The worst trades in NFL history

Profile Picture: Robert Criscola

November 17th, 2020

Week in and week out this year, Arizona Cardinals wide-out DeAndre Hopkins has made the Houston Texans look foolish for trading him last offseason. His Hail Mary grab in Week 10’s victory over the Buffalo Bills just added to his 2020 highlight reel.

Hopkins' exceptional performance got us thinking about some of the worst trades in NFL history. It’s safe to say that these five transactions below were thoroughly one-sided.

5. The Raiders deal Randy Moss to the Patriots for a fourth-round pick (2007)

Randy Moss established himself as one the best wide receivers in the NFL in seven seasons with the Vikings before being traded to Oakland in 2005. But by the 2006 season, Moss became disgruntled and the Raiders looked to ship him out. The New England Patriots offered Al Davis a fourth-round pick, which he gladly accepted. Little did Oakland know just how lopsided the trade would become.

In 2007, the Patriots went undefeated in the regular season. Tom Brady tossed 50 touchdown passes that year, 23 of which were hauled in by Moss. The future Hall of Famer tallied two more 1,000-yards seasons for New England before eventually retiring in 2012. 

4. The Rams deal Jerome Bettis to the Steelers for three draft picks (1996)

Jerome Bettis made the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, but he and the franchise struggled in their initial year in St. Louis in 1995. The Rams, perhaps thinking they were "selling high" on Bettis, shipped him to Pittsburgh for a second and fourth-round selection.

The Rams were a sub-.500 team until 1999, while Bettis provided the Steelers with six straight 1,000-yard seasons on the ground. "The Bus," a first-ballot Hall of Famer, also contributed to Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl-winning campaign in 2005.

3. The Colts trade up to draft Jeff George (1990)  

The Indianapolis Colts and Atlanta Falcons pulled off a blockbuster deal before the 1990 NFL Draft, as the Colts sent established Pro Bowl offensive lineman Chris Hinton and 1989 first-round wide-out Andre "Bad Moon" Rison to the Falcons the rights to the first overall draft pick, which they used on standout Illinois signal caller Jeff George.

Hinton would play six more seasons in the NFL, making another Pro Bowl in 1991. Rison would go on to make five Pro Bowls, tally five 1,000-yard receiving seasons, and help the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl title in 1996.

George had a disastrous three seasons in Indy, going 14-35. 

2. The Vikings get fleeced by the Cowboys for Herschel Walker (1990)

In perhaps the most convoluted trade in NFL history, the Dallas Cowboys – fresh off a 1-15 campaign – dealt veteran tailback Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings for eight draft picks and four players.

Walker failed to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing in his two seasons with the Vikings – who missed the playoffs in 1990 and 1991 – while the Cowboys built their 1990s dynasty. All-time greats Emmitt Smith and Darren Woodson were among the results of the draft picks Minnesota shipped to Dallas.

1. Falcons flip Brett Favre to Packers for first-round flop

Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre was taken 33rd overall by the Atlanta Falcons in the 1991 NFL Draft, a pick that head coach Jerry Glanville was never comfortable with. It didn’t take long for both coach and player to realize a change in scenery was necessary.

In 1992, the Falcons shipped Favre to the Green Bay Packers for a first-round pick, which they used on running back Tony Smith. Smith would tally just two rushing touchdowns in his brief NFL career, while "The Gunslinger" would go on to be an all-time great at his position and win three MVP awards.