For his part, Oakland Raiders coach Hue Jackson likes his place in NFL history. He is already calling the Raiders' trade of two 1st round picks (conditional on a playoff win this year) for Carson Palmer "the greatest trade in football."
I'm not sure about that but it certainly ranks among the riskiest. Here's a look at ten of the highest-value, biggest-risk trades in NFL history, some of which paid off ... but most of which did not. Where does the Raiders' desperate gamble rank? Find out after the jump.
1989: The Herschel Walker Trade
Eighteen players and picks changed hands between the Dallas Cowboys and the Minnesota Vikings, making it the single largest deal in NFL history, the blockbuster that essentially ended all blockbusters. The Vikings were coming off an 11-5 season in which they made the NFC Championship game, but lost to Bill Walsh's 49ers dynasty. Stumbling to a 2-2 start to the 1989 season, they thought they were one player away, and that that player was a running back -- the best in the league.
The Vikings gave up five players and eight picks, including three 1st and three 2nd rounders, to get 26-year-old Herschel Walker, former Heisman trophy winner and star of the USFL who had scored 24 touchdowns for the Dallas Cowboys. But Walker was an epic disappointment, rushing for only 669 yards in the final 11 games, and only 29 yards in a first-round playoff loss. The Vikings went 6-10 the following season, a franchise adrift.
Meanwhile, Dallas -- a 1-15 team before the deal -- used that bounty of picks to become the rival dynasty to the 49ers that the Vikings could not. It was an epoch-defining deal.
1999: The Ricky Williams Trade
Unlike the '89 Vikings, the Saints had no reason to believe that they were a single player away from contention, or even respectability. That didn't stop Mike Ditka from trading away their entire draft, and a 1st and 3rd rounder in 2000, to get one man.
Ditka was desperate to do something to revitalize a Saints team that had won only six games each of his two years as coach. But he bet his coaching tenure on an all-or-nothing, one-year bet on a player whose personality simply couldn't handle the pressure.
The Saints fell back to 3-13, the record they had before hiring Ditka as coach. Iron Mike retired to the comfort of the broadcast studio, where he suffered endless teasing for his '99 fiasco with relative good humor. But it took Williams years, a trade to Miami, and a running partner in Ronnie Brown, before he realized even part of his seemingly limitless potential as a player.
1998: Chargers Trade Up For Ryan Leaf
Everyone remembers the debate over Peyton Manning vs Ryan Leaf, the two "can't miss" quarterback prospects of the 1998 draft. But no matter what side of the debate people came down on, everyone agreed -- the only loser would be the team that picked third in the draft.
Bobby Beathard's San Diego Chargers were determined not to be that team. While everyone remembers the debate, few people remember the magnitude of what they gave up: two 1st round picks, a 2nd rounder, and a Pro Bowl player in Eric Metcalf ... to move up ONE SPOT in the draft.
Unfortunately, this was a rare example of a lose-lose deal. Leaf became a colossal bust, but so did nearly every player drafted by the incompetent Arizona Cardinals, the "lucky" holders of that #2 pick. Arizona did end a 14-year streak without a winning season, but fell back to 3-13 within two years.
2011: Falcons Trade Up For Julio Jones
As we've discussed in this forum, the Falcons paid an enormous price in draft value to fill in the "missing piece" that would vault them to legit NFC contenders. While Jones is having a very nice rookie season, the Falcons' many other holes were exposed in a rematch of their playoff loss to the Packers.
To date, we had called the sacrifice to grab Julio Jones the "worst acquisition of the season." But at least Julio can play. Who knows what Carson Palmer has left.
1987: Colts Trade For Eric Dickerson
In his rookie season, Eric Dickerson and innovative LA Rams coach John Robinson combined to change the face of the NFL running game. Robinson took advantage of the NFL's trend toward vertical passing by removing the fullback from his offense, forcing opposing defenses to put another man in coverage against a third wide receiver on nearly every down.
Dickerson set records as a Ram, vaulting to the game's elite almost immediately. But his repeated demands to be paid as an elite formed a rift with the Rams that could only be settled by shipping him to the highest bidder.
It took three teams and ten combined players and picks to get the deal done, making it one of the largest deals in league history. Indianapolis paid the heftiest price: a high 1st round pick and two 2nd rounders, as well as two players -- one of them future Pro Bowler Cornelius Bennett. Dickerson immediately improved the Colts, turning a three-win team into a winner. But at age 27, he couldn't get them into the playoffs on his own, and his decline started shortly after. The Rams fared little better after the loss of their offensive icon.
Ironically, the third team in the deal -- Marv Levy's Buffalo Bills -- came out ahead of everyone in the end. They reached the conference championships in '88, then began their fateful run of Super Bowls in 1990.
1990: Colts Trade For Jeff George
Can't blame the Colts for trying, I suppose, but in retrospect there's no mystery how they wound up at the top of the Manning-Leaf draft sweepstakes just a few short years later.
With Dickerson on his last legs, the 8-8 Colts decided to rejoin the passing league by trading a package of picks (including a 1st rounder), Pro Bowl guard Chris Hinton, and promising rookie receiver Andre Rison to the Atlanta Falcons for the first overall pick and the right to draft Jeff George.
The draft blew up for the Colts immediately, as Rison blossomed into a star while George pouted and sulked and all but refused to learn the playbook. The Colts dropped to 1-15 in his second year, and they traded him away -- back to the Falcons -- in 1994. The actually got a first rounder back for him, which was pretty amazing, but they blew that pick as well.
1977: Dallas Cowboys Trade Up To Draft Tony Dorsett
In some sense, this really wasn't a risk at all. It was a no-brainer. Dorsett was far and away the best player in the draft that year, a championship-winning, Heisman-winning, all-time leading collegiate rusher. He was the only Hall-of-Famer to emerge from that class. And fortunately for the Cowboys, he was the second running back picked that year.
The expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers followed their head coach's wishes and reunited him with USC running back Ricky Bell with the first overall pick. Bell was the Heisman runner-up to Dorsett, and helped lead the Bucs to the NFC Championship two seasons later. But serious health issues led to his departure from the league after five short years.
After Bell went off the board, the ecstatic Cowboys traded a package of four picks, including their first-rounder that year, to the Seattle Seahawks to move up to the second overall pick.
Plain and simple, this trade was one of the greatest steals in NFL history. Not only did the Cowboys win the Super Bowl with Dorsett that season, but the Seahawks squandered each of the picks they received in return. They drafted three nobodies and traded the fourth away to San Francisco, who used it on a quarterback named Joe Montana.
1958: The Detroit Lions Trade Away Bobby Layne
The Detroit Lions weren't always this lousy at football. It's only been the last fifty years or so. And it started the day the Lions traded away their All-Pro starting quarterback, Bobby Layne, to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Supposedly, "The Curse of Bobby Layne" started immediately after, as he was said to have foretold fifty years of misery -- and no playoff wins -- for the team that spurned him. Whether or not voodoo had anything to do with it, fifty years of ineptitude followed. That curse should have expired after the 2008 season, though, a winless one for Detroit. With their first overall pick of 2009, they drafted Matthew Stafford.
But the Steelers were the team taking all the risk here. They gave up a younger quarterback and two high draft picks for a drunk who had been accused of betting against his own team, then tanking to cover that bet. Layne played well for Pittsburgh, but not well enough to compensate for a failing defense, and couldn't lift them to championship contention.
2008: The New York Giants Trade For Eli Manning
Both the Giants and Chargers thought they badly needed quarterbacks -- but the one the Chargers drafted didn't want to play for them. At his father's behest, Eli forced a trade to the big-market Giants, to put him in a bigger spotlight than his older brother Peyton. But to get the deal done with cantankerous Chargers GM A.J. Smith, the Giants had to sacrifice Philip Rivers, plus another first round pick, and throw in two more draft picks to boot.
All for a pouty and slight-framed shadow of his famous brother who had never played a down in the NFL. At first, the deal did not look good, as Eli struggled and the spotlight turned cruel. But one miraculous Super Bowl-winning throw to David Tyree's helmet beat the only 18-0 team in NFL history. And for that, we'll give the Giants a pass.
2011: Oakland Raiders Trade For Carson Palmer
Down the road, we will talk about the cost of this trade (relatively low in comparison with these others), and the risk that the Raiders took on a player whose last snap of football, in a game or otherwise, was nine months previous. But the Raiders war room, reeling after the loss of their owner (death) and starting quarterback (collarbone), could only think about the risk of not doing a deal.
In the short term, the person coming out aces is Cincinnati owner Mike Brown. The stubborn old curmudgeon sat on his quarterback, refusing to trade or release him or accept his so-called retirement with anything approaching gentility or grace. Instead, Brown authorized the team to draft his replacement and the best receiver prospect in years to throw to.
While Palmer sat and tried to enjoy his retirement, Brown's Bengals have racked up a 4-2 record to start the season. Now they have one and possibly two first-round draft picks falling from the sky. It's a classic "something for nothing" deal, and Palmer's only choice is to try and make him regret it. Fat chance.
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