It’s been well documented over the years that while the baseball and basketball landscapes can and have been severely altered by blockbuster trades, the NFL prefers to stay out of the chess game that is trading. Normally, an NFL trade consists of a backup offensive lineman getting swapped for a seventh round pick (if you’re lucky). Furthermore, these trades are normally few and far between, as football teams prefer to adjust their roster via the draft or free agency.
But all that has changed this year. NFL teams are wheeling and dealing at a rate never before seen, and it has people wondering What the heck is going on?
Not only have there been far more trades this year, but players of significant value have been on the move (Laken Tomlinson, Tramaine Brock, Sheldon Richardson, etc). When wondering why there have been more trades this year, it’s always a good start to look at what has changed in the NFL since last season. Perhaps the biggest change was that teams now have to trim from 90 to 53 in one supercut rather than two slightly less daunting cuts like years past. This means teams rosters get finalized over the course of about one week rather than multiple weeks. Because all these cuts need to be made, teams will sometimes designate talented veterans as bubble players who most likely won’t make the final roster. However, rather than cut/release these players with nothing remaining but a fat contract, teams are now exploring the possibility of trading these players to teams who need athletes like them, in return garnering at least a mid-round draft pick they can use next year. It is similar to the NBA, where teams will trade impending free agents who they are afraid will bolt in free agency (ahem, Paul George) so that they don’t lose them for nothing (ahem, Kevin Durant). Side note--interesting how the Thunder were involved in both those scenarios--but back to the point. Though there has been a severe uptick in trade frequency in the NFL so far, don’t expect it to continue; this is simply a product of new NFL rules. The reason players aren’t (and won’t be) traded during the season is because it would be nearly impossible for them to learn their new team's’ offense or defense while playing meaningful games. Though we all wish our teams would trade for/away certain players, we shouldn’t wish too hard, because that outcome is highly unlikely.