The NFL’s frenetic 2022 trade deadline expired Tuesday afternoon with 10 deals involving 12 players going down on the final day – some of them executed at the wire.
Maybe none was the headline grabber that last month’s blockbuster involving All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey was. But when a performer of pass rusher Bradley Chubb’s caliber switches addresses at the 11th hour – especially when he winds up on a loaded roster like Miami’s – the balance of power can shift significantly while Super Bowl odds are frantically revised.
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Time to sort out the winners and losers from this year’s very memorable deadline period:
San Francisco 49ers: By winning the McCaffrey sweepstakes, they may have set themselves up for far more success than your standard fare midseason acquisition. CMC’s impact was apparent Sunday against the Rams – following his first full week of practice with the Niners – when he rushed for, passed for and caught a touchdown while racking up 149 yards from scrimmage. His presence could make the 49ers, who fell one good quarter of football shy of the Super Bowl last season, the most dangerous team in the NFC by the time the postseason rolls around. Furthermore, he’s under contract for three more seasons beyond this year and should help ease the burden on QB Trey Lance when he takes the reins back from Jimmy Garoppolo in 2023. And while San Francisco likely won’t have much of a draft next spring, the money saved paying new rookies can be redirected to the mega extension Pro Bowl DE Nick Bosa needs sooner than later.
Miami Dolphins: Their acquisition of Chubb from the Denver Broncos gives the Fins a formidable – if currently underachieving – crew of pass rushers that includes Jaelan Phillips, Melvin Ingram and Emmanuel Ogbah. Miami’s 15 sacks are currently tied for 21st in the league and the pass defense checks in at 26th overall. But Chubb’s arrival makes everyone more dangerous – especially if he agrees to a new contract that will make him a long-term foundational piece to terrorize Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes for years to come. A subsequent move for RB Jeff Wilson, who’s intimately familiar with this offense after playing four years for new Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel in San Francisco, should nicely bolster a 28th-ranked ground game.
Tua Tagovailoa: The defense that supports the blossoming Dolphins passer got significantly better. So, too, should Tagovailoa’s peace of mind. While his 2022 season to date has been overwhelmingly defined by the concussion controversy he was thrust into a month ago, there’s no denying Tagovailoa has begun emerging as the franchise quarterback he was drafted to be with the No. 5 pick of the 2020 draft. His 279.7 passing yards per game are, by far, a career high – fueled by the arrival of WR Tyreek Hill – and his 112.7 passer rating leads the league. But the Chubb deal means a team that had two 2023 first-round picks three months ago – one was forfeited in August due to owner Stephen Ross’ tampering with Tom Brady and Sean Payton – now has none, i.e. this organization almost surely won’t be in the quarterback market again for some time.
Omar Khan: The Pittsburgh Steelers’ new general manager began putting his stamp on the struggling team with some nifty moves Tuesday. He offloaded No. 3 WR Chase Claypool, a second-rounder in 2020, to the Bears for a Round 2 pick next year – one that’s very likely to be in the top 40 overall given the way Chicago’s season is going. Khan also fortified a struggling defense by taking veteran CB William Jackson off the hands of the Washington Commanders. Pittsburgh got better in the near and long term.
Trevor Lawrence: The Jacksonville Jaguars’ low-risk, high-reward gambit for suspended WR Calvin Ridley, who’s out for at least the remainder of the 2022 season for betting on NFL games, could result in providing the No. 1 pick of the 2021 draft with the No. 1 wideout he sorely needs … assuming Ridley gets reinstated and recaptures his 2020 form (90 catches, 1,374 yards, 9 TDs).
Roquan Smith: The former Bears linebacker leaves a team that didn’t appreciate him and joins a Ravens outfit that should be in the thick of the AFC playoff mix. And showcasing his ability in Baltimore should be a fantastic opportunity for Smith to angle for the extension he wants, whether in Charm City or elsewhere.
Minnesota Vikings offense: Nice picking up two fourth-rounders and Pro Bowl TE T.J. Hockenson through next season for reasonable compensation, a second- and third-round choice headed to the Detroit Lions. Hockenson may not be the second coming of Rob Gronkowski – who is? – but he can improve the blocking in front of QB Kirk Cousins and RB Dalvin Cook while making teams pay downfield for doubling Pro Bowl WR Justin Jefferson. The 6-1 Vikes are increasingly legitimate.
Deshaun Watson: Admittedly, you hate to frame the still-suspended Cleveland Browns quarterback as a winner. But if he makes his scheduled return in five weeks, it won’t be to a team gutted of talent given RB Kareem Hunt and All-Pro RT Jack Conklin were among those rumored to be on the move.
Carolina Panthers: By dealing McCaffrey and WR Robbie Anderson, GM Scott Fitterer replenished his quiver of picks while keeping together an underrated young core of players that includes LT Ickey Ekwonu, CB Jaycee Horn, DT Derrick Brown, DE Brian Burns – all are still on rookie contracts, though Burns needs an extension – and WR DJ Moore, who collectively man football’s premier non-quarterback positions. The Panthers, who seem likely to pick very early in the 2023 draft, could be a very attractive job next year assuming their quarterback carousel stops spinning.
Odell Beckham Jr.: The superstar free agent receiver has now seen where the chips have fallen and should still have marquee options for his services once he decides to sign a deal. The Bills, 49ers, Rams, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers and even New York Giants – OBJ’s original club – remain among teams that could use help at receiver and will likely be viable deep into the season.
Buffalo Bills: Deeming them a loser is certainly relative. But can you imagine what acquiring McCaffrey or Alvin Kamara – the Bills made serious inquiries for both all-purpose backs, per reports – might have done to further propel a franchise 57 years removed from its most recent championship (AFL variety)? Their deal with the Indianapolis Colts for speed back and returner Nyheim Hines is a nice consolation … even if the explosive but diminutive Hines is a situational player who can only handle so many touches. Meanwhile, Chubb’s transfer to the Dolphins, the only team that’s beaten Buffalo this season, certainly cements Miami as an imminent threat to the Bills and Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC.
Brandin Cooks: A veteran of two Super Bowls and an experienced wideout who could have impacted nearly any offense, Cooks is stuck with the Houston Texans for at least a few more months … and maybe much longer given he’s under contract through the 2024 season. Per ESPN, the Cowboys made a push for Cooks, but his $18 million guaranteed salary for 2023 was too big an impediment.
Los Angeles Rams: The reigning champs struck out on McCaffrey, and their reported offer of multiple first-round picks for Burns was rebuffed. With no one able to help ‘eff them picks,’ the Rams (3-4) may be hosed even as they try to overcome their various injury obstacles in order to mount a title defense. Also, coach Sean McVay now needs to figure out how to build a bridge back to exiled RB Cam Akers, for whom a move never materialized.
Elijah Moore: Unhappy and untargeted, the 2021 second-round pick is also unmoved, remaining with the New York Jets even though he’s only caught 16 balls this season.
Jared Goff: The Lions already owned multiple first-round picks in 2023 and may now have all the ammunition they need to replace their current quarterback with the one they truly covet for the long term.
Ryan Poles: Chicago’s rookie GM had done a nice job siphoning away players like Smith and DE Robert Quinn, who weren’t part of the Bears’ future, for much-needed draft capital. But surrendering a Round 2 pick for Claypool, even if Chicago’s bottom-ranked passing offense needed the help, felt like a major reach. Claypool hasn’t proven he can be a consistent No. 2 receiver much less the 1 or 1A he’ll likely become by default in the Windy City.
Zack Moss and Chase Edmonds: A penthouse-to-the-outhouse day for both running backs. Moss leaves Buffalo for Indianapolis as part of the Hines transaction, while Edmonds exits South Florida for Denver as a piece of the Chubb package.
Aaron Rodgers: Bummer, dude. The struggling Packers didn’t make a move – even while it’s almost universally accepted they need help at receiver – on a day when the Lions conspired to boost the first-place Vikings’ NFC North title aspirations by sending Minnesota Hockenson. Mired at 3-5, if the Pack’s postseason viability wasn’t already in serious question, it certainly is now.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.