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Ranking the 10 most impactful NFL trade deadline deals of all-time

Home » NFL » Biggest NFL Trade Deadline Deals: Most Impactful Trades at NFL Deadline

Even if the NFL trade deadline doesn’t get as much publicity as some other sports, it’s still worth looking at some of the biggest NFL trade deadline deals ever made.

Since it’s a little earlier in the season than other sports, there’s not always a ton of action. But over the years, we’ve seen plenty of big deals happen right before the NFL trade deadline.

Biggest NFL trade deadline deals

At times, some teams have used the deadline to unload some of the worst NFL contracts of all time.

But there are also teams that acquired the final piece of their championship puzzle in a midseason trade right before the deadline. To prove that moves made at the trade deadline can be a big deal in the NFL, let’s look back at the 10 biggest NFL trade deadline deals in league history.

10. Patriots trade for Aqib Talib (2012)

In the middle of the 2012 season, the Patriots got Aqib Talib and a seventh-round pick while only giving up a fourth-round pick. While Talib had been solid on the field amidst some on-field issues, New England traded for him right as he came into his own, making this one of the biggest NFL trade deadline deals.


Talib helped the Patriots get to the AFC Championship Game that year and then re-signed to spend another year in New England. During his only full season with the Pats, Talib made the Pro Bowl for the first time and helped New England get back to the AFC Championship Game.

9. Cowboys trade for Amari Cooper (2018)

While it didn’t lead to a championship, the Cowboys have to be happy with the move they made for Amari Cooper in 2018. He did cost them a first-round pick, but Cooper did help them to get to the Divisional Round in 2018.

Cooper then posted 1,000-yard seasons in both 2019 and 2020 despite not having Dak Prescott healthy for the entire 2020 campaign. Obviously, the Cowboys wish their record had been a little better before Cooper left in free agency, but they surely got their money’s worth with him.

8. Patriots trade for Kyle Van Noy (2016)

It’s easy to overlook Kyle Van Noy as a big trade deadline addition. But as soon as he became a starter in Detroit, the Patriots traded for him to bolster their defense.

Van Noy would ultimately be a part of two New England teams that won the Super Bowl. Considering the Pats only gave up a sixth-round pick for him (while also gaining an extra seventh-round pick), he’s one of the biggest trade deadline bargains of all time.


7. Eagles add Jay Ajayi (2017)

It’s tough to say for sure if the Eagles would have won the Super Bowl had they not traded for Jay Ajayi on Halloween in 2017. But he only cost them a fourth-round pick, so it was surely worth it, and since they did end up winning it all, this became one of the biggest NFL trade deadline deals in league history.

While sharing the backfield with LeGarrette Blount, Ajayi averaged 5.8 yards per carry that season after the trade. He then led the Eagles in rushing yards in two playoff games before rushing for 57 yards on nine carries in the Super Bowl.

His career lasted just seven more games after that Super Bowl because of an ACL tear. But trading for him at the deadline in 2017 turned out to be a great move by the Eagles.

6. Rams trade for Von Miller (2021)

The Rams weren’t messing around in 2021. That was clear when they traded for Von Miller at the trade deadline in an ambitious move. Miller left in free agency the following year, so the Rams gave up a second-round pick and a third-round pick for eight regular-season games and four playoff games.

However, the Super Bowl 50 MVP gave the LA defense five sacks during the regular season and four more sacks in the playoffs, including two sacks in their Super Bowl win over the Bengals, making this a massive deadline deal that paid off handsomely for the Rams.

5. 49ers get Jimmy Garoppolo (2017)

The Patriots couldn’t allow the quarterback they groomed to be Tom Brady’s successor to leave in free agency when it was clear Brady wasn’t going to retire anytime soon, so they traded him to the 49ers at the trade deadline in 2017.

Jimmy Garoppolo would become the starter in San Francisco less than a month later. While injuries have hindered his time with the 49ers, in the two seasons that Garoppolo stayed healthy for the entire season (2019 and 2021), he led the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game, including a trip to the Super Bowl.

4. Rams trade for Jalen Ramsey (2019)

The Rams had to give up two first-round picks and a fourth-round pick when they traded for Jalen Ramsey midway through the 2019 season. They eventually had to pay in the form of a big contract. But it’s a move that’s undoubtedly paid off for them.

Ramsey has continued to be a perennial Pro Bowler since the trade and has been one of the top defensive players in the league. During the 2021 season, he played despite having tears in both of his shoulders. Amidst the injuries, he played a key role in the Rams winning the Super Bowl, making this trade deadline blockbuster well worth it.

3. Bills acquire Cornelius Bennett (1987)

This was a rather interesting three-team trade, although it ended with the Bills getting a key defensive player for their string of four straight Super Bowl appearances. Of course, Cornelius Bennett was only traded because there were no structured rookie contracts in 1987 and he couldn’t reach a deal with the Colts, who drafted him second overall.

That’s why the Colts traded his rights to the Bills in a deal that worked out great for Buffalo. Bennett became a Pro Bowler in his first full season in the league, as well as four more times, becoming one of the best linebackers in the NFL during the first half of the 90s.

Oddly enough, this three-team deal also involved Eric Dickerson going to the Colts. While he had two and a half good years in Indy, Dickerson was past his prime by that point.

2. Seahawks acquire Marshawn Lynch (2010)

Fittingly, a trade involving a player nicknamed Beast Mode turned into one of the biggest NFL trade deadline deals of all time. Marshawn Lynch was good but never really blossomed in Buffalo.

That’s why the Bills let him go for a fourth-round pick and a fifth-round pick. Lynch then proceeded to make the Pro Bowl in all four of his full seasons in Seattle. He led the NFL in rushing touchdowns twice in those four years while scoring at least 11 touchdowns each season.

More importantly, he helped get the Seahawks to two Super Bowls, and they probably would have won both of them if they had just given him the ball at the goal line.

1. Cowboys get draft picks for Herschel Walker (1989)

As it turns out, getting rid of Herschel Walker turned out to be one of the best things the Cowboys have ever done. It was also one of the most impactful trades at the NFL deadline, at least in the long run.

Not only did the Cowboys get five players for sending Walker to Minnesota but they also got six draft picks. Dallas made excellent use of the draft picks.

As a result of that trade, the Cowboys ended up with Emmitt Smith, Darren Woodson, and Russell Maryland, all of whom were key pieces of the dynasty they built in the 1990s. As for the Vikings, Walker wasn’t the missing piece of the puzzle as they thought. They lost 41-13 to the 49ers in the Divisional Round of the playoffs that year and failed to make the playoffs on Walker’s two other seasons with the team.

Obviously, they’re still searching for their first Super Bowl win whereas the Cowboys won three in less than a decade after trading Walker.

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