The NFL didn’t disappoint.
Tuesday crawled along in the morning with no news, but as the day turned to afternoon, the trades started happening. The Demaryius Thomas trade kicked things off with Golden Tate getting moved soon after and a handful of smaller pieces (Ty Montgomery, Dante Fowler and Ha-Ha Clinton Dix) moving in the hours before the deadline.
While some deadlines come and go without a great deal of activity, a handful of Super Bowl contenders improved for the second half of the 2018 season. Here are the winners and losers from the moves at the deadline.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans: He may have lost receiver Will Fuller last week to an ACL injury, but next week Watson could have a terrific complement of pass-catching weapons with outside receivers Deandre Hopkins and Demaryius Thomas and slot receiver Keke Coutee. Thomas comes in a trade, and Coutee may return from a hamstring injury. Watson and Bill O’Brien upgraded at receiver in a week they lost one to injury. How often does that happen?
Dante Fowler, DE, Rams: Not only does Fowler join the best team in the NFL (the Rams) while leaving sinking ship in Jacksonville, but he also gets the opportunity to start in Los Angeles. Fowler hasn’t been particularly good since getting drafted No. 3 overall, but he’s also been buried behind some of the NFL’s best defensive linemen. Perhaps a starting role will suit Fowler, who gets a fresh start in a team that will surrounding him with talent (see: Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh). If Fowler breaks out in the second half of the season, that could be a major payday for him during the 2019 offseason.
Courtland Sutton, WR, Broncos: He’s a monster in the making. Denver has been buzzing about him since training camp, but couldn’t figure out how to get him on the field with Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas ahead on the depth chart. The Thomas trade solved that problem. Sutton, the 40th-overall pick in 2018, jumps to a starting role, and should shine after logging three receptions for 78 yards last week when he assumed the role amid Sanders’ injury.
Amari Cooper, WR, Cowboys: Oakland is going to be a bad place to play football for the foreseeable future. Dallas’ offense may have its warts, but Cooper could solve some of those issues, which pale in comparison to the problems Jon Gruden is willingly creating for the Raiders. (Note: This deal took place on Oct. 22, well before the deadline but I’m counting it anyway.)
Jerry Jones: His decision to give up a first-round pick for Cooper nearly caused NFL-wide trade constipation at the deadline. Because the Cowboys gave up so much for Cooper, teams around the league were having trouble completing reasonable deals to acquire other wideouts.
That first round pick is tremendously valuable, and only gets more value if the Cowboys season turns sour after the acquisition of Cooper. Would anyone be surprised if the Cowboys skidded down the stretch?
That said, the comparison between the Cooper trade and the Tate and Thomas trades is unfair because Cooper will stay with the Cowboys for this season and next, while the other two receivers are rentals for the rest of the season. When people place the compensation from the deals beside one another, they are of course going to look lopsided because the Cowboys are getting 150 percent more time from Cooper than the Texans and Eagles are getting from their new receivers.
Keke Coutee, WR, Texans: Coutee’s first game was outstanding with 11 receptions for 105 yards just a few weeks ago. Not only did he get open downfield, but the Texans also designed plays to get him the ball. He was an offensive priority. Then he hurt his hamstring. Now, he’ll have to compete with Demaryius Thomas for snaps. When Thomas leaves this offseason, Coutee will have to get back in line behind Fuller. Not ideal.
Nelson Agholor, WR, Eagles: Tate is to Agholor as a lion is to a house cat. Tate provides an major upgrade for the Eagles passing game, as he’s a nightmare to tackle at times. And Tate will steal snaps away from Agholor, who got an opportunity to shine as the top receiving option when Alshon Jeffery was hurt. But in that increased role, Agholor disappointed. Let the Tate takeover begin.
Jon Gruden, coach, Raiders: It has become abundantly clear that Gruden doesn’t like the roster he inherited. But at the deadline, when he could have traded players like cornerback Gareon Conley and linebacker Bruce Irvin, Gruden did nothing. And you know it kills Gruden to miss an opportunity to further gut his roster.
Rams: If anyone overpaid on Tuesday, it was Los Angeles. They gave up a 2019 third-round pick and a 2020 fifth-round pick for a player who was essentially a bust with the Jaguars. And they only get him for eight games and the playoffs. That’s a big payment for L.A. to see if they can maximize a player’s potential in a short period of time.