needed. 

Seattle gave up quite a bit to get him, especially considering Williams is in the final year of his deal. While this move doesn’t cost the Seahawks much on the cap, a second and a future fifth-round pick is a bit rich. That’s the only reason Seattle doesn’t get a better grade here.

But make no mistake: This is a huge addition for the Seahawks that instantly improves their defense. 

  New York Giants: A+

This is a fantastic move for the New York Giants for multiple reasons. They got back a valuable pick in the 2024 draft and moved off a player who likely wouldn’t return next year anyway. 

The Giants acquired Williams before the 2019 trade deadline, getting him for a third- and fifth-round pick from the New York Jets. He ended up playing 61 games for the Giants, and they flipped him for even more draft compensation five years later. That is a pretty impressive ROI for the Giants.

It’s clear the Giants know they won’t compete this season, so getting two picks for a 29-year-old defensive tackle is a huge win. Plus, they already have a replacement in-house with A’Shawn Robinson at a much cheaper price. The Giants did have to eat a significant amount of Williams’ salary, but that is an easy pill to swallow for a second-round pick. Well done, Joe Schoen.

Eagles Acquire S Kevin Byard From Titans

Compensation: S Terrell Edmunds, 2024 fifth-round pick (via Buccaneers), 2024 sixth-round pick (via Titans)

Philadelphia Eagles: A-

The Philadelphia Eagles had a massive hole at the safety position, and it was clear that Terrell Edmunds wasn’t good enough to be an every-down starter. So, they went out and acquired the best safety available for two late-round picks.

Kevin Byard is an instant upgrade over the rest of the safeties on the roster and gives them a ball-hawking defensive back with a proven track record of making big plays. For a team that is clearly in a Super Bowl window, this is exactly the type of move they should be making. It’s pretty low risk with a lot of upside moving forward.

Tennessee Titans: B+

It’s always hard to trade away a player who is as established and well-respected as Byard, but it needed to be done. Byard’s contract is up after the 2023 season, and he’ll be 31 before next year. It was pretty unlikely the Tennessee Titans would bring him back, especially with his play declining some over the last few seasons.

The Titans are looking forward to the future and adding a few late-round picks and another young safety to replace him is a pretty solid haul. This isn’t a franchise-changing move, but a necessary one that shows the front office has some clarity about where this team is headed.

Marcus Mosher is an NFL writer with a decade of experience in podcasting and writing for various NFL websites, including Bleacher Report, Pro Football Focus and The Athletic. He’s currently a managing editor at USA Today Sports Media Group and host of the Locked On Cowboys Podcast. Marcus has been working full-time covering the NFL since 2015 and works as a betting expert for You can follow him at @Marcus_Mosher.