The 2022 NFL trade deadline passed with a flurry as teams made 10 moves Tuesday, including one involving a future first-round draft choice.
Bradley Chubb, T.J. Hockenson, Chase Claypool, William Jackson III, Jeff Wilson and Nyheim Hines were among the players on the move, days after teams sent others including Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn, to new homes. The Green Bay Packers, meanwhile, stayed on the sideline despite obvious needs and their shrinking Aaron Rodgers championship window.
While particulars of each move can be interesting, the view from 5,000 feet reveals more meaningful information. The trades show what teams think about themselves, right or wrong, while raising questions about what some teams are thinking at all.
Here’s what the Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts are telling us, and why some of their moves make more sense than others. We’ll also consider what the Packers are signaling by standing pat.
Miami Dolphins send San Francisco’s 2023 first-round pick (currently 20th), a 2024 fourth-rounder and running back Chase Edmonds to the Denver Broncos for pass-rusher Bradley Chubb and a 2025 fifth-rounder
What Miami is telling us: The Dolphins are signaling they feel good enough about their quarterback situation next year to trade away their biggest remaining chip for acquiring a different one. Miami presumably plans to proceed with Tua Tagovailoa beyond this season, although anything seems possible for an organization that clandestinely tried to land Tom Brady and was punished by the league for tampering.
What Denver is telling us: Adding Russell Wilson did not make the Broncos an immediate Super Bowl contender, or else they wouldn’t be unloading a top pass-rusher at the deadline. Wilson’s new contract forces Denver to be all-in on him for multiple seasons, not just this one. The Broncos now have one eye on the horizon after entering this season thinking big.
Early returns suggest the Broncos misevaluated Wilson, coach Nathaniel Hackett, their team or some combination of the three. They weren’t the only ones. Before the season, a $100 bet on the Denver winning the Super Bowl would have returned about $1700 if the team won it all. Now, that same bet would return as much as $15,000 if Denver somehow claimed the Lombardi Trophy.
As for Chubb, Denver must see him as a good player more than as a great one. By trading him, the Broncos avoid paying him great-player money on a new deal. The Broncos picked up a badly needed 2023 first-round pick, which Wilson might encourage them to use for the offensive line.
Minnesota Vikings send 2023 second- and 2024 third-round picks to the Detroit Lions for tight end T.J. Hockenson, a 2023 fourth-round pick and a 2024 fourth that becomes a fifth if the Vikings win a playoff game
What Minnesota is telling us: The Vikings might think they can make a deep playoff run this year given the state of the NFC. They also might think a receiving tight end can be an important part of the equation after losing Irv Smith to injury. This trade provides more evidence that having a GM with a background in analytics does not compel a team to behave accordingly, as moving out of the 2023 second round for a player who could be costly to keep limits the Vikings’ flexibility in the future.
At worst, this move reflected the Vikings’ inexperience in leadership roles. It’s not difficult to imagine a first-year, offensive-play-calling head coach fretting to his first-year GM about how badly he needs to replace an injured tight end. It’s not difficult to imagine such a team making a short-sighted move for a player at a non-premium position. Hockenson is under contract next season for $9.3 million. The franchise tag value for tight ends in 2024 could be $12-15 million.
At best, Hockenson gives the Vikings’ offensive-play-calling coach a chess piece he’ll maximize for years to come, in an NFC North that Green Bay appears less likely to dominate in the future.
What Detroit is telling us: The Lions, 1-6 and currently No. 1 in the 2023 draft order, aren’t winning anything this season, so they are looking toward the future. They weren’t interested in paying whatever it will take to re-sign Hockenson down the line. They fashion themselves as a physical running team. Hockenson is more receiver than blocker — not a tight end in the image of coach Dan Campbell, who played the position at 265 pounds. The passing game will go through receiver Jameson Williams, the 12th pick in the 2022 draft, and Amon-Ra St. Brown. The picks from Minnesota might be best spent upgrading the defense.
What Chicago is telling us: Evaluating quarterback Justin Fields over the season’s second half will be easier with another weapon, especially one as young (24), big (6-foot-4, 238 pounds) and affordable ($1.5 million salary next season) as Claypool. If it felt like the Bears were giving up on the season after trading Smith and Quinn, this move adds to the gathering excitement surrounding the Bears’ offense in recent weeks.
What Pittsburgh is telling us: The Steelers like rookie George Pickens and their overall depth at receiver enough to move Claypool for draft capital instead of extending his contract after another year. It also looks like the Steelers will be more active in these markets as they continue in a rebuilding mode under a new GM in Omar Khan.
Atlanta Falcons send receiver Calvin Ridley to the Jacksonville Jaguars for 2023 fifth-round pick and a 2024 fourth that upgrades to a third if Ridley reaches incentives and a second if Ridley signs an extension
What Atlanta is telling us: The Falcons are finished with Ridley, who remains suspended for gambling and previously took a leave of absence for what he termed his mental well-being. The Falcons have subsequently used top-10 picks for pass catchers while implementing a run-oriented offense.
What Jacksonville is telling us: This looks like GM Trent Baalke buying low in hopes the investment pays off big. He did it as the 49ers’ GM and was criticized when injured draft choices such as Tank Carradine and Marcus Lattimore did not work out. In Jacksonville, the 2021 selection of injured safety Andre Cisco could be paying off, as Cisco has started all eight games this season and has two interceptions, including a pick-six. Ridley joins a young receiving corps featuring free-agent additions Christian Kirk and Zay Jones.
Buffalo Bills send running back Zack Moss and a 2023 conditional sixth-round pick to the Indianapolis Colts for running back Nyheim Hines
What Buffalo is telling us: The Bills are close to winning it all and didn’t need to do much, but with a couple nagging needs, why not address them? Hines is a clear upgrade from Moss. Buffalo also addressed safety depth by acquiring Dean Marlowe from Atlanta for a 2023 seventh.
What Indianapolis is telling us: Paying the remainder of Moss’ $978,750 salary for this season is preferable to paying the remainder of Hines’ $3.3 million salary, especially without a quarterback able to maximize Hines’ value in the passing game (although, great throw and catch from Sam Ehlinger to Hines in Week 8). There’s no other obvious reason to do this for the Colts.
Green Bay Packers send nothing to no one, despite having obvious needs at receiver
Look around the NFC North. The Bears just acquired a receiver from Pittsburgh. The Vikings just acquired a receiving tight end from Detroit. The Lions are nearing the debut of Williams, the receiver they drafted 12th this year.
The Packers, with as glaring a need at receiver as any team, either were unwilling or unable to close a deal to upgrade at the position.
It’s difficult to understand why, especially when considering reasons behind the massive gap in offensive performance between Kansas City and Green Bay after both teams traded elite wide receivers in the offseason. Two execs from other teams asked whether the Packers were unwilling to take risks through trade acquisitions, or possibly unsure how to consummate such deals.
Whatever the case, Green Bay is telling us the roster as currently configured is basically the roster the Packers plan to play with for the rest of the season, for better or worse.
(Photo of T.J. Hockenson: Gregory Shamus / Getty Images)