Less than two weeks remain until the NFL's virtual draft. While the sheer presentation and intra-team communication will draw more attention this year, franchises are plotting trades. With that in mind, here is every NFL team's biggest trade that occurred on draft weekend.
From 2003-04, the Cardinals devoted abnormal draft resources to the wide receiver position. A 2003 trade began that process. The Cards traded down from their No. 6 overall slot with the Saints, moving to No. 17 where they selected Penn State wideout Bryant Johnson. This deal also gave Arizona linebacker Calvin Pace. But with the second-round pick obtained in this six-selection trade, the Cards drafted Anquan Boldin 54th overall. Johnson played nine seasons and fared decently, but Boldin's 101 catches in 2003 shattered a rookie record. He formed an elite duo with 2004 No. 3 overall pick Larry Fitzgerald for six seasons.
While the Falcons traded up to select Michael Vick in 2001, their 2011 move for Julio Jones involved greater risk. Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff traded five picks — including a 2012 first-rounder — to climb from No. 23 to No. 6. The Falcons drafted Julio Jones. The Browns did stunningly little with the picks, while Jones is on pace to be the greatest player in Falcons history. The All-Decade wideout developed as a Roddy White sidekick then surpassed him. Since 2014, Jones' 9,388 receiving yards are the most in NFL history in a six-year span. That figure also leads NFLers in that stretch by more than 1,500 yards.
The Ravens also drafted Ray Lewis with a pick not originally theirs, but Bill Belichick and Co. acquiring that 1996 first-rounder when the franchise was still the Browns in 1995 makes it ineligible here. Twenty-two years later, Ozzie Newsome's final first-round pick as Ravens GM became Lamar Jackson. The Ravens sent two second-rounders and a fourth to move up 20 spots to select Jackson 32nd. The fifth quarterback chosen that year, Jackson has lapped his draft class. He seized Joe Flacco's job as a rookie, smashed Vick's single-season record for QB rushing yards in 2019 en route to becoming the first Raven MVP.
The Bills made multiple moves to climb 14 spots in 2018 for Allen. In search of a true franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly's 1997 retirement, the Bills first traded left tackle Cordy Glenn to the Bengals in a pick-swap move that got them from No. 21 to No. 12. On draft night, they had a deal in place to land the Broncos' No. 5 pick, but it was contingent on Bradley Chubb not being there. Instead, Bills GM Brandon Beane acquired the No. 7 pick from the Bucs, trading two second-round picks to do so. Allen's trajectory remains uncertain, but the strong-armed QB made big strides in 2019 and had Buffalo in the playoffs.
A contending Panthers team made an aggressive move to chase a Super Bowl. After drafting Jonathan Stewart 11th overall in 2008, GM Marty Hurney traded second- and fourth-round 2008 picks and a 2009 first-rounder to move back into Round 1 for tackle Jeff Otah. The Pitt product started multiple seasons at right tackle but encountered knee problems that ended his career after four years. The Eagles managed to land a high-end tackle out of this deal, however, using the first-rounder acquired to pry Jason Peters away from the Bills a year later.
Although Dick Butkus did not enter the NFL until 1965, the Bears made a move a year earlier that wound up leading him to Chicago. During the 1964 draft, the Steelers dealt the Bears their 1965 first-rounder for second- and fourth-round '64 selections. Pittsburgh's 1965 first-rounder landed at No. 3 overall, which became Butkus. The Steelers took tight end Jim Kelly and defensive end Jim McGee with the picks; the Bears' end of the deal worked out a bit better. In '65, the Bears took fellow first-ballot Hall of Famer Gale Sayers one pick after Butkus. An All-Decade linebacker in the 1960s and '70s, Butkus became a Bears legend.
Quarterback Mike Phipps appears in this gallery multiple times, being traded twice for Hall of Famers. This roundabout deal netted the Browns Ozzie Newsome. During the 1977 draft, the Browns dealt Phipps to the Bears for a 1977 fourth-rounder and a 1978 first. The Browns dealt the '78 pick (No. 20) to the Rams and drafted Newsome 23rd. The tight end became a key target for Brian Sipe and Bernie Kosar, retiring in 1991 with the most receptions and receiving yards among tight ends. Phipps topped out at 10 starts in a season with the Bears. Newsome's front-office work with Browns 1.0 led to his run as Ravens GM.
Not known for their aggressive spending or wheeling and dealing, the Bengals took a big swing in 1995. They moved from No. 5 to No. 1, collecting the expansion Panthers' pick — obtained via coin toss against the Jaguars — and selecting Penn State running back Ki-Jana Carter. An ACL tear sidelined Carter as a rookie, and he could never reestablish his Nittany Lions form. Carter played until 2004 but never topped 500 rushing yards in a season. This did not help during the grimmest period in Bengals history. The Panthers picked Kerry Collins at No. 5.
A team trading a first-rounder and three seconds to move up to No. 2 overall for a running back would be criticized today. But in 1977, the Cowboys reignited their offense by doing so. The Bucs sought running back Ricky Bell at No. 1, so the Cowboys dealt with the other 1976 expansion team to move up 12 spots and draft Heisman winner Tony Dorsett. The backfield blazer became a no-doubt Hall of Famer. Dorsett helped Dallas to a Super Bowl title as a rookie, the NFC crown in 1978 and enjoyed a 12-year career complete with eight 1,000-yard seasons. The Seahawks did not land a Pro Bowler with any of those four 1977 picks.
Amid Josh McDaniels' memorable-for-the-wrong-reasons 23-month stay as the Broncos' head coach/de facto GM, he traded three draft picks to move up for Tim Tebow. McDaniels deftly maneuvered down the board to add picks in 2010, doing so a year after he traded a 2010 first-round pick for a 2009 second, but used second-, third- and fourth-rounders to trade back into Round 1 (via the Ravens) and draft Tebow 25th overall. The Broncos fired McDaniels later that year. Tebow's 2011 heroics aside, he did not pan out as a quarterback and was dealt to the Jets shortly after Manning signed in 2012.
During a successful decade for the Lions, they made a big splash in 1993. Detroit traded its first- and fourth-round picks to New Orleans for Pat Swilling, who had been an All-Pro on famed Saints defenses the previous two years. The Lions, who had tried to sign Swilling earlier that offseason, only got 10 sacks from the former Defensive Player of the Year in his two-year Motor City stay. The Lions declined Swilling's 1995 option, and he recorded 13 sacks in Oakland that year. With the picks, the Saints took Hall of Fame tackle Willie Roaf (at No. 8 overall) and future fullback standout Lorenzo Neal.
In Ron Wolf's first Packers draft, he laid the groundwork to end the Packers' lengthy drought without a franchise quarterback. As a result, Green Bay's going on Season 29 with one. In 1991, the Eagles traded up 11 spots for offensive lineman Antone Davis and gave the Packers their 1992 first-round pick in the deal. A future Hall of Fame executive, Wolf used that pick to pry Brett Favre away from the Falcons one year after Atlanta took him in the '91 second round. Favre started the next 16 seasons for the Packers, breaking all major NFL career passing records, before giving way to Aaron Rodgers.
Two picks after the Chiefs traded up 17 spots for Patrick Mahomes, the Texans vaulted 15 for Deshaun Watson in 2017. The Browns traded their No. 12 overall pick to the Texans, who gave up their 2018 first-rounder in the deal. While Watson's 2017 injury made that pick valuable, turning into cornerback Denzel Ward at No. 4 overall, the Texans have their franchise quarterback in place. Watson is 2-for-2 in Pro Bowls in seasons he's finished and guided the Texans to two playoff berths. Though the Texans have made questionable trades over the past several months, they nailed this one.
Current owner Jim Irsay was the Colts' GM for 10 years. He took a big swing in 1990, trading Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Hinton (obtained in 1983's John Elway deal), future Pro Bowl wideout Andre Rison and the Colts' 1991 first-round pick to the Falcons for the rights to 1990's No. 1 overall choice. That became Jeff George, who did not work out in Indianapolis. Rison, who'd shown promise as a Colts rookie, made the next four Pro Bowls and had a 12-year career. Hinton started four Falcons seasons, earning Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors. The Colts, interestingly, traded George to the Falcons in 1994.
From Steve DeBerg to Alex Smith, the Chiefs relied on free agents and trade acquisitions for 30-plus years at quarterback — a stretch highlighted by Joe Montana's two-year run. A 2017 decision changed this strategy and changed the course of Kansas City sports. The Chiefs sent first- and third-round picks to the Bills to draft Patrick Mahomes 10th overall. The Bills made out well here, with the picks producing Tre'Davious White and Tremaine Edmunds. But the Chiefs have arguably the NFL's best player. The 2018 MVP ended a 50-year Super Bowl drought, making this an already historic trade.
Stuck behind Brett Favre for two years, Mark Brunell soon received the keys to an expansion team's offense. The Jaguars traded third- and fifth-round picks for the Packers backup in 1995. Within a few games that season, Brunell was starting. He kept that job until 2003, leading the Jags to four straight playoff berths and two AFC championship games. Brunell remains the team's career passing leader in every notable category. Favre's iron-man streak rendered Green Bay's QB2 job largely irrelevant, but the third-rounder acquired in this deal became longtime fullback William Henderson.
The 1990s Cowboys assembled one of the NFL's great offensive lines despite trading a guard who became an eight-time Pro Bowler to the Raiders. Dallas picked Steve Wisniewski in the 1990 second round but dealt him to Los Angeles soon after, with Al Davis and Jimmy Johnson agreeing to an NBA-style post-selection swap. The Raiders traded picks 39, 68 and 119 to the Cowboys for the talented guard, and the Cowboys took fullback Darryl Johnston with the first of those choices. Wisniewski missed one game in his 13-year career, starting throughout. His eight Pro Bowls trail only Jim Otto among Raider O-linemen.
The Chargers had fallen on hard times since their Super Bowl XXIX berth in 1994, having missed the playoffs from 1996-2003. When San Diego earned 2004's No. 1 pick, Eli Manning's "Thanks, but no thanks" stance triggered a seismic trade. The Chargers picked Manning but dealt him for a Philip Rivers-headlined package that later included 2005 first-rounder Shawne Merriman. Rivers supplanted Drew Brees in 2006, started every Bolts game until the end of the 2010s and broke each of Dan Fouts' career passing records en route to eight Pro Bowls — more than Manning or fellow 2004 first-rounder Ben Roethlisberger.
George Allen's distaste for rookies led to the Redskins going the entire 1970s without a first-round pick. The former Rams coach introduced this style with a 17-player trade in 1971. The Redskins sent seven draft picks and ex-Rams linebacker Marlin McKeever to the Rams for six veterans and a fifth-rounder. Each of Washington's acquisitions played for Allen in L.A. The first- and second-rounders acquired in this deal turned into longtime Rams starters. The trade gave the Rams 1971 Defensive Rookie of the Year and six-time Pro Bowl linebacker Isiah Robertson and nine-year Rams safety starter Dave Elmendorf.
Any logical list of the top 10 wide receivers ever includes Paul Warfield, and although the Dolphins of the early 1970s are known for their run game, they had a rare receiver talent helping the cause. The Dolphins dealt 1970's No. 3 overall pick to the Browns for Warfield, and he proceeded to go 5-of-5 in Pro Bowls while in Miami. The Dolphins went to three Super Bowls during this period, and Warfield turned in 11-touchdown seasons in two of those slates. He had already made three Pro Bowls with Cleveland, but the Browns turned him into QB Mike Phipps. This trade helped catalyze a dynasty.
Early in the transition from the Brett Favre-era Vikings to the group that helped buoy the Case Keenum- and Kirk Cousins-led offenses, GM Rick Spielman identified an impact safety. Late in the 2012 draft's opening night, the Vikings traded second- and fourth-round picks to move back into Round 1 and draft Harrison Smith. The eight-year veteran now has five Pro Bowls on his resume. He's been the glue of a defense that's produced five straight top-10 scoring finishes, and as offseason changes have the Vikings retooling on their defensive line and in the secondary, Smith remains in place.
From a player-for-player standpoint, it does not get much more lopsided than this. The Raiders went 2-14 in 2006 and had a disgruntled Randy Moss on their payroll. The legendary talent amassed only 553 yards in 13 games that season. The result: Al Davis trading Moss to the Patriots for a fourth-round 2007 pick. Because of what happened next, defensive back John Bowie became known as the player traded for Moss. In Year 1 with the Pats, Moss set the NFL receiving touchdown record (23) and helped Tom Brady to a monster season. Moss delivered three productive New England years. Bowie played five NFL games.
This trade floored the NFL-following world 21 years ago. Mike Ditka's infatuation with 1998 Heisman winner Ricky Williams led him to trade his entire 1999 draft plus first- and third-rounders in 2000 to the Redskins to move up to No. 5 for Williams. (The 2000 first-rounder became No. 2 overall.) Although Williams was relatively productive in three New Orleans seasons, he peaked after a 2002 trade to the Dolphins. The Saints fired Ditka after the '99 season. This actually could have gone worse for the Saints had the Bengals accepted Ditka's offer of his '99 draft plus firsts in 2000 and 2001 and an '02 second.
The other side of the trade that shook up the 2004 draft brought Manning to New York. GM Ernie Accorsi, who resigned his Baltimore Colts GM post shortly after the team traded John Elway against his wishes, identified the Ole Miss talent and pounced on the opportunity Manning's refusal to play for the Chargers created. The Giants traded their No. 4 pick and 2005 first-rounder for Manning, who started for nearly 15 years and delivered two playoff runs for the ages. The oft-scrutinized quarterback led the Giants to wins over some of this era's greatest teams en route to two Super Bowl MVP Awards.
Just ahead of the 1965 AFL Draft, the Jets and Oilers agreed to a seismic swap. Houston traded the No. 2 overall pick to New York for Jerry Rhome — a bizarre deal that ended with George Blanda's would-be backup never playing for the Oilers and the Jets picking Joe Namath. The future Hall of Famer elevated the Jets into contenders and made good on a guarantee that changed pro football. Namath battled injuries for much of his career but helped the Jets to the most famous upset in pro football history (Super Bowl III). Rhome ended up signing with the Cowboys, who'd picked him in the 1964 NFL Draft.
The Eagles moved up only three spots to draft Fletcher Cox — 15th to 12th — in 2012, but they landed one of this era's most dominant defensive linemen. Philadelphia sent Seattle three picks for the right to move up for Cox, and the team perpetually fond of trading down selected Bruce Irvin. The Cox move came two years after the Eagles traded up 11 spots to draft Brandon Graham. The Patriots' double-teaming Cox freed up Graham to make Super Bowl LII's defining defensive play. Meanwhile, Cox has become the toughest inside blocking assignment this side of Aaron Donald and earned five Pro Bowl trips.
The Steelers added to their lineage of impact defenders in 2003. A deal with the Chiefs allowed the Steelers to move up 11 spots — from No. 27 to No. 16 — and select Troy Polamalu, the first member of the 2003 draft to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. The Chiefs slid down to draft briefly productive running back Larry Johnson, but Polamalu played 12 years in Pittsburgh and is one of his era's defining players. The 2010 Defensive Player of the Year helped the Steelers to three Super Bowls and two more titles and is part of the 2020 Hall of Fame class.
The rare player worthy of the obscenely overused "GOAT" acronym somehow landed on a team that had just gone 18-1. The defending Super Bowl champion 49ers drafted Jerry Rice after swinging a trade with the Patriots. The 49ers moved up 12 spots (to No. 16) to draft Rice in 1985, giving New England second- and third-round picks to do so. Both Al Toon and Eddie Brown enjoyed quality careers, but 1985's third receiver drafted enjoyed arguably the greatest career in NFL history. Rice earned a record 10 first-team All-Pro honors and holds comical statistical advantages over anyone else who's caught NFL passes.
The Broncos traded their 2010 first-round pick for the Seahawks' 2009 second-rounder. Denver drafted defensive back Alphonso Smith, who played one season with the team, at No. 37 overall. A year later, the pick the Broncos gave up turned into the No. 14 selection. And the Seahawks drafted Earl Thomas, an All-Decade safety who was the centerpiece of the team's Legion of Boom secondaries most associated with the team's Super Bowl runs. Collecting three first-team All-Pro honors in Seattle, the rangy safety became one of the franchise's defining players.
Hours after the Buccaneers drafted a tumbling Warren Sapp at No. 12, they traded back into the 1995 first round to draft probably the greatest player in franchise history. The Bucs sent two second-rounders to the Cowboys to take Derrick Brooks at No. 28. It is quite difficult to imagine Tampa Bay's ascent into a dominant defense and Super Bowl entrant without the star outside linebacker. Brooks played 14 Bucs seasons, racked up 11 Pro Bowls, never missed a game and became a first-ballot Hall of Famer. It is tough to coax more value from a draft choice.
Twenty-one years before Ricky Williams enticed a team to surrender a massive trade haul, the previous Texas Longhorn Heisman-winning running back turned out better for the Oilers. Houston sent Tampa Bay a curiously thin trade haul that included tight end Jimmie Giles and second-, third- and fifth-round picks to climb from No. 17 to No. 1 in the 1978 draft. Earl Campbell made the next three All-Pro first teams, drove the Oilers to two AFC championship games and became a Hall of Famer. Doug Williams became Tampa's 1978 first-rounder, but the future Super Bowl MVP was gone by 1983.
Because the Saints armed them with an entire draft — which included 1999's 12th overall pick — the Redskins capitalized and took the player who turned out to be the best in that draft. Washington traded up to No. 7 to select Champ Bailey and a year later turned New Orleans' 2000 first-rounder (second overall) into linebacker LaVar Arrington. However, like Ricky Williams, Bailey did his best work with his second NFL team. The Redskins traded the first-ballot Hall of Fame cornerback to the Broncos in 2004 and watched him play 10 more seasons. Arrington made three Pro Bowls in Washington but was gone by 2006.