Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

24 May 2011

ESPN: 10 Most Disappointing Trades

Not the ten most one-sided trades. No, this is a list of the top ten trades that worked for nobody. Was one year of Terrell Owens worth the headaches? Was Brandon Meriweather worth watching Reche Caldwell drop passes in the AFC Championship Game? Features appearances by all kinds of bad quarterbacks including Kelly Stouffer, Rex Grossman, and A.J. Feeley.

Here is the text from the two "Honorable Mention" entries which didn't make it to ESPN:

Honorable Mention One: The Eric Dickerson Trade

The Rams got fed up with Eric Dickerson’s never-ending contract demands, so they traded him to the Colts in a three-way deal which also involved the Bills. The Rams wound up with Greg Bell and three #1 picks which amounted to almost nothing (one was traded, the others became Gaston Green and Aaron Cox). The Rams remained contenders for two seasons, but their Dickerson-less offense relied too heavily on the unpredictable efforts of Jim Everett. The Colts got two great seasons from Dickerson and a decade’s worth of contract demands and controversies; his presence also led to the win-it-all-now Jeff George trade. The Bills made out as brokers often do, trading a running back they did not need (Bell) and a first round pick for the player the Colts chose with the second pick in the 1987 draft: future five-time Pro Bowl linebacker Cornelius Bennett. It pays to be the middle man.

Honorable Mention Two: The Ricky Williams Aftershock Trades.

Everyone remembers that Mike Ditka’s Saints traded almost all of their 1999 draft picks (plus first and third rounders in 2000) to the Redskins so they could move up in the draft to select Ricky Williams. What most people forget is that the Redskins turned right around and traded many of those picks; several went straight to the Bears so the Redskins could move up in the draft to select Champ Bailey.

The Saints got a talented running back with emotional issues and a 3-13 finish in 1999 for their troubles; Williams was out of New Orleans by 2001. The Bears wound up with epic bust Cade McNown and a bunch of role players. The Redskins came out on top: they got Bailey in 1999 and LaVar Arrington in 2000, plus some good choices with their own picks (tackles Chris Samuels and Jan Jansen) -- but their drafting and trading success had an unintended consequence. The expansion Texans chose Redskins general manager Charley Casserly to lead their front office, and once Casserly left, Dan Snyder was free to overspend for every free agent he wanted and treat draft picks like oil change coupons.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 24 May 2011

18 comments, Last at 27 May 2011, 9:55am by Anonymouse


by Nate Dunlevy :: Tue, 05/24/2011 - 1:44pm

"18to88.com" That's a little too hard on the Colts, Dickerson-wise.

The Dickerson deal has to be understood in the larger context of what was going on with the Colts at the time. He legitimized the team and created a real buzz in Indy. His first two and a half years were spectacular,and the only real mistake was reupping him after the '89 season.

Never give a running back a new deal at 29 years old. Just a rule of thumb. The trade worked out fine. The extension was the problem.

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Tue, 05/24/2011 - 4:09pm

In 1997, the Lions signed a 29-yr old running back to an extension. It seemed to work out okay.

by nath :: Tue, 05/24/2011 - 4:48pm

It did? Didn't he retire like two years later?

by Theo :: Tue, 05/24/2011 - 5:08pm

but the Lions got their value for money, they got some of the contract money back...

"Sanders' retirement came somewhat unexpectedly and was a matter of controversy. Two years beforehand, Sanders had renewed his contract with the Lions for $35.4 million over six years with an $11 million signing bonus. When he retired with several years left on his contract, the Lions demanded that he return $7.3 million of the bonus.[8] Sanders refused, and the Lions sued and eventually won a judgment against him. On February 15, 2000, arbitrator Sam Kagel ruled that Sanders was in default of his bonus agreement and owed $5.5 million plus interest over the next three years.[9]"

by BigDerf :: Tue, 05/24/2011 - 2:35pm

In the ESPN article itself... it says that Shaun Alexander and Koren Robinson were drafted in 1990 and 91... not 2000 and 2001 like it should.

by Aaron Schatz :: Tue, 05/24/2011 - 3:32pm

Yep. That's getting fixed.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 05/24/2011 - 3:23pm

Kenyatta Walker. Bucs trade their first and an additional second to move up to take him. Yes, it's really only a second-round pick, so not much cost, but they actually paid extra. For Kenyatta Walker. The psychological damage of that will never heal.

by Travis :: Tue, 05/24/2011 - 3:57pm

The Bills traded both their 1988 and 1989 #1's in the Dickerson trade, while the Colts only traded their 1988.

(The Colts would later trade their 1989 and 1990 #1's at the beginning of the 1988 season to the Seahawks for linebacker Fredd Young, who was holding out after making the Pro Bowl his first four years in the league. Young never made another Pro Bowl and retired just 3 years later due to an arthritic hip.)

The Rams didn't trade away that 1989 #1, but instead used it on yet another RB, Cleveland Gary.

by andrew :: Tue, 05/24/2011 - 7:02pm

Not gonna get insider but would it be safe to assume Herschel Walker was the top entry here?

by Shattenjager :: Tue, 05/24/2011 - 10:11pm

This much you can get without insider: "The 1989 Herschel Walker trade may be called The Great Train Robbery by Minnesota Vikings fans, but it started a Dallas Cowboys dynasty. The 1974 John Hadl trade marked the beginning of a string of 10- and 11-loss seasons for the Green Bay Packers, but it made the Los Angeles Rams a perennial powerhouse. If a deal leaves your favorite team's glass half-empty, it probably filled a glass elsewhere.

This isn't a top-10 list of lopsided train robberies. It's a list of trades that hurt both teams. Sometimes, "hurt" is a relative term: A player can have a great season or two but still harm his new team in other ways, by being a locker room headache or just not providing enough bang for the buck. In those deals, neither side can really claim victory, but there's plenty of defeat to go around."

It's a list of trades that didn't work for either team. The Herschel Walker trade worked out very, very, very well for the Cowboys.

by Raiderjoe :: Wed, 05/25/2011 - 8:45am

S. Smith for B. Humphrey woroked for neither tema, Not surue if made list beucuase don't get espn insuder.

by snoopy369 :: Wed, 05/25/2011 - 8:59am

As always, the sage advice of RaiderJoe is spot on.

by snoopy369 :: Wed, 05/25/2011 - 9:01am

Think your #5 is backwards (Rams trade to Colts, not Colts trade to Rams), or else the explanation is backwards.

by Travis :: Wed, 05/25/2011 - 10:18am

It isn't, not as I read it. ("Rams didn't trade away that 1989 #1" is a correction of Tanier's intro text.)

The complete trade was as follows:

Colts trade:
Owen Gill
rights to Cornelius Bennett
1988 #1
1988 #2
1989 #2

Bills trade:
Greg Bell
1988 #1
1989 #1
1989 #2

Rams trade:
Eric Dickerson

Colts get:
Eric Dickerson

Bills get:
rights to Cornelius Bennett

Rams get:
Owen Gill
Greg Bell
1988 #1 (from Colts)
1988 #1 (from Bills)
1988 #2 (from Colts)
1989 #1 (from Bills)
1989 #2 (from Colts)
1989 #2 (from Bills)

by Shattenjager :: Wed, 05/25/2011 - 12:36pm

Seeing it spelled out like that, the Rams getting three firsts and three seconds . . . that's a pretty incredible haul.

And that they couldn't take advantage of it is frightening.

by Dan Snyder (not verified) :: Wed, 05/25/2011 - 4:21pm

"The expansion Texans chose Redskins general manager Charley Casserly to lead their front office, and once Casserly left, Dan Snyder was free to overspend for every free agent he wanted and treat draft picks like oil change coupons."

Clearly this is anti-Semitic.

by Raiderjoe :: Wed, 05/25/2011 - 4:47pm

Ig worry more about Redskons wimning than jew jokes that maybe not really jew jokes on inyrrnet thab maybd Redskins win mote games. Snyder have crappy fpotballl lnowldege.

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Fri, 05/27/2011 - 9:55am

Pretty sure that this is an insider joke about the Snyder lawsuit against the city paper. General perception is that he claims their article was anti-semetic as a way to file a nuisance lawsuit.