The draft and free agency always get the hype but history shows the NFL trade market often has an as great of an impact on team future too.
Buffalo Bills acquire Bryce Brown from Philadelphia Eagles
There was never really any hope for Bryce Brown becoming a starter with the Philadelphia Eagles. LeSean McCoy is one of the best in the league and still only 25-years old. Still, Brown has been productive when given a chance and the Buffalo Bills are his kind of team. They love to run the ball and their backfield is getting old with Fred Jackson (33) and C.J. Spiller turning 27 in August. Brown gives them long-term flexibility. Philadelphia meanwhile gets some draft help for 2015.
San Francisco 49ers land Stevie Johnson from Buffalo
Everybody expected the San Francisco 49ers to infuse their wide receiving corps with draft picks. Instead they went a surprise route when they took advantage of Buffalo drafting Sammy Watkins and snared productive 27-year old veteran Stevie Johnson. His time with the Bills seemed short after a regression under head coach Doug Marrone but prior to 2013 he did have three-straight 1,000-yard seasons. Johnson’s addition should given San Francisco more options alongside Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin. Buffalo gets a solid mid round pick and thins a crowded area on the depth chart.
Buffalo Bills get Mike Williams from Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Aside from the 49ers it seems no team was more active on the trade front than the Buffalo Bills. Their offense got another unexpected boost when they sent a late round pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who were eager to rid themselves of troubled receiver Mike Williams. It’s a risk for the Bills, but a low cost one especially given the talent Williams has at age 26. He showed he can average solid numbers (60 catches and 900 yards) if he can stay out of trouble. Tampa Bay used that pick to acquire Robert Herron in the draft, a receiver who could provide return capability.
Oakland Raiders swipe Matt Schaub from Houston Texans
It’s been too long since the Oakland Raiders had a capable quarterback under center. Their trade for Matt Schaub from the Houston Texans clearly was made with that in mind. Schaub was a two-time Pro Bowl NFL quarterback prior to a surprise meltdown in 2013 in which he threw just 10 touchdowns to 14 interceptions. Was it a blip on the radar? Time will tell. If he can regain his old form the Raiders might be in business. Houston took the sixth round pick from Oakland and turned it into running back Alfred Blue, a talented but inconsistent player with high upside.
Philadelphia Eagles take Darren Sproles from New Orleans Saints
One of the more surprising NFL trades that took place was when Darren Sproles was dealt by the New Orleans Saints to the Philadelphia Eagles. Age and money were factors but Sproles is still a dynamic offensive threat even at age 31. Chip Kelly should be able to find several ways to use him in that explosive Eagles offense. The Saints drafted Brandin Cooks in the first round likely to try and replace Sproles. As for the 5th round pick they got in the deal, it became raw but highly talented outside linebacker Ronald Powell from Florida.
Based on quality, price and other factors it would seem the trade that stands to gain the most for a team in 2014 is how well the San Francisco 49ers use Stevie Johnson. Though he never reached a Pro Bowl it’s not easy to reach 1,000 yards in a season and he did it in Buffalo with no-name quarterbacks throwing him the ball. What will happen when it’s Colin Kaepernick? That is a question fans are eager to see answered.