2015 NFL trades: Business as usual?

The NFL is no stranger to big trades. Unfortunately, I am old enough to remember the 1959 trade that sent Ollie Matson from the Rams in exchange for seven players and two draft choices. I also clearly remember the 1989 trade where Herschel Walker went from the Cowboys to the Vikings in a trade that involved 18 players and draft choices. Even far more modest trades, though, have been the exception rather than the rule in the NFL. Because of this, the NFL trades made so far in 2015 have been the source of much discussion. Have there been an unusually high number of trades this offseason? Or is it just a matter of more visible players being traded? This article is intended to put the 2015 trades into a proper context and at least partially answer those questions. Before starting, the point should also be made that this is very early in the trade season and it is likely that more 2015 trades are yet to come. First, let us address the context. NFL trades can be categorized as being one of five types:
  • Off-season trades that occur before the draft
  • Draft day(s) trades where a team moves up in the draft order
  • Post-draft, pre-training camp trades where a team tries to fill a need it has not met through the draft or free agency
  • Training camp trades where a team may trade a surplus player
  • In-season trades that are few in number and are often necessitated by injuryThis article will focus on the pre-draft trades since that is where we are in 2015 process.During the period from 1995 through 2014 the number of pre-draft trades has ranged, by our count, from zero in 2011 to 20 in 2010. The average has been about 10 such trades per year. The following table shows the distribution of the annual number of trades over the study period:
The number of trades in each of the four years preceding 2015 have been relatively few in number compared to the norm with zero in 2011, eight in 2012, ten in 2013 and seven in 2014. Individual trades over the past five years are listed in the following tables. The expected impact of each trade at the time of the trade is presented in the tables. A “10” in the trade impact column indicates a very impactful trade. A “0” indicates a trade with no impact. If there is no year in parentheses after the draft choice, it means that the choices involved were in the same year as the trade (e.g., a 2012 draft choice was received for a 2012 trade). 2011 Trades By our count there were no (as in zero) offseason trades
2012 Trades The trade-up to draft RG3 occurred in 2012 and was the most impactful trade of the offseason. It was really a trade-up of draft choices but is included in the trade list because of its timing.
The trades are: 2013 Trades There were several relatively significant trades preceding the 2013 draft. Alex Smith went from the 49ers to the Chiefs; the Jets traded Darrelle Revis to the Bucs and the Vikings traded Percy Harvin to the Seahawks. A fourth trade (Carson Palmer) did not seem significant at the time but was big for the Cardinals. A complete list follows:
2014 Trades Not much of significance happened during the 2014 preseason. Jeremy Zuttah was a starter for the Ravens and Darren Sproles was a situational player for the Eagles. Not much happened with the rest of the trades and they were relatively minor, both in terms of number and impact. A complete list of trades follows: 2015 Trades While it is unlikely that 2015 will go down as one of the years with highest number of trades, the ones that did occur have been high impact. The Graham trade may be the most impactful of the group, as it provides a missing piece to a Super Bowl contender. The McCoy for Alonso trade is very interesting because there have been historically few recent cases where top-level players are exchanged one for one. Most one for one deals involve role players or are “change of scenery” trades (e.g., Jeff Baldwin for A.J. Jenkins, Jason Smith for Wayne Hunter, etc.) The last trades having anywhere near the import of the McCoy/Alonso deal was the Joey Galloway (from Cowboys to Bucs) for Keyshawn Johnson trade in 2004. Clinton Portis was sent by the Bronocs for Champ Bailey deal in the same year but the trade also included a 2nd round pick. It is also interesting that the Saints participated as sellers in three of the nine trades. Are there more Saints trades to come? A list of trades made through March 15 is as follows: Follow Tony on Twitter @draftmetrics

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