Every season it seems an NFL team can make or break the next ten years on a trade. Some trades go perfectly, setting up the franchise for years to come. Others can go poorly, and set back the team’s success. Either way, trades can define a team for better or worse for a long time. At the end of the day, all teams make trades with the intention of winning a Super Bowl. The St. Louis Rams traded superstar running back Jerome Bettis and a third round pick to the Pittsburgh Steeler’s only to receiver a second round pick in 1996 and a fourth round pick in 1997. Bettis would go one to help the Pittsburgh Steelers win Super Bowl XL in his home town of Detroit.
Another example is Marshall Faulk, who was traded from the Colts to the Rams for a second and fifth round pick in the 1999 draft. Faulk helped the Rams win Super Bowl XXXIV as well as recording a league M.V.P. that season.
Although these trades worked out for the franchises able to achieve a Super Bowl, many teams come out of trades with regret and setbacks. These setbacks can hurt a team for years to come, causing fans to remember the trades as famous or infamous. In this article, we will go through each NFL team’s most regrettable trade and how the franchises were changed forever.
32. Arizona Cardinals: Trading for Kevin Kolb
Trading for Kevin Kolb was one of the worst trades in recent memory for the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona acquired Kolb in a trade from the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011 in hopes that the franchise had found its new quarterback. The Houston alum had minor success in Philadelphia, which convinced the Cardinals to trade away talented cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick in 2012 for Kolb. The real burden on the entire deal was the massive contract Kolb received, earning a six year $63 million dollar contract.
In two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, Kevin Kolb revealed himself to be a disappointment, if not a complete bust. Kolb only played 15 games in his two year stint in Arizona and threw for a mediocre at best 11 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. In the 2012 season, just one season after his move to the Cardinals, Kolb was placed on injured reserve with rib and chest injuries. Arizona’s offensive line might have had a share of the blame, but the Kolb era in Arizona was one to forget.
31. Atlanta Falcons: Trading Away Brett Favre
A major regret for many NFL teams is trading away a player who turns into an all time great. This story can be told time and time again, but not one might sting as hard as when the Atlanta Falcons traded away Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre to the Green Bay Packers. Brett Favre was drafted by the Falcons in the 1991 NFL Draft with the 33rd overall pick. The Falcons owner at the time, Jerry Glanville, had attempted to originally deal Favre to the Jets, but after that deal fell through, the Falcons found a trade partner in the Green Bay Packers in exchange for the 19th pick in the 1992 NFL Draft.
The trade has potential to create an everlasting strand of “what if” scenarios, many revolving around what would have been the career of Michael Vick if the trade had not occurred. To add insult to injury, the Falcons took Tony Smith with the draft pick they acquired from the Packers. Smith ran for 329 yards and just two touchdowns in his career, while Favre went on to win a Super Bowl in 1997and be arguably the greatest quarterback of all time.
30. Baltimore Ravens: Trading for Lee Evans
The Baltimore Ravens were in dire need of a receiver in the 2011 season to have a shot at finding themselves in the Super Bowl. The team decided to trade their 2012 fourth-round pick to the Buffalo Bills in order to acquire wide receiver Lee Evans. Evans, a star receiver for the Bills in 2010, recorded only 578 yards and four touchdowns. The Ravens, searching for playmakers to take their team to the next level, decided to give Evans a shot.
Lee Evans didn’t quite pan our for Baltimore in the nine games he played in 2011. Evans had just four receptions for 74 yards on 26 targets. The bad stint in Baltimore began with a preseason injury. Evans was also on the wrong end of a dropped touchdown pass in the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots, that would have won the Ravens a trip to the Super Bowl.
29. Buffalo Bills: Trading for Drew Bledsoe
In the early 2000’s, the Buffalo Bills were in desperate need of a quarterback. A run of the mill college quarterback turned Hall of Fame candidate named Tom Brady was drafted by the New England Patriots, and led them to a Super Bowl after Bledsoe suffered a sheared blood vessel in his chest. After Brady took the helm, Bledsoe’s time in New England was over and he was traded in the 2002 offseason to Buffalo for a third-round pick.
In his three seasons with the Buffalo Bills, Bledsoe three 55 touchdowns and 43 interceptions. No matter how positive a stat line would be, Bledsoe seemed to always find a way to throw an interception. He was performing average at best, but was far from the quarterback the Bills thought they traded for. Buffalo was hoping for the Drew Bledsoe that could win a division and possibly take the Bills to a Super Bowl. Bringing in Bledsoe also proved to many Buffalo Bills fans that the teams front office was attempting to win now over preparing for the future, but winning now just wasn’t something this Bledsoe was capable of doing.
28. Carolina Panthers: Trade for Sean Gilbert
The 1999 Carolina Panthers were not an overwhelmingly talented team and seemed to be incapable of capitalizing on trades. The woes of Carolina fans were cemented when the franchise traded the 1999 and 2000 first-round draft picks for Washington Redskins defensive end Sean Gilbert. Trading the future for a current player can always be a risky move for any sports franchise considering how valuable the picks truly are, and in this scenario, the Panthers were on the losing end of the deal.
In the five years Gilbert played with the Panthers he recorded only 15 sacks and 183 tackles. Although a decent stat line, the Panthers would expect more from a defensive player they deemed worthy of two first round picks. This type of move will always end poorly in the eyes of the fans who could see the picks as potential future stars, not a washed up defensive player.
27. Chicago Beads: Traded away Mike Ditka
Trading away Mike Ditka is an easy choice for the Chicago Bears most regretful trade. Ditka was an all pro tight end from 1961-1965 and earned the nickname “Iron Mike” for his tough nosed ability on the gridiron. As good as Ditka was for the bears, Owner George Halas wanted to get rid of him after Iron Mike’s contract demands became too much for the cheap owner. Ditka was one of the best tight ends of all time and a staple point in the Chicago Bears history books.
Halas and Ditka bickered over the tight ends contract constantly and ended with the owner being so fed up he traded the All Pro tight end to the Philadelphia Eagles for quarterback Jack Concannon. It’s easy to imagine the Chicago fans being upset with ownership after trading away one of the teams stars for a quarterback not worthy of the value. Concannon only led the Bears to one winning season in 1967. Ditka would later return as a head coach of the bears and win Super Bowl XX in 1985.
26. Cincinnati Bengals: Trading Chad Ochocinco
There are few names in football that are tied to a team as much as Chad Ochocino and the Cincinnati Bengals Formally known as Johnson, Ochocinco was the face of the Bengals during his time there. During his time however, the Bengals were never able to reach that next level because of missing pieces. Ochocinco was traded to the New England Patriots prior to the 2011 season for a 2012 fifth-round pick and a 2013 sixth-round pick.
Ochocinco was a massive asset to the Cincinnati offense who caught for 10,783 yards and 66 touchdowns in his time there. After ten seasons with the Bengals, many fans wonder why Cincinnati didn’t spend more time acquiring quality players around him to capitalize on the receivers best years.
25. Cleveland Browns: Traded for Johnny Manziel
The Cleveland Browns have been a constant reminder that no matter what franchise you cheer for, you’ll never be in last place. Year after year, the chances of the Browns a playoff game seem to disappear, let alone a Super Bowl. In the 2014 season Cleveland traded the 26th overall pick and a third-round pick for the Philadelphia Eagle’s 22nd overall pick with the intention of taking the Texas A&M playmaker Johnny “Football” Manziel.
In two seasons with the Browns, Manziel passed for 1,675 yards, seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. Although Manziel showed glimpses of his former playmaking ability, it came common knowledge very early on that “Johnny Football” would much rather reap the benefits of the NFL rather than play in the NFL. Add Manziel to the long list of Browns quarterbacks that didn’t quite pan out.
24. Dallas Cowboys: Trading for Joey Galloway
In 1999, the Dallas Cowboys knew they had to profit on Troy Aikmen’s few remaining years. Michael Irvin was also heading toward retirement, so Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made it a point to procure the services of an additional receiver. Dallas traded the Seattle Seahawks their 2000 and 2001 first-round picks for Joey Galloway and paid him a hefty sum, making him the second highest receiver in the league at that time.
In his first season in Dallas, Galloway only played in one game after tearing his ACL in the season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. In his four seasons with Dallas, Joey Galloway had 12 touchdowns and 2,341 receiving yards, a far cry from the numbers that a highly paid receiver should produce. To add insult to injury, the Seahawks turned the Cowboys 2000 first round pick into running back Shaun Alexander who went on to win a Super Bowl and receiver AP MVP honors in 2005. Galloway, on the other hand, would retire from the NFL in 2010.
23. Denver Broncos: Traded for Ronnie Hillman
The Denver Broncos made some questionable moves in the 2012 NFL Draft, but none were as bad as trading up for running back Ronnie Hillman. It wasn’t drafting Hillman that was a major mistake by the Broncos, but the fact that the franchise moved up 20 spots two draft him. Trading up cost Denver the fourth-round pick they had received after they had already traded away their original first round pick. Hillman proved to be an average running back in his first year with Denver, running for 330 yards and a single touchdown.
Hillman’s second year proved just as disappointing, running for only 218 yards with a single touchdown. His third year Hillman was able to find the end zone three times and ran for 434 yards, and in his last year Ronnie Hillman ran for 863 yards and scored seven touchdowns. Although the numbers increased each season, the Broncos were hoping for more than an average player from the 2012 draft.
22. Detroit Lions: Trading away Bobby Layne
Curses in sports have been around as long as the sports themselves have been played. Just like Babe Ruth to the Yankees, Bobby Layne has a similar impact when the Detroit Lions traded him to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Upon his departure, Layne said the Lions wouldn’t win in 50 years. I’m not sure even Layne believed he would be so right. It turns out that Layne might have been able to add a few years onto his curse, as the Lions haven’t been able to produce a championship contending squad for seasons after his departure.
Since Layne’s trade, the Pittsburgh Steeler’s have collected six Super Bowl Championships, while the Lions haven’t been able to raise the Lombardi. Until the Lions win the Super Bowl, the curse of Bobby Layne lives on.
21. Green Bay Packers: Acquire Jim McMahon
Jim McMahon is famously known as a Chicago Bear after the team drafted him with the fifth overall pick in the 1982 NFL Draft. McMahon is a two time Super Bowl Champion that spent many of his seasons being despised by the Green Pay Packers faithful. Green Bay was able to secure McMahon’s services to backup Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre so they would have a quality option if Favre were unable to play for any reason. In histwo years with the Packers, McMahon only passed for 45 yards and zero touchdowns.
McMahon will find that his days as a Packer are forgettable, considering his importance to the Chicago Bears. It was difficult for anyone to believe that this was the same two time super bowl winner Jim McMahon, especially while backing up Brett Favre. This is one acquisition the packers will be glad to forget.
20: Houston Texans: Acquiring Ryan Fitzpatrick
It’s difficult to find multiple franchise altering trades during the Houston Texans short time in the NFL. One move that stands above all others is the Ryan Fitzpatrick era in Houston. Fitzpatrick has spent his career being a journeyman, traveling from team to team for most of his time in the NFL. Fitzpatrick was having a decent year in Houston in 2014 before going down in Week 12 to a season ending injury.
The next season, the Texans would trade the quarterback to the Jet’s, where he would have a career year in 2015. Although Fitzpatrick would fall off after the 2015 season, you have to wonder what could have been if the Texans would have held on for another year.
19: Indianapolis Colts: Trading away Chad Brown
In the 1993 NFL draft, the Indianapolis Colts traded away the 44th overall pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for the 49th overall pick and a fourth-round selection. The 44th overall pick would turn into Chad Brown, a key member of the “Blitzburgh” defense in Pittsburgh. The Colts would use the 49th overall pick on full back Roosevelt Pots and the fourth-round selection on linebacker Devin McDonald.
This trade would haunt the Colts as Chad Brown went not to be a key part of the Pittsburgh Steelers for a few years. Brown was a three-time Pro Bowl player and would have 30 sacks in his first four NFL seasons. The Colorado alumni would finish his career with 1,088 tackles, 79 sacks and 17 forced fumbles, causing the Colts to wonder what their defense would have looked like if they would have kept the draft pick.
18. Jacksonville Jaguars: Drafting Byron Leftwich
Since the Jacksonville Jaguars entered the league, they have been far from a model franchise. The Jag’s had a great start, reaching the AFC Championship game twice in their first five years, but the franchise as a whole as derailed since that era. All of the trials and turmoil were suppose to end with quarterback Byron Leftwich.
Leftwich would spend four seasons with Jacksonville, passing for 9,042 yards and 51 touchdowns. Although a talented player, Leftwich never became the franchise saving quarterback many people expected. His only Super Bowl ring came from his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
17. Kansas City Chiefs: Trading away Tony Gonzalez
Tony Gonzalez will go down in history as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, tight end in NFL history. Gonzalez was a revolutionary player who started a trend of athletic tight ends doing more than just grinding out yards. Tony led a charge for the present day tight ends, and proved that size and athleticism is a deadly combination. Gonzalez set many records with the Chiefs, but Kansas City believed that his best days were behind him.
The Chiefs dealt Gonzalez to the Atlanta Falcons in 2009 for a second round pick in 2010. Gonzalez would prove he still had some worth in Atlanta, playing from 2009 till 2013 for the Falcons. Atlanta was also able to give Gonzalez his first playoff win against the Seattle Seahawks, something that Kansas City was unable to help with.
16. Los Angeles Chargers: Trade for Ryan Leaf
In 1998, the Los Angeles Chargers made one of the most historic and terrible draft picks in NFL history, trading a kings ransom for the number two overall pick which became quarterback Ryan Leaf. The Chargers gave the Arizona Cardinals two first round picks, a second round pick, Eric Metcalfe and Patrick Sapp for the second overall pick. The top two candidates for the first overall pick in 1998 were Ryan Leaf and Peyton Manning. The two quarterbacks were closely scouted, and many NFL level executives ranked Leaf higher than Manning.
It became very clear very quickly that Ryan Leaf would go down in history as arguably the worst bust of all time. In just two years with the Chargers, Leaf completed just 48 percent of his passed and threw 13 touchdowns compared to 33 interceptions. After three years, the Chargers decided to move on and would have to deal with the decision for years to come.
15. Los Angeles Rams: Trade away Greg Robinson
While this trade hasn’t proven regretful yet, the Rams could easily want to turn back the clock on trading away Greg Robinson. The Rams sent Robinson to the Detroit Lions for a sixth round draft pick this past offseason. Although a decent offensive lineman, Robinson lead the league in penalties last season and was benched for two games, leading to his being traded away by the Rams.
Recent moves by General Manager Lea Snead have been extremely questionable. This trade, although not regretful at the moment, could come back to haunt the Rams who have had offensive line problems recently.
14. Miami Dolphins: Trade away Vontae Davis
Nothing can be more surprising as a talented athlete than walking blindly into the General Manager’s office and being told you have been traded. When Vontae Davis ventured into Jeff Ireland’s office, it’s safe to say he was a bit blind sided due to the detailed episode on HBO’s show Hard Knocks.
The Dolphins were able to receive a second round pick in exchange for Davis that the team used to draft Jamar Taylor. Davis has been a strong influence on a young Colt’s secondary, and has proved time and time again he is still a force to be reckoned with in the NFL. The Dolphins have been a bit of a dysfunctional franchise as of late, and trading away a sure fire talent like Davis is not likely to improve the franchise.
13. Minnesota Vikings: Trading for Herschel Walker
The trade for Herschel Walker will go down as one of the largest and most impactful trades in NFL history. It’s very unlikely that when a big name player is traded, the former team receives a worthy bounty for the player’s services. Walker, however, was traded from the Dallas Cowboys to the Minnesota Vikings for a 18 players and draft picks. Naturally, the Vikings assumed they had won the better part of the deal after gaining a proven running talent like Walker. Jimmy Johnson, the Cowboys coach, was able to turn the Walker trade into an even better runner in Emmitt Smith and an elite talent named Darren Woodson.
The trade most likely left Minnesota stunned as Walker only rushed for 551 yards in his seasons with the Vikings. This trade gave the Cowboys the next level of success they needed and left the Vikings franchise short of draft picks for years to come. This just proves that even the right ransom might not be worth the trade.
12. New England Patriots: Trade for Chad Jackson
The New England Patriots are a widely respected franchise and can normally avoid the criticism of poor trades year after year. That’s what makes the trade for Chad Jackson so regretful for the reigning Super Bowl champions. The Patriots traded the Green Bay Packers their second and third-round pick to take Jackson at the 36th overall pick. The Patriots normally do not partake in giving up their draft picks, so the front office must have felt they had something special in Jackson.
Jackson was an amazing talent and had the speed to make it at the next level. Although equipped with the right abilities, Jackson only had 13 catches for 152 yards before the Patriots released him. Although traditionally spotless when it comes to trades and draft picks, the Chad Jackson experiment will go down as a blemish on the Bill Belichick era in New England. I guess his five Super Bowl rings will have to console him as he regrets this trade.
11. New Orleans Saints: Traded away Jimmy Graham
The trading away of Jimmy Graham was by one of the most shocking trades in recent memory for the NFL as a whole. Graham is an outstanding talent and was having an amazing career being a trust worthy receiver for future hall of fame quarterback Drew Brees. The Saints drafted Graham in 2010 where he led the team with 85 receptions and 10 touchdowns that year. Although New Orleans still had Marques Colton and Brandin Cooks, the team knew they would miss a security blanket with such intense athletic ability.
Seattle traded Max Unger and a first-found pick for Jimmy Graham and a fourth-round pick. The Saints have failed to return to their 2010 form without Graham, who has 4,752 yards and 51 touchdowns during his time in the Big Easy.
10. New York Giants: Trade away Sam Huff and George Seals
On October 10th, 1964, the New York Giants traded Sam Huff and George Seals to the Washington Redskins for two average players and a fifth round pick. The G-Men will regret the trade, as Huff and Seals continued their success in Washington while the Giants were unable to gather any value in return.
This was the second major deal in ten days for the Redskins, however, who were glad to accept the two talents from the Giants. New York claimed that locker room issues were the reason for the trade, but knowing how the trade worked out for both sides, you have to assume the Giants would put up with a few disputes for the talent if given the chance again.
9. New York Jets: Trade for Brett Favre.
It seems Brett Favre has found himself on the receiving end of a few trades on this list. Following the 2007 season, Favre was indecisive as to whether he would officially retire from football or not. The Packers were able to help the decision for Favre as Aaron Rodgers was ready for the keys to the franchise after waiting for his shot.
Sadly for the Jets and Favre, Brett’s age would start to show in New York because after starting the season 8-3, the Jets would lose the next five games. The next season, Favre would depart for the Minnesota Vikings and save a portion of his career through some nice games, but the Jet’s era in Favre’s long story is one to regret.
8. Oakland Raiders: Traded away Randy Moss
In what is probably the easiest trade to call out on this list, the Oakland Raiders traded away Randy Moss to the New England Patriots for a fourth round pick. Moss was not happy in Oakland and the franchise thought they should move Moss before times became tougher. When a team has a talent like Randy Moss, you would assume that the trade value would be greater than a fourth round pick.
Moss would go on to have a record year in New England, connecting with Tom Brady for a record 23 touchdowns that seasons during a 16-0 regular season run for the Patriots. The Raiders will look at this trade as a missed opportunity to collect some more pieces for the future for a Randy Moss that still had some miles left.
7. Philadelphia Eagles: Trade away LeSean McCoy
LeSean McCoy is easily the worst trade during the Chip Kelly days in Philadelphia, let alone the most regretful trade in the Eagles history. McCoy was an amazing talent, even in his college days at the University of Pittsburgh. The Eagles traded McCoy to the Buffalo Bill in exchange for Kiko Alonso, an extremely talented linebacker before his knee surgery. Alonso would prove to be a disappointment in Philadelphia.
Shady, as he is fondly referred to by his fans, is a blue chip runner with a cut to make the most talent running backs jealous. Chip Kelly wasn’t sure that Shady was right for his system in Philadelphia, even though he was a proven and effective runner for the Eagles. The Eagles decided to trade for DeMarco Murray from the Dallas Cowboys instead of LeSean McCoy. Murray would quickly prove to be the wrong running back for Chip’s system.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers: Trade for Josh Scobee
In the history of the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers have stood the test of time as one of the most respectful and successful teams in the league’s history. In their time in the league, the Steeler’s have not made too many regretful decisions. One decision that would prove to be game changing was trading the Jacksonville Jaguars a sixth-round pick for kicker Josh Scobee. The Steeler’s main kicker, Shaun Suisham, had suffered a season-ending injury in the Hall of Fame Preseason game, and the team needed a proven kicker to join the ranks.
Scobee was a long time kicker in Jacksonville, and the Pittsburgh Steeler’s believed they could trust him to be the kicker moving forward. Scobee missed several chip shot field goals in his time with the Steeler’s, which was extremely uncharacteristic for his career as a whole. The Steeler’s cut Scobee and began to look for special teams help elsewhere.
5. San Francisco 49ers: Trade away Alex Smith
Although the team would go to a Super Bowl under Colin Kaepernick, it’s safe to say that the 49er’s would gladly take Alex Smith back due to their current situation. Smith was on a Super Bowl bound run in San Francisco when a concussion had him sidelined, opening up the path for Kaepernick to take over the starting role for the niners.
Kaep was replaced by Blaine Gabbert in the 2015 season and has not been the same athlete. Currently, Colin is out of the NFL while Smith reinvents himself in the Kansas City Chiefs offense. While the Chiefs are currently undefeated in the 2017 season, it’s hard to believe the 49er’s wouldn’t rather have Smith than their current quarterback, Brian Hoyer.
4. Seattle Seahawks: Trade for Percy Harvin
All teams assume that they have won when a trade occurs in the NFL, shown once again when the Seattle Seahawks traded the Minnesota Vikings for Percy Harvin. For the Vikings, Harvin was a game changer who had tremendous special teams talent. Harvin returned 114 kickoffs for a 27.9 yard average and also had five touchdowns in his first four years in the league.
In the 2013 season, Harvin caught only one pass for 17 yards, as he battled with injury issues all season. He was able to return a kickoff for a touchdown in Superbowl XLVIII, but the Hawks easily won the Super Bowl without his efforts. Harvin quickly became a concern in the locker room, and was cut shortly after the team deemed him a locker room issue.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Trade for Darrell Revis
Tampa Bay made the extremely questionable decision to sign veteran defensive back Darrell Revis from the New York Jets for a fourth and fifth-round draft pick. Revis was only in Tampa Bay for one season, but that one season cost the Buc’s $16 million.
Tampa Bay did not have a good team in 2013, so adding Revis seemed a waste of money for the franchise. Revis was the only elite player but was a terrible fit for the Buccaneer’s defensive scheme. If Tampa Bay were able to gather other elite talent around Revis, the move would have made sense for the franchise’s future. Tampa Bay would cut Revis after just one year, only to see Revis revive his career in New England were he would win a Super Bowl with the Patriots in the 2014 season.
2. Tennessee Titans: Trade away Steve Largent
Although the Tennessee Titans are the current franchise, this regretful trade goes the whole way back to the Houston Oilers days. The Oilers had one of the most productive receivers in NFL history, but sadly let Steve Largent leave the team after just four preseason games. The Oilers sent Largent to the Seattle Seahawks for an eighth-round pick.
Largent would go on to play 14 seasons for the Seattle Seahawks and finish his career with over 100 touchdown receptions. Steve Largent would also add 819 catches for 13,089 yards. That is an impressive stat line for anyone, let alone a player traded for an eighth-round pick.
- Washington Redskins: Trade for Robert Griffin III
In the 2012 draft, the Washington Redskins traded up with the St. Louis Rams to the second overall pick to select Robert Griffin III. At the time, the Ram’s believed they had their franchise quarterback in Sam Bradford and were willing to give up the high pick. The Redskins gave St. Louis a first and second round-pick for the 2012 season, a 2013 first round-pick and a 2014 first-round pick.
After a successful rookie season, RG3 would prove to be a bust for the Redskins franchise. In three years in Washington he passed for 8,097 yards and 40 touchdowns. A decent stat line by itself, Griffin had troubles staying healthy and was unable to maintain the rushing ability he showed in his rookie season. After losing his job to Kirk Cousins, RG3 tried to revive his career with the Cleveland Browns, only to fall dramatically short. He was a far cry from the player Washington had hoped to draft, so selling the franchises future for the Baylor graduate was a regretful mistake.