The Titans continued a busy run of wide receiver trades by agreeing to send a second-round pick to the Falcons for Julio Jones. But teams have gone to the trade market to improve their wideout situations for decades. Here are the most significant wide receiver deals ever.
Already a two-time All-Pro with the Rams, Shofner joined Y.A. Tittle in revitalizing the Giants' passing game. Both players were traded to New York in August 1961, the deep threat going for what became the 1962 No. 2 overall pick (obtained from the Vikings). While the Giants were hesitant due to Shofner's down 1960 season, he had his three best years from 1961-63 — the Tittle-Shofner connection lifting Big Blue to three NFL title games. Shofner put together 1,100-yard seasons in each of those years, becoming a five-time All-Pro. The Rams landed future MVP Roman Gabriel with the pick.
It took Washington until 1962 to integrate. Mitchell became the team's first black player. The Browns traded the four-year veteran to Washington for No. 1 overall pick Ernie Davis. (This trade occurred shortly after the draft, held in December 1961.) Jim Brown was no fan of the move, preferring Mitchell's complementary skill set to an overlap with the Heisman winner. Washington moved Mitchell from running back to receiver. He led the NFL in receiving in 1962 and '63 and became a Hall of Famer. Diagnosed with leukemia in the summer of 1962, Davis never played an NFL down. He died in 1963.
Prior to the 1970 arrivals of Don Shula and Paul Warfield, the Dolphins went 15-39-2 in their first four years. In the five subsequent seasons, Miami made five playoff berths and won two Super Bowls. Warfield was a key part of the Browns' 1964 championship and caught 22 TDs in his final two Cleveland seasons. Cleveland traded its deep threat for Miami's No. 3 overall pick in 1970 and drafted QB Mike Phipps. Despite joining a run-first team, Warfield thrived in Florida, cementing Hall of Fame credentials. Phipps guided the Browns to two playoff berths, the second ending in a loss to the 1972 Dolphins.
One of the biggest quarterback deals turned out better for the team that added the wide receiver. The Eagles traded Harold Jackson back to the Rams as part of a massive package, which included two first-round picks, for 33-year-old Roman Gabriel in 1973. While Gabriel fizzled after a strong '73 season, Jackson — one of three long-term Los Angeles starters acquired here — delivered three Pro Bowl campaigns (including a 13-TD All-Pro '73 slate) and played in eight Rams playoff games. Originally a Rams 1968 draft choice, Jackson was traded to the Patriots in 1978. He played 16 NFL seasons.
Traded from Houston to Cincinnati in 1972, Joiner did not take off as a Bengal. But he caught a career-defining break in April 1976, when the Bengals traded him to the Chargers for a package headlined by defensive end Coy Bacon. The pass rusher's two-year Ohio tenure stands out; Bacon recorded 22 sacks in 1976 (some say it was 26). But the Chargers won this trade. Rejoining ex-Bengals assistant Bill Walsh -- the Bolts' OC for one season -- Joiner notched his first 1,000-yard season in '76. The Hall of Famer later became Air Coryell's senior member, playing 11 Chargers seasons and retiring as the NFL's receiving leader.
Prior to his lengthy TV career, the former "NBA Inside Stuff" host was an accomplished wide receiver. A 1976 trade from Seattle to Minnesota ignited Rashad's NFL career. A Pacific Northwest native, Rashad signed with the expansion Seahawks in 1976 but clashed with the coaching staff. They traded the former Cardinals and Bills target to the Vikings for a fourth-round pick. Rashad made four Pro Bowls, from 1978-81, helping Minnesota transition from Fran Tarkenton to Tommy Kramer, and his Hail Mary grab that secured the 1980 NFC Central title remains an all-time Vikings moment.
After sending five picks to the Bills for a 31-year-old O.J. Simpson, the 49ers dealt running back Delvin Williams to Miami for a package headlined by Solomon and a first-rounder. While Williams had his best season with the 1978 Dolphins, an All-Pro showing, Solomon became a perennial starter in Bill Walsh's cutting-edge offense. The college quarterback played eight seasons with the 49ers, complementing Dwight Clark, scoring six playoff TDs and collecting two Super Bowl rings. That first-round pick became linebacker Dan Bunz, who was responsible for a game-saving tackle in Super Bowl XVI. Williams retired in 1982.
Jefferson rose to prominence with three 1,000-yard seasons in the Chargers' Air Coryell attack. But a contract dispute led to the acrobatic wideout's 1981 holdout. The Bolts shipped him to the Packers for a bounty — a first-rounder, two second-rounders and a 1982 Round 1 pick swap. A two-time All-Pro as a Charger, Jefferson teamed with James Lofton in Green Bay but could not replicate his San Diego mojo. Jefferson played four years in Green Bay but didn't exceed 900 yards in any. The Bolts traded all but one of these picks for veterans but added versatile running back Gary Anderson in the 1983 first round.
The Chargers were without a John Jefferson replacement for less than two weeks, trading one of those first-round picks (and the player, wideout Aundra Thompson, acquired from the Packers) to the Saints for Chandler. Picked 11 spots before Jefferson in the 1978 first round, Chandler may not have been as flashy. But he made three Pro Bowls as a Charger, and his 1,032 yards in the strike-shortened 1982 season still represent the NFL's receiving yards-per-game standard (129). The Saints tried to replace Chandler with the '83 first-round pick, but Lindsay Scott did not fill that role.
It did not cost the Oilers much to acquire Hill from the Rams. Los Angeles in 1985 sent the former 12th-round pick to Houston for fourth- and seventh-round picks; neither player lasted more than a season. A role cog in L.A., Hill broke out in Houston. The 5-foot-9 receiver's 64 catches in '85 outdid his six-year Rams career. Hill posted five 1,000-yard seasons as an Oiler, made two Pro Bowls and was a centerpiece player in Warren Moon's run-and-shoot arsenal. Despite playing just seven Oilers seasons, Hill sits No. 2 on the 59-year-old franchise's career receiving list.
The Oakland Invaders, Carter's second USFL team, released him prior to folding. The Dolphins in 1985 dealt his rights to the Vikings for linebacker Robin Sendlein and a second-round pick. Instead of teaming Carter with Dan Marino, Mark Duper and Mark Clayton, Don Shula opted to help his defense. Carter played both the 1985 USFL and NFL seasons and was a high-end NFLer for years. Carter's three Pro Bowl nods came during Viking playoff seasons, one including his San Francisco masterpiece. Miami packaged that pick in a deal for Tampa Bay linebacker Hugh Green later in 1985. Sendlein played just one Dolphin season.
Washington in the late 1980s and early '90s boasted a dominant wide receiver trio. "The Posse" (Sanders, Art Monk, Gary Clark) formed when Washington traded a third-round pick for Sanders' rights in 1986. New England, which had Stanley Morgan and Irving Fryar at the time, believed it had too many playable receivers. A Pats first-round supplemental draft pick, Sanders followed his USFL stay with two 1,000-yard seasons, two Super Bowl rings and a catch on the White House lawn. His 193 receiving yards in Washington's Super Bowl XXII romp remain No. 2 in Super Bowl history.
The Raiders sent only third- and fourth-round picks to the Packers to land Lofton in 1987. This discount was available partially because the veteran receiver awaited trial on sexual assault charges (of which he was acquitted). But Lofton's Los Angeles stay was unremarkable. A member of the NFL's 1980s All-Decade team, the Hall of Famer made seven Pro Bowls with the Packers. His Raider stint was limited to two years; he was cut after a 549-yard, zero-TD 1988 season. Lofton re-emerged as Andre Reed's Bills sidekick in the early 1990s.
After winning medals at the 1983 World Track and Field Championships, Gault became the famed 1985 Bears top receiver. In 1988, however, Mike Ditka's deep threat sought a trade to a California team to pursue an acting career. A year after their James Lofton deal, the Raiders traded first- and third-round picks for Gault. He played six seasons in Los Angeles, joining Mervyn Fernandez (and shaky coaching) in delaying Tim Brown's ascent, and he was part of an 1990 AFC title game entrant. The Bears used the first-rounder on cornerback starter Donnell Woolford. Gault's IMDB page does have quite a few credits.
Seven years after their John Elway move backfired, the Colts made another high-profile quarterback trade. In 1990, they acquired the No. 1 overall pick (George), sending the Falcons Rison, perennial Pro Bowl tackle Chris Hinton (the centerpiece of the Elway haul) and a 1991 first-round pick (which became Falcons wideout starter Mike Pritchard). The Colts' 1989 first-rounder, Rison made four Pro Bowls as a Falcon, totaling 48 receiving TDs from 1990-93. George busted in Indianapolis, but the Colts landed the pick that became Marvin Harrison when they dealt George to Atlanta in 1994.
A Miami Hurricane star, Hill was set to stay in his hometown when the Dolphins made him the No. 23 overall pick in 1991. Just as he did with Anthony Carter six years earlier, Don Shula traded Hill with the goal of adding future defensive help. But this trade occurred after Miami's Week 1 game. The Cardinals traded their 1992 first-round pick (which became No. 7 overall) for the 5-foot-10 talent. Hill delivered four middling seasons in Phoenix and wound up with the Dolphins in 1995. Miami won the trade, using the pick on Troy Vincent. But the cornerback's best years came with the Eagles.
After trading away some wideouts during the Marks Brothers' run, Don Shula acquired one to start the next era. The Dolphins in 1993 dealt second- and third-rounders for Fryar — the Patriots' longtime No. 1 wideout. The trade transpired a few months into Bill Parcells' New England tenure. The No. 1 overall pick in 1984, Fryar made two Pro Bowls in three Miami seasons — the first of which coming mostly without Dan Marino. Fryar left for Philadelphia in 1996. The second-round pick turned into Todd Rucci, a starting guard for most of the Pats' Drew Bledsoe run.
The Jets traded Moore to the Cardinals on the eve of the 1995 draft. The Cardinals sent first- and fourth-round picks, along with running back Ronald Moore, to obtain the Pro Bowl weapon. This draft, though, was known more for the Jets taking tight end Kyle Brady over Warren Sapp. The Jets did land productive defensive end Hugh Douglas with the Cards' pick. Rob Moore posted over 5,000 yards in five Cardinals years, earned All-Pro honors in 1997 and helped Arizona snap a 50-year, playoff-win drought in '98. (His Cards career also overlapped with Rod Tidwell's fake Cards career.)
With Michael Irvin having suffered what turned out to be a career-ending injury in 1999, the Cowboys in 2000 made the bold move of sending the Seahawks two first-round picks for Galloway. Seattle franchise-tagged its disgruntled wideout before trading him. While Galloway did have good post-Seattle years, they came in Tampa, not Dallas. Galloway did not catch a pass from Troy Aikman, tearing an ACL in Week 1 of the 2000 season. Galloway's final three Cowboys slates, with worse quarterbacks, did not justify the trade price. The first of those Round 1 picks became future MVP Shaun Alexander.
In a contract dispute with the Jets, and no fan of new coach Al Groh, Johnson left New York for Tampa Bay in 2000. It cost the Buccaneers two first-round picks to land its new WR1, and they gave Johnson a six-year, $52 million deal. The 1996 No. 1 overall pick, Johnson did not quite deliver in Tampa. He played three full seasons, the last of which being the Bucs' Super Bowl year, making one Pro Bowl before Jon Gruden banished him in 2003. The trade gave the Jets four first-round picks in 2000. The Shaun Ellis-John Abraham-Chad Pennington-Anthony Becht quartet helped key a decent 2000s run.
Price did not have the name value of Galloway or Johnson. Buffalo's Eric Moulds sidekick, Price enjoyed a breakout season in 2002 (1,252 yards, nine TDs) and drew the Bills' franchise tag. The Falcons traded their 2003 first-rounder to give Michael Vick another weapon; the Bills used that draft choice on Willis McGahee. Given a seven-year, $42 million contract, Price played just two seasons in Atlanta. Neither was especially bad; they just weren't worthy of the price (no pun intended). Price finished his career in Buffalo.
Believe it or not, Owens wanted to be an Eagle. A snafu involving a deadline for 2004 free agency led to a three-way trade that sent Owens to Philadelphia. Initially, the Ravens gave the 49ers a second-round pick for the 30-year-old superstar. But an arbitrator's ruling helped T.O. to Philly. The 49ers returned the pick, and modest assets changed hands. Owens was the Eagles' missing piece in 2004, helping them to the Super Bowl. But in 2005, his contract— a seven-year, $42 million pact he'd just signed — created chaos. Andy Reid ended this episode of the T.O. soap opera seven games into the '05 slate.
Perhaps the biggest lose-lose trade on this list, this one scarred Moss' resume for years. The Vikings sent their Hall of Fame talent to the Raiders in 2005, getting back Oakland's No. 7 overall pick and linebacker Napoleon Harris. Moss' act had worn thin in Minnesota by the end of the 2004 season, which featured a strange late-game exit and a notable Joe Buck moment. Moss' low point, though, came on a 2-14 Raiders team in 2006. At 29, he averaged 42.5 receiving yards per game and was accused of loafing. The Vikings got two years from Harris, and the pick became deep-threat bust Troy Williamson.
Santana Moss and Laveranues Coles were Jets teammates from 2001-02 before New York declined to match Washington's Coles offer sheet. In 2005, however, the Jets reacquired Coles in a straight-up swap for Moss. Both receivers were at odds with their teams by then, with a medical disagreement dividing Coles and Washington, and each received better contractual terms from their new franchises. As for who won the trade, Washington probably did. Moss played 10 seasons in D.C. and posted a 1,483-yard Pro Bowl season in his first year there. Coles' Jets return lasted four years.
A key "don't trade with the Patriots" chapter came in September 2006, when the Seahawks surrendered a first-round pick for Branch. While the pick became short-term Patriot safety Brandon Meriweather, the defending NFC champions did not get what they paid for. In addition to parting with a high-draft choice, Seattle gave Branch the extension New England wouldn't (six years, $39 million) and saw him struggle with injuries and never eclipse 900 yards in any of his four seasons on the team. The Seahawks traded Branch back to the Pats in 2010. He was again a Super Bowl team's starter in 2011.
Moss' woeful 2006 led to an all-time Patriots value bet: a fourth-round pick (trivia link) for a Hall of Famer who...played better in 2007. Bill Belichick paid more for Welker, giving the Dolphins '07 second- and seventh-round choices. No one has since approached Moss' 23 touchdown receptions. Welker, tied to a $4 million-per-year deal for most of his Pats stay, remains the top Tom Brady slot weapon. His six-year run produced five Pro Bowls and two All-Pro nods. These two escalated Brady's progression into an all-time great. The Patriots sent Moss back to the Vikings during the 2010 season.
When the Cowboys traded for Amari Cooper, skeptics pointed to past blunders. This one may be worse than Dallas' Joey Galloway deal. Jerry Jones gave the Lions first-, third- and sixth-rounders for Williams at the 2008 trade deadline then handed out a $54 million extension. A former top-10 Lions pick, Williams did not surpass 600 yards in any of his three Cowboys seasons. He could not make a difference opposite Terrell Owens in 2008, and Miles Austin replaced him as a starter in '09. Detroit used the first-rounder on tight end Brandon Pettigrew.
Probably the greatest receiver mercenary in NFL history, Marshall saw his travels begin in 2010. Having been involved in countless off-field incidents, including a tragic New Year's Eve, the fifth-year player was dealt to the Dolphins for two second-round picks. Josh McDaniels' brief tenure already featured the controversial Jay Cutler trade. Armed with personnel control, McDaniels used one of the Marshall picks to move up for Tim Tebow in the 2010 first round. The Dolphins received one of Marshall's six Pro Bowl seasons before trading the big target to the Bears in 2012.
The Seahawks' 2013 decision to trade for Percy Harvin and guarantee him $25.5 million did not work out. They sent the Vikings first- and third-round picks, which became Xavier Rhodes and Jerick McKinnon. Counting the playoffs, Harvin played only eight Seahawks games. But his kick-return score in Super Bowl XLVIII buried the Broncos. That pretty much covers Harvin's Seattle contributions. Injuries marred the 2009 first-round pick's career, which featured frequent electric plays in Minnesota. In 2014, the Jets gave up merely a sixth-rounder for Harvin. He retired two years later.
Cooks' odd career has seen him produce in three elite offenses, with two of those teams trading him rather than authorize an extension. The Saints received the 2017 No. 32 overall pick (right tackle Ryan Ramczyk) for their young deep threat, who played a key role in the Patriots reaching Super Bowl LII. In a slew of trades for 2018 picks, the Pats' most significant deal sent Cooks to the Rams for the No. 23 choice (offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn). The Rams gave Cooks a five-year deal with $50 million in guarantees. From 2016-18, he posted 1,000-yard seasons for three teams. Cooks has since been traded a third time; the Texans acquired him in 2020.
Might Dallas finally be on the right end of a wideout trade? Agitating fantasy owners for one-and-a-half seasons since his strong first two campaigns, Cooper finished his nine-game Cowboys audition with 725 yards and added 171 in two playoff contests. The 2015 No. 5 overall pick is one of Dallas' many 2019 extension candidates, and Jerry Jones' Joey Galloway and Roy Williams misfires are not scaring him from preparing a Cooper re-up. The Raiders received 2019's No. 27 selection. After giving up Cooper and Khalil Mack, Jon Gruden needs an impact draft.
Brown's NFL path changed ahead in December 2018. An outburst during a Week 17 practice began a chain reaction that turned Brown from Steelers superstar to mercurial free agent. The Steelers ended up dealing the 30-year-old star to the Raiders for third- and fifth-round picks in March 2019. This marked another Raiders receiver miss. Brown headaches multiplied, culminating with a near-fight with GM Mike Mayock, and led to a release before Week 1. The Patriots pounced, but their hopeful Randy Moss redux ended after two women accused Brown of sexual misconduct. The four-time All-Pro did not play again until November 2020.
The most talented wideout in Giants history signed a five-year, $90 million extension in August 2018, but another injury ended Beckham's season early. Giants GM Dave Gettleman reversed course, turning "we didn't sign him to trade him" into a March 2019 deal with the Browns. Cleveland sent safety Jabrill Peppers, along with first- and third-round picks, to New York for the three-time Pro Bowler. The Round 1 pick became D-lineman Dexter Lawrence. So far, OBJ has not meshed in Cleveland. An ACL tear sidelined Beckham midway through the 2020 slate, and his Browns tenure will hinge on a 2021 bounce-back.
During Bill O'Brien's action-packed run as a head coach-GM hybrid, the Texans sent the second-best player in team history to the Cardinals in a deal that did not bring back a first-round pick. Despite Hopkins being 27 at the time of the March 2020 trade, the Texans only acquired a second-round pick and expensive running back David Johnson. This became one of the most panned trades in modern NFL history, and Hopkins' 2020 performance -- 1,407 receiving yards, a fifth Pro Bowl -- intensified that scrutiny. O'Brien, who won power struggles with two GMs in Houston, did not make it through the 2020 season.
Hours later, the Vikings did receive a first-round pick for trading their disgruntled wide receiver. On that eventful March 2020 day, Minnesota dealt Diggs to Buffalo for a four-pick package that included a 2020 first-rounder. That No. 22 overall pick became Justin Jefferson, whose 1,400 receiving yards were the most by a rookie in 60 years. Jefferson replaced Diggs alongside Adam Thielen, while Diggs' arrival helped Josh Allen rise from inaccurate prospect to the MVP tier. Diggs detonated in Buffalo, leading the NFL in catches and yards for a Bills team that was a Hopkins "Hail Murray" catch away from 14-2.
New Falcons GM Terry Fontenot entered an unfavorable salary cap situation, one partially created by Atlanta's three-year, $66 million Jones extension in 2019. Jones missed seven games in 2020, but the 32-year-old wideout's 9,388 receiving yards from 2014-19 were 1,500 more than anyone else in that span. The Falcons dismantled their potential Jones-Calvin Ridley-Kyle Pitts trio by trading their Canton-bound pass catcher to the Titans for a haul headlined by a second-round pick. June's abrupt end to the Falcon GOAT's Atlanta run will give Tennessee a potentially lethal Jones-A.J. Brown tandem.
Sam Robinson is a Kansas City, Mo.-based writer who mostly writes about the NFL. He has covered sports for nearly 10 years. Boxing, the Royals and Pandora stations featuring female rock protagonists are some of his go-tos. Occasionally interesting tweets @SRobinson25.