The Washington Redskins made a curious trade with the Kansas City Chiefs, dealing cornerback Kendall Fuller for 33-year-old quarterback Alex Smith. The Redskins also sent a third-round pick in the trade, and topped that off by signing Smith to a four-year, $94 million contract extension. Which is somewhat crazy, given his age and track record.
The Chiefs clear out space on the payroll while opening up the starting quarterback job to Patrick Mahomes, a kid they drafted in 2017. But the main focus of the trade is Smith and the Redskins. Smith has made the Pro Bowl the last two years and is coming off a career-year, but doesn’t have good arm strength and isn’t one of the top quarterbacks in the league.
Kirk Cousins, however, is only 29 years old and is every bit the quarterback that Smith is, and is certainly better in many ways. Did we mention that Cousins was already on the Redskins’ roster? The whole thing is a major head-scratcher for Washington, but it’s not quite bad enough to qualify as one of the worst trades in NFL history.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the worst NFL trades ever, including some of the biggest superstars to ever play the game.
7. Saints move up to draft Ricky Williams
Mike Ditka’s stint with the New Orleans Saints was not too successful, but the biggest blunder he’ll be remembered for was his trade for star running back Ricky Williams. Ditka traded eight draft picks, including two first-round picks, to the Washington Redskins in exchange for Williams back in 1999. Washington had drafted him No. 5 overall, and Ditka couldn’t resist chasing after the immensely talented Williams.
After all the dust had settled, the Redskins ended up with cornerback Champ Bailey and linebackers Derek Smith and LaVar Arrington for their effort. The Saints got three years out of Williams, who averaged just 3.8 yards-per-carry for them. Ditka lost his job over that move, but Jim Haslett was wise enough to cut bait with Williams after the 2001 season and recouped some draft picks in a deal with the Miami Dolphins.
Next: Giving away a Hall of Famer
6. Oilers trade Steve Largent for 8th-round pick
Back in 1976, the Houston Oilers used their fourth-round draft pick to take a 22-year-old wide receiver from the University of Tulsa named Steve Largent. The Oilers ended up not even wanting to keep Largent on their roster that year, so they were likely thrilled that the expansion Seattle Seahawks swooped in and offered an eighth-round draft pick — a round that no longer even exists in the NFL draft — in exchange for Largent. After all, they were going to cut him anyway.
The next season, the Oilers used that eighth-rounder to take a Steve Davis, a wide receiver from the University of Houston. Davis would never play a single down in the NFL, while Largent would go on to have a Hall of Fame career in Seattle. The Seahawks great led the league in receiving yards twice and crossed the 1,000-yard barrier eight times.
Next: Selling low on a superstar
5. Raiders trade Randy Moss for 4th-round pick
Early in his career with the Minnesota Vikings, Randy Moss was one of the most electrifying players in the game. The wide receiver topped 1,200 receiving yards in each of his six seasons, leading the league in touchdown receptions three times. But the Vikings dealt Moss to the Oakland Raiders in 2005, and he would go on to have two sub-par seasons in Raiders black and silver.
Things came to a head in Oakland when Moss recorded just 42 receptions, three touchdowns, and 553 receiving yards in 13 games in 2006. Unfortunately, the Raiders sold low on Moss’ stock. They dealt him to the New England Patriots in exchange for a fourth-round pick, which they used on a cornerback that appeared in just five total NFL games.
Moss, on the other hand, flourished with Tom Brady and the Patriots. He put together 3,765 receiving yards and 47 touchdown receptions over the next three seasons, likely punching his ticket to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Next: An all-time great quarterback for a tackle
4. Colts trade John Elway for two players, 1st-round pick
The Baltimore Colts had the No. 1 overall pick in the 1983 draft, and used it on quarterback John Elway. However, they turned around and traded him to the Denver Broncos in exchange for left tackle Chris Hinton, who was taken by Denver with the No. 4 pick. The Colts also received forgettable quarterback Mark Hermann and a future first-rounder in the deal.
It’s easy to look back on this trade and cringe, given everything we know about Elway. But it’s important to point out that the Colts drafted him with the intention of signing him, but Elway had other plans and forced a deal. The QB led the Broncos to five Super Bowl appearances, winning two. Elway also added an MVP award, and is in the Hall of Fame.
The draft pick involved was used on guard Ron Solt, who made one Pro Bowl in a nine-year career. Hinton became a nice player for the Colts, solidifying an important offensive line spot and becoming a seven-time Pro Bowler. But he was not John Elway.
Next: An all-time great quarterback for basically nothing
3. Falcons trade Brett Favre for 1st-round pick
It’s a fun little piece of trivia that Green Bay Packers great Brett Favre was actually drafted and played one year with the Atlanta Falcons. After being taken in the second round back in 1991, Favre got into just two games for the Falcons that season. The next offseason, Atlanta moved Favre to the Packers in exchange for the 19th overall pick in the 1992 draft.
The Falcons used that pick on running back and return specialist Tony Smith, who played three years in the NFL. Smith finished his career at the age of 24 with two touchdowns scored and 329 rushing yards. Favre, on the other hand, is now in the Hall of Fame. He led the Packers to back-to-back Super Bowls in 1996 and ’97, winning over the New England Patriots in ’96. He also put together an iron man streak of games started, and finished his career with 508 total touchdown passes.
Next: A horrendous deal to move up one spot in the draft
2. Chargers trade up for Ryan Leaf
The San Diego Chargers badly wanted to land a quarterback in the 1998 draft, but they had the No. 3 overall pick in a class that had what appeared to be two top QBs. So the Chargers made a deal with the Arizona Cardinals, trading three draft picks and two role players to move up to No. 2. After the Indianapolis Colts took Peyton Manning at No. 1, the Chargers happily drafted Ryan Leaf with their pick.
Three of the players involved in the deal going to Arizona amounted to little, but safety Corey Chavous turned into a solid player and wide receiver David Boston was a Pro Bowler and actually led the NFL in receiving yards in 2001. Leaf, on the other hand, threw 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions in his 25-game career, ending up in prison in 2012. Just for kicks, the notable quarterbacks drafted after Leaf in 1998 include Charlie Batch, Brian Griese, and Matt Hasselbeck.
Next: A franchise-altering deal
1. Vikings trade for Herschel Walker
The all-time bad NFL trade has to be the Minnesota Vikings deal to get running back Herschel Walker from the Dallas Cowboys. Walker had posted just awful numbers in his first five games of the 1989 season, averaging just 3.0 yards-per-carry with two touchdowns. Nevertheless, the Vikings sent five players and eight draft picks to Dallas in the hope of turning things around for the 28-year-old Pro Bowler.
In three years with the Vikings, Walker put together 2,264 rushing yards with 20 touchdowns and 4.1 yards-per-carry. Minnesota also received four draft picks in the deal, but only wide receiver Jake Reed was notable. Reed had four seasons with over 1,100 receiving yards for the Vikings.
The haul for the Cowboys was franchise-altering. The notable names that ended up in Dallas were cornerback Issiac Holt, wide receiver Alvin Harper, linebacker Dixon Edwards, safety Darren Woodson, and running back Emmitt Smith. In large part because of the contributions of these five players, the Cowboys won three Super Bowls in the 1990s.
All stats and information courtesy of Pro Football Reference.
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