NFL | Sep 16, 2022

The biggest blockbuster trades in NFL history

By Harry Bazley

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The 2022 offseason has seen multiple game-changing trades, with legendary veterans like Russel Wilson making their first move ever and youngsters like Deshaun Watson going for six draft picks, including three in the first round.

This year we've witnessed some of the biggest moves the NFL has seen in recent years - including Wilson, Watson, Matt Ryan, Carson Wentz, Davante Adams, Khalil Mack, Von Miller and more. But this year's trades pale in comparison to some of the blockbuster moves we've seen in the past.

Today, we're going to take a look at the biggest transfers in the history of the NFL, measured by the calibre of player and the amount of draft picks and players traded.

8. Randy Moss to The Patriots (2007)

In 2006, the New England Patriots suffered a tough AFC Championship loss to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts and were desperate for some fresh talent heading into the '07 season. The Pats decided to take a risk, and pulled off one of the biggest trades of all time as a result - acquiring Randy Moss from the Oakland Raiders.

The star wide-out seemed to have given up on his side, and had long been known as a lacklustre addition to the side, despite his talent. There was no doubt in New England that if they could convince him to move, Moss would bolster their offence to no end - after all he is one of the greatest wide receivers the league has ever seen.

The Pats manage to ship him across from Oakland for a singular fourth-round pick in the NFL draft... talk about a steal!

Moss went on to set the NFL record for the most touchdowns in a single season in his first year with New England. He caught 23 touchdowns to help The Pats become the first and only team to have a perfect regular season - winning every single match-up in their 16-game schedule. Plus, Moss still holds the single-season touchdown record to this day, proving just how great he was... And if that doesn't impress you, now anytime a player catches a pass over the top of a defender, it is referred to as 'being Mossed'. Enough said.

This could go down as the cheapest trade with the biggest payoff, in the history of pro football.

7. Russel Wilson to the Broncos (2022)

Now, we're yet to see just how this trade will pan out, but the price the Broncos paid will go down as one of the largest trades we've ever seen.

The Broncos gave up two first-round and two second-round picks (plus a few more), as well as three players to acquire their new quarterback. As great as Russel Wilson is, this is a shockingly high price to pay, which will deplete the team's roster and future draft prospects for years to come.

Wilson's week one debut was slightly rocky, he delivered just enough but Denver took a tough loss against his former team, the Seattle Seahawks, missing a field goal that would have secured the victory. Check out our recap of Week 1's games here.

6. Eric Dickerson to the Colts (1987)

Eric Dickerson was perhaps the best running back in the league in 1987, and tensions had been rising after contract disputes with the Los Angeles Rams. Feeling undervalued and underpaid, Dickerson was looking for a move to a team that would put him at the forefront of their game.

The Indianapolis Colts traded with the Buffalo Bills to secure a strong enough position and ultimately use it to put Dickerson in the white and blue.

The Colts gave the Bills LB Cornelius Bennet and received 1988 first-round pick, 1989 first and second-round picks and RB Greg Bell. The Colts then traded the following to the Rams, and got Dickerson in return.

  • Running Back Greg Bell

  • Running Back Owen Gill

  • All 3 draft picks from the Bills

  • Extra first and second-round picks in 1988

  • A second-round pick in 1989

The monstrous amount of picks given up by the Bills was a huge risk for the side, but Dickerson provided fruitful returns for the years to come. He went on to lead the league in rushing yards in 1988, but Bennet ended up helping the Bills win four consecutive Super Bowls. So, we're not sure who came out on top in this mess of a trade...

5. Joe Montana to the Chiefs (1993)

In 1993, the San Francisco 49ers found themselves with two future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterbacks, both on their roster at the same time.

Steve Young's rise to starter-level talent, gave way for a trade of Montana to the Kansas City Chiefs. The QB had already made his name as a league legend, but it was almost as if the 49ers had too much talent on their hands. They gave Steve Young to Kansas, along with David Whitmore and a 1993 third-round pick, and in return they received a first-round selection.

Montana proved to be worth it for Kansas, as he led them to the 1993 AFC Championship game, as well as a win over Steve Young's 49ers a year later.

4. Marshall Faulk to the Rams (1999)

In another Colts-Rams trade, this one was a classic case of both sides winning.

The now relocated St. Louis Rams took Faulk from the Indianapolis Colts just a second and fifth-round draft pick. In 1999, the Colts selected Edgerrin James with their second-round pick - a running back that helped them become a playoff worthy team.

In St Louis, Faulk was instrumental in helping Kurt Warner rise through the league to become MVP and put together the offense now known as 'The Greatest Show on Turf'. Faulk then went on to lead the run-game to win Super Bowl XXXIV and was crowned league MVP just a year later.

Not a bad deal for either side...

3. John Elway to the Broncos (1983)

Prior to draft night in 1983, John Elway's team had made it very clear that he did not want to play for the Baltimore Colts. Despite his wishes, they drafted him anyway as the number one overall pick. Which backfired pretty drastically, as he simply refused to play.

His refusal to touch the turf in Baltimore resulted in a trade with the Broncos that gave the Colts O-lineman Chris Hinton, QB Mark Herrmann and a 1984 first-round selection.

Elway went on to prove his worth as he competed in five Super Bowls, winning his last two appearances in 1997 and 98.

Elway still makes most Top 10 QB lists, if not Top 5, and he remains a highly influential part of the Broncos franchise.

2. Brett Favre to the Packers (1992)

Favre was the Atlanta Falcons second-round pick in 1991, looking to be a great quarterback prospect for the years to come. Sadly his first season in Atlanta was anything but great... His first pass in the NFL was a pick six and that pretty much sums it up.

The next year, the Falcons were ready to trade him away. The new Green Bay Packers GM, Ron Wolf, stepped in and struck a deal for the disappointing QB. Wolf sent a 1992 first-round selection to Atlanta in exchange for Favre.

Well, you could say the risk paid off...

Favre went on to lead the Pack for 16 seasons, helping restore one of the most damaged franchises in the league. He also set numerous career passing records and perhaps more importantly, led Green Bay to two Super Bowls, winning SB XXXI to top things off.

This is probably Atlanta's most regretful trade they've ever made.

1. Herschel Walker to the Vikings (1989)

This is indisputably the biggest and messiest trade in the history of the NFL. Involving 18 players and 12 draft picks, Herschel Walker's move to the Vikings in 1989 had ripple effects that impacted the entire league throughout the '90s.

Walker was lighting up the league with the Dallas Cowboys every season, racking up over 2000-yards in 1988. The Vikings were certain that he was the only thing they needed to reach the Super Bowl.

Minnesota ended up offering the largest trade in history to secure the tailback. The Vikings would receive Herschel Walker, as well as Dallas' 1990 third and tenth-round picks, the San Diego Chargers' fifth-round pick (which the Cowboys acquired from trading RB Darrin Nelson), and a 1991 third-round pick.

In return, the Vikings gave Dallas LB Jesse Solomon, LB David Howard, CB Issiac Holt and DE Alex Stewart, plus their first, second, and sixth-round picks in the 1990 draft, and a '92 second-round pick.

Sounds like a lot right? Well there's more...

Dallas also added a condition to their deal which would secure them even more draft picks, if they cut the 4 traded Vikings players before a year was up. The rule was, if HC Jimmy Johnson cut them all by Feb. 1, 1990, Dallas would also receive Minnesota's first and second-round picks in 1991, and first and third-round picks in 1992. In November 1989, Johnson waived Stewart and made his intentions to cut the rest of the players very clear.

In total, Minnesota gave Dallas: 3 first-round picks, 3 second round picks, 1 third-round pick and 1 sixth-round pick, plus 4 players.

This gave Dallas the drafting power in the following few years to build a dynasty that went on to be one of the most successful teams we've ever seen. They won Super Bowl XXV, Super Bowl XXVII and Super Bowl XXVIII, making them the only team other than the New England Patriots to win three SBs in a four year span.

Walker on the other hand, never had a 1000-yard rushing season with the Vikings and left the team after just two years.

At a press conference after the trade, Johnson bragged that he committed "The Great Train Robbery", and it's quite hard to deny...