The 2023 NFL trade deadline wasn’t quite the same event as last season’s. There were only six trades completed on Tuesday, down from 11 on deadline day 2022. NFL clubs made just 14 trades after Oct. 1, five fewer than during the same window last year.
Still, this year’s deadline featured several intriguing moves. Who were the winners and losers from today’s action?
NFL Trade Deadline Winners and Losers
Winner | San Francisco 49ers
It’s fitting that the NFL trade deadline fell on Halloween because the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive line looks downright scary following the team’s Chase Young acquisition.
No other team can compete with a front four that includes Young, Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and Javon Hargrave, and the 49ers also boast high-upside depth options like Drake Jackson, Randy Gregory, and Javon Kinlaw.
MORE: Grading the Chase Young Trade
Young has revitalized his career trajectory this season. The former No. 2 overall pick ranks eighth among edge rushers in pressures and 11th in pass-rush win rate. While Young will be a free agent after the season, San Francisco benefits from paying Brock Purdy a seventh-round rookie’s salary.
Young could be an extension candidate, while the 49ers can use the franchise tag to retain him. Even if Young is a half-season rental, San Francisco should get a compensatory pick when he signs elsewhere.
Loser | Chicago Bears
Why are we applauding the 49ers for adding Young but giving the Chicago Bears a demerit for acquiring fellow Washington Commanders pass rusher Montez Sweat?
For one, the Bears gave up a more valuable selection. Chicago sent a second-rounder to Washington for Sweat. Given the Bears’ results this year, that 2024 NFL Draft pick will likely fall in the 30s.
San Francisco traded a compensatory third-rounder for Young. Compensatory selections fall at the end of rounds and aren’t based on a team’s win-loss record. This pick will likely be in the 100s.
MORE: Grading the Montez Sweat Trade
Then, there are the differences in competitive windows. The 49ers are squarely in theirs — the Bears squarely are not.
Chicago needs to be adding young players on rookie contracts that can become long-term pieces. Sweat is already 27 years old. It’s fair to argue that accessing edge rushers — even second-tier options like Sweat — in free agency is nearly impossible.
But didn’t GM Ryan Poles learn anything from last year’s failed Chase Claypool trade?
Winner | Washington Commanders
The Commanders are clearing the decks. Few expected Washington to trade both Sweat and Young, but that’s precisely what the club did, picking up additional Day 2 draft picks in the process.
It’s hard to imagine Ron Rivera will return as the Commanders’ head coach next season, and the same can be said for general manager Martin Mayhew. Both decision-makers are fighting for their jobs and wouldn’t have wanted to sacrifice talent, even with the team owning a 3-5 record.
The calls to move Sweat and Young clearly came from the top. New owner Josh Harris can find his next GM-HC pairing by pitching a Commanders club with a stockpile of draft picks and more than $100 million in 2024 cap space.
Loser | Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers were supposed to be at the center of the 2023 trade deadline universe on Monday. Instead, they joined the New England Patriots as the only club with two wins or fewer that failed to make a move this month.
There are reasons why the Panthers couldn’t get anything done. Maybe they think they can get an extension done with pass rusher Brian Burns, who’s been on the trade rumor circuit for over a year. Perhaps no one wanted safety Jeremy Chinn now that he’s dealing with an injury.
But Carolina also kept WR Terrace Marshall Jr. despite permitting him to seek a trade. They hung onto LB Frankie Luvu, a free agent in 2024, and CB Donte Jackson, who’s unlikely to be part of the club’s long-term plans.
The Panthers are the only one-win team in the NFL. How did the three-win Commanders show more self-awareness at the deadline than Carolina?
Winner | Buffalo Bills
While the Buffalo Bills were never going to be able to fill all their defensive voids, they made sure to check off one box on Monday.
The Bills sent a third-round pick to the Green Bay Packers in exchange for CB Rasul Douglas and a fifth-rounder. Based on the Fitzgerald-Spielberger draft value chart, Buffalo only gave up the equivalent of a sixth-round selection to add Douglas to their secondary.
He’ll help replace Tre’Davious White, who suffered a season-ending Achilles tear in Week 4. Douglas will compete with Dane Jackson for a starting boundary role and offers experience in the slot.
Winner | Jacksonville Jaguars
The interior offensive line looked like a clear area of need for the Jacksonville Jaguars heading into the trade deadline, and they walked away with a solid pickup at a minimal cost.
The Jags sent a sixth-round pick to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for guard Ezra Cleveland, who’s in the final year of his rookie deal. The former second-rounder had made 45 consecutive starts before missing the Vikings’ last two games with a foot injury.
Jacksonville left guard Walker Little has been sidelined by a knee injury and just returned in Week 8. Right guard Brandon Scherff hasn’t missed any time but has been fighting an ankle injury.
Cleveland represents inexpensive depth who can play either guard spot at a moment’s notice. Scherff will be a potential cap casualty this offseason, so there’s a chance the Jaguars-Cleveland marriage lasts beyond 2023.
Loser | Other AFC Contenders
While the Bills and Jaguars made moves to improve their rosters, other AFC contenders sat on their hands on deadline day.
The Kansas City Chiefs could have used another receiver or edge rusher as they pushed for another Super Bowl. The Baltimore Ravens were reportedly in the market for a running back. The Miami Dolphins desperately needed an offensive lineman.
The Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers were their usual quiet selves. And the Cleveland Browns traded away talent, shipping WR Donovan Peoples-Jones to the Detroit Lions.
Loser | New England Patriots
The Patriots couldn’t trade wide receiver Kendrick Bourne after he tore his ACL in Week 8, but they didn’t move any of their other players, either.
Bill Belichick’s club is 2-6. They’re nowhere near competing in the AFC this season, so they should have at least considered trading away some of the team’s other veteran players, especially those on expiring contracts.
It’s hard to believe the Patriots didn’t receive a fair offer for at least one of RB Ezekiel Elliott, TE Hunter Henry, OT Trent Brown, DT Lawrence Guy, or CB/S Jalen Mills. And that’s leaving out New England’s higher-profile trade candidates that could receive extensions, like G Mike Onweu, EDGE Josh Uche, and S Kyle Dugger.
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