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The Biggest Winners, Losers From 2023 NFL Trade Deadline

This year’s trade deadline deals don’t have quite the sizzle of last season when four Pro Bowl players were on the move — Christian McCaffrey, T.J. Hockenson, Roquan Smith and Bradley Chubb. These four players helped their teams secure playoff berths and have remained highly productive this season.

However, there are several deals just completed that could turn out to be game-changers for their acquiring teams, while the teams who have dealt these players may see mixed results. And the Washington Commanders’ fire sale of both starting defensive ends is certainly a strange turn of events.

Here are the biggest winners and losers from the 2023 NFL trade deadline:

Trade Deadline Winners and Losers

Biggest Winners

San Francisco 49ers Trade for DE Chase Young

This is a potential steal at the cost of a late third-round pick for the San Francisco 49ers to upgrade their pass rush. The team’s rush has not produced as it did last season — it’s 24th in pressure rate and 18th in sacks with 18. Chase Young is the talented second overall pick from the 2020 draft who has recovered from an ACL injury that cost him the last half of the 2021 season and 14 games in 2022.

Young has five sacks and 25 pressures (eighth-most in the league) and joins Nick Bosa, Javon Hargrave and Arik Armstead to form an elite front four. That will help a 49ers secondary that has struggled the past two weeks against the Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals’ passing games and has contributed to a three-game losing streak. San Francisco’s bye this week will give the coaches more time to get Young up to speed before a tough road game at the Jacksonville Jaguars and important matchups with the division rival Seattle Seahawks in Weeks 12 and 14.

Young is in the final year of his rookie deal, so the 49ers will have to decide whether to re-sign or franchise him in the coming offseason.

Washington Commanders Trade DE Montez Sweat

Both Montez Sweat and Young were headed to free agency next March. It was assumed the Commanders couldn’t keep both of their starting defensive ends; they have invested so much money and cap space in Pro Bowl DTs Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne.

The team made the wise move to trade the 27-year-old Sweat to the Chicago Bears for a second-round pick that is likely to be among the top three in the round — as opposed to receiving no more than a third-round compensatory pick in 2025 if he left in free agency. That’s much better than keeping Sweat through a season in which the playoffs don't seem likely for the inconsistent 3-5 Commanders.

Sweat is having a fine season with 6.5 sacks, 11 QB hits, 10 tackles for loss and 32 tackles, but it’s still a good decision to get such a high pick in return, as opposed to the Young trade for a late third-round pick (more on that in the losers section).

Buffalo Bills Trade for CB Rasul Douglas

The Buffalo Bills’ defense has dropped from sixth last season to 13th through eight games. Rasul Douglas should be a great addition to a secondary that lost Pro Bowl CB Tre’Davious White for the season due to a torn Achilles. And 2022 first-round corner Kaiir Elam has been a disappointment and was a healthy scratch last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

This trade should be well worth the third-round pick the Bills sent to the Green Bay Packers (with a fifth-rounder coming back) for a solid, 28-year-old cornerback who can play zone or man coverage and brings a feisty edge. He was a third-round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017 and has one interception, six passes defensed and 32 tackles this season in Green Bay. Douglas had nine interceptions and 26 passes defensed over the previous two seasons (including two pick-sixes in 2021).

Josh Dobbs throws a pass in an Arizona Cardinals uniform against the Minnesota Vikings Photo: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

QB Joshua Dobbs Traded to Minnesota Vikings

After QB Kirk Cousins was lost for the season because of his torn Achilles, the Minnesota Vikings acquired Joshua Dobbs for a sixth-round pick and a conditional seventh-rounder. This sets up a great opportunity for Dobbs, who was going to be replaced by Clayton Tune or Kyler Murray this week after Dobbs threw two interceptions in Sunday’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Dobbs joins a playoff-caliber team that has won three straight games and offers a terrific supporting cast on offense, led by Pro Bowlers Justin Jefferson and Hockenson, along with star rookie receiver Jordan Addison. Dobbs just has to win the starting job over rookie fifth-rounder Jaren Hall and veteran backups Nick Mullens (who can come off injured reserve next week if his back injury is healed) and Sean Mannion.

Dobbs has bounced around the league since being drafted in the fourth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2017. This is his first season with significant play time — he started the first eight games for the Cardinals (1-7) and has passed for 1,569 yards and eight TDs with five interceptions (81.2 rating). He also has 258 rushing yards (third-most in the league), so he brings mobility.

Dobbs was an inexpensive option salary-wise for the Vikings ($1.5 million base salary), who could look to re-sign him as a free agent in March if he plays well. He could back up Cousins if the Vikings re-sign Cousins, who also will be a free agent. Or perhaps Dobbs will be the next Geno Smith and play so well that he is re-signed as the starter.

>>READ: 2023 NFL Trade Deadline Grades

Jacksonville Jaguars and Trevor Lawrence

Trevor Lawrence has been sacked 19 times this season (ninth-most in the league), so the acquisition by the Jacksonville Jaguars of G Ezra Cleveland from the Vikings for a sixth-round pick is good news for Lawrence. Cleveland brings starting experience and adds quality depth. He was the Vikings’ second-round pick in 2020 and a four-year starter until he was inactive the past two games because of a foot sprain.

Dalton Risner replaced Cleveland in the lineup and has played well enough that Minnesota deemed Cleveland tradeable. However, it’s somewhat surprising that the Vikings would let him go now instead of keeping him for depth and at such a cheap price because if he left in free agency, they would likely get at least the sixth-round pick they just acquired.

Philadelphia Eagles Trade for S Kevin Byard

Kevin Byard is a two-time Pro Bowler who was the Tennessee Titans’ third-round pick in 2016 and has been a durable starter ever since. He has not missed a game in his first seven seasons. It’s an excellent deal for the 7-1 Eagles to get Byard for an average safety in Terrell Edmunds and fifth- and sixth-round picks in 2024.

The Eagles lost both of their starting safeties off last year’s Super Bowl team — C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Epps — in free agency. They need Byard’s help in pass defense because they have dropped from No. 1 to No. 26 in yards allowed through the air, and they have only four interceptions thus far after having 17 last season.

Byard started in his first game for Philadelphia last week and had seven tackles in the win over Washington. Commanders QB Sam Howell passed for 397 yards and four touchdowns, so there is a lot of improvement needed Byard can help with. He also is under contract for 2024, but the Eagles can let him go if they so choose without a dead money hit.

New York Giants Trade DE Leonard Williams

As the New York Giants’ season continues to spiral downward, they made a good move for the future by sending 29-year-old Leonard Williams to Seattle for a second-round pick in 2024 and a fifth-round pick in 2025. Williams was the New York Jets’ first-round pick in 2015 and, the Giants traded third- and fifth-round picks in 2019 to acquire him, so they’re getting more from the Seahawks than what they gave the Jets four years ago. That is an astute move by GM Joe Schoen.

Williams’ sack and tackle numbers have declined since 2020 when he had 11.5 sacks and 57 tackles. Through eight games this season, he has only 1.5 sacks and 21 tackles. The Seahawks are hoping Williams plays like he did as a Pro Bowler earlier in his career, but for the Giants, it’s a good decision to get this kind of return on a player who is descending talent-wise and was likely to leave in free agency.

Biggest Losers

Chicago Bears Trade for Montez Sweat

You’d think Chicago Bears GM Ryan Poles would have learned not to trade what is likely to be a top-three pick in the second round for a player on an expiring contract unless he first gets that player to sign an extension. That’s precisely what happened last season when the Bears traded for wide receiver Chase Claypool, who had 18 catches in 13 games for them before he was unloaded to the Miami Dolphins in a swap of late-round picks.

Sweat is a solid former No. 1 pick by the Commanders who will add to the Bears’ feeble pass rush, which has a league-worst 10 sacks. But if he’s only in Chicago for nine more games, it could be the tipping point leading to the end of Poles’ tenure. The Bears better get an extension done ASAP, which is never easy when free agency and open bidding with 32 teams are on the horizon for a player, or plan to franchise him.

Washington Commanders Trade DE Chase Young

The Commanders had Young and Sweat headed to free agency (or one of them to a franchise tag) in March, and it was assumed heading into this year's trade deadline that the team would trade one of the players — but not both.

Getting a high second-round pick for free-agent-to-be Sweat was a great move, but unloading the productive Young for a late third-round pick makes no sense when the Commanders likely would’ve received a compensatory third-rounder for losing Young. And why wouldn’t they keep the 24-year-old Young, whom they drafted second overall in 2020? He’s fully recovered from his ACL injury and having a productive season (see the 49ers blurb in the winners section above).

Washington sent the message to its players that at 3-5, it has basically given up on making the playoffs. The only way this makes sense is if the Commanders are loading up on draft picks (now with a first-rounder, two second-rounders and two third-rounders in 2024) to make a run at a top quarterback in a loaded 2024 class. But there’s no guarantee that will fall in place for them.

Patrick Mahomes Kansas City Chiefs Photo: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

 Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes

The Kansas City Chiefs are coming off an ugly loss in Denver where Patrick Mahomes threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. Mahomes’ wide receiver corps continues to be lackluster, other than rookie Rashee Rice. Skyy Moore, Kadarius Toney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Justin Watson and Richie James each have fewer than 20 receptions through eight games.

Travis Kelce and Rice are carrying an excessive load for Mahomes, who surely would’ve been happy to see a talented receiver such as Marquise Brown (Cardinals) or Darius Slayton (Giants) come to Kansas City. Or how about re-acquiring last year’s leading wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who is getting limited targets from the struggling New England Patriots?

It was highly unlikely the Chiefs had a shot at trading in the division for three potential targets — the Denver BroncosJerry Jeudy or Courtland Sutton or the Las Vegas RaidersDavante Adams. Bringing back Mecole Hardman in a late-round draft pick swap with the Jets certainly didn’t pay dividends Sunday in Denver — Hardman muffed a punt at his 5-yard line that the Broncos recovered. It was a key play in the loss, and Hardman has only three catches for 19 yards in the two games since his return to Kansas City.

Cleveland Browns and Deshaun Watson

The Cleveland Browns are in playoff contention in the AFC at 4-3 and are tied for a wild card spot, but they have the 30th-ranked passing attack. Donovan Peoples-Jones had 61 catches for 839 yards and three touchdowns last season before the former 2020 sixth-round pick became an afterthought this season with only eight catches for 97 yards, and the Browns traded him to the Detroit Lions.

Peoples-Jones was a starter in three-receiver sets with Amari Cooper and Elijah Moore. He’s a big target who has also been Cleveland’s primary punt returner the past few seasons.

Peoples-Jones, 24, is in the final year of his rookie contract. Still, it has to be difficult for Deshaun Watson to understand the reasoning in trading Peoples-Jones now to the Detroit Lions for only a sixth-round pick in 2025 when he could be valuable to the Browns in their playoff pursuit.

Los Angeles Rams Don’t Get EDGE Brian Burns

After the Los Angeles Rams made a big push for Brian Burns last year at the trade deadline by offering multiple high draft choices, it would be surprising if they didn’t try again this year considering their anemic pass rush (15 sacks, second-fewest in the league).

The 3-5 Rams are only one game back in the wild-card chase, but they didn’t provide Aaron Donald with more help to pressure opposing quarterbacks. Burns, 25, is a two-time Pro Bowler, and he would’ve been a great addition. Burns has five sacks this season and he’s coming off his best season with 12.5 sacks, 22 QB hits, 17 tackles for loss and 63 tackles. Los Angeles could have extended or franchise-tagged him because he’s playing out his fifth-year option.

The Carolina Panthers likely would have been excited to get at least one first-round pick for Burns (plus perhaps a second-rounder) because they traded their first-round pick in 2024 to the Bears in the Bryce Young deal.

High-Profile Wide Receivers Who Weren't Traded

It’s an impressive list of wide receivers who didn’t get traded at the deadline, including Jeudy, Sutton, Brown, Slayton, the Darnell Mooney (Bears) and, above all, Adams. Adams looked disgruntled during the most recent Monday night game in Detroit when he had one catch for 11 yards. He seemed especially annoyed after Jimmy Garoppolo overthrew him when he was wide open on a deep route.

Jeff Diamond is a former Vikings GM and a former Tennessee Titans President and was selected NFL Executive of the Year after the Vikings’ 15-1 season in 1998. He now works for the NFL agent group IFA based in Minneapolis. Follow him on Twitter at @jeffdiamondnfl.