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Pick or player: 10 notable NFL trades of players for draft picks

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The Seahawks gave up very little in order to gain the rights to Terrelle Pryor. How often have these sorts of deals worked out in the past?

Brian Bahr

Everyone was pretty surprised by Monday's trade by the Seattle Seahawks to (it's honestly just really hard to not use the word "acquire" out of habit) obtain the services of Terrelle Pryor from the Oakland Raiders. But it's surprising only due to the fact that nobody knew we were even looking to acquire another quarterback. It still sort of seems like Pryor is a longshot to make the final roster, no matter the position, but that's not really the point and it wouldn't make it a bad trade if he doesn't.

What's not surprising at all about the deal: The Seahawks just added an under-25 player at an extremely low cost who also happened to be one of the top prospects in the nation when he was at Ohio State. This is what they do.

This is a major reason that Seattle just won the Super Bowl.

Many, like myself as of last night, are probably wondering what the odds are of a player turning into something after being acquired as such a low cost. Well, I scoured all of the trades involving players and picks over the last 15 years, and what I can tell you is this:

If history was any indicator, there's almost no chance that Pryor turns into something. Most of the names you see traded for seventh round picks are the types of names that you expect to see traded for seventh round picks. Most are names you've never heard of. Some of them are quarterbacks, like Pryor, that a team was willing to take a flier on because it's a quarterback and it's only a flier. One of the more notable such acquisitions was Shaun Hill being dealt from San Francisco to Detroit for a seventh round pick, and he's turned into a very good backup.

On the other hand, Pryor isn't your average quarterback and these Seahawks aren't your average franchise. It seems like they've done more with less. But other teams have managed to get savvy with it and build contenders (or in the case of Oakland, non-contenders) based on some of these low-cost acquisitions.

What I've detailed below are just a few of the more notable pick-for-player deals over the last 15 years. Does Seattle having something here with Pryor, and if not, was it worth one of the last picks in the draft?

Let's take a look back.

Ricky, Ricky

2002 - Saints trade Ricky Williams to Miami Dolphins. Trade Ricky Williams again five months later.

Reggie Bush wasn't the first Saints running back to disappoint (nor the last, thanks to Mark Ingram) and he wasn't near as costly to acquire as his predecessor was. In 1999, New Orleans trade two first round picks, two third round picks, a fourth, a fifth, a sixth, and a seventh, just so they could move up five spots for Ricky Williams.

When people say stuff like "Your trade proposal is crazy, a team would never do that" they act as though people wouldn't have said the same thing before the draft in 1999. They act as if Mike Ditka didn't look crazy when he gave up his entire draft, and two early picks in the 2000 draft, for one player.

It was always a bad trade. When the Redskins traded for Robert Griffin III, almost everyone thought it was an overpay at the time. We didn't need any hindsight.

But it's interesting how things come full circle.

After all, it was Washington that traded down with the Saints in order to acquire all of those yummy picks (including LaVar Arrington in 2000) even though they had only acquired the fifth overall pick (and another first round pick) from the Panthers as compensation for Carolina signing Sean Gilbert. (Maybe there are some things we do learn from.)

And four years later, New Orleans was able to get back some of what they had given up for Williams, though it's not the deal that everyone remembers.

On March 3, 2002, the Saints sent Ricky Williams and a fourth round pick (Randy McMichael) to the Dolphins for a first round pick (Charles Grant), a fourth (Keyuo Craver), and a 2003 conditional draft choice that turned into a first round pick (Saints paired it with their other first round choice to trade up to six with the Cardinals and select Johnathan Sullivan. Arizona ended up picking Calvin Pace, Bryant Johnson, and after also swapping second round picks in the deal, Anquan Boldin.)

New Orleans managed to recoup two first round picks for Williams, including Grant, a player on the 2009 championship team. Meanwhile, Miami got a fairly good deal, as Williams led the NFL in rushing (1,853 yards) in 2002.

However, you know what the weirdest thing of all is? The Saints traded away Ricky Williams twice that year.

On September 1, 2002, New Orleans traded away the other running back named Ricky Williams. An undrafted free agent out of Texas Tech, Williams was sent to the Colts for a 2003 seventh round pick that turned into Tully Banta-Cain. The other Williams played two NFL seasons, rushing for 190 yards. (Banta-Cain had 10 sacks for the Patriots in 2009.)

I wonder if the famous Ricky Williams ever got so high that he was confused as to which Williams he was. Woah dude, you just blew my mind.

You know what they call a Garrette Blount in France?

2013 - Patriots acquire LeGarrette Blount from Bucs for seventh, Jeff Demps

If you're looking for recent examples of players that were acquired for almost nothing and turned into something, look no further than the best running back on the 2013 New England Patriots.

Last April, the Patriots had an Olympic athlete-fast running back named Jeff Demps but wanted a better complement to Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden, and Shane Vereen instead. It just so happened that the Buccaneers had a guy just like that, and they also had no real interest in moving forward with him, so he could be had for almost nothing.

New England sent Jeff Demps and a seventh round pick to Tampa Bay for LeGarrette Blount on April 2, 2013.

Demps had four touches for 35 yards last season and four kick returns, while Blount had four touchdowns in a single playoff game against the Colts. Including that game with the last two games of the regular season, Blount had eight touchdowns in a three-game span. Overall he rushed for 772 yards and seven touchdowns with 5.0 yards per carry.

The Patriots didn't re-sign Blount this year, but at the cost of Demps and a seventh round pick (turned into a player named Everett Dawkins), that had to feel like a real punch in the mouth for Tampa Bay.

(You see, Blount once punched a guy in a col- Yeah, you get it. I funny.)

If you're looking for another very recent example, the Giants acquired Jon Beason from the Panthers last season for a 2014 seventh round pick. Beason stayed healthy, played at a high-level, and signed a new deal with New York.


2011 - Raiders trade 2012 1st round pick, 2013 2nd round pick to Bengals for Carson Palmer

2013 - Raiders trade 2014 5th round pick, 2015 conditional pick to Seahawks for Matt Flynn

2013 - Raiders trade Carson Palmer to Cardinals for 2013 7th round pick, conditional 2014 7th round pick

Everything in the NFL over the past decade-plus has been thrown off by the fact that the Oakland Raiders have for the most part been an absolutely insane franchise that doesn't give a shit about common sense or practical analysis. They absolutely seemed to hate the NFL draft, and if they did pay attention to the draft, they only paid attention to one trait of a prospect.

The Oakland Raiders are the "Andre" of actual NFL. (If you don't get that reference, let's just say that they're the person in your fantasy league that doesn't know anything about actual football but moreso what players are being mentioned in pop culture. So it would be like the Raiders hearing that the Alouettes signed Terrell Owens, and then trying to send them a first round pick to acquire him.)

When Palmer declared he would never play for the Bengals again, Oakland still sent them a first and a second round pick for him. After just 25 games, they sent him to Arizona for two seventh round picks. Which is probably about what any sane team would've given Cincinnati for him a year and a half earlier.

To replace Palmer, they sent two picks to Seattle for Matt Flynn, another player that had certainly played his last snap for his current team. Flynn appeared in two games for Oakland before being released. A year later, they send a player that's sure to be cut to the Seahawks at only the cost of a seventh round pick.

We're still probably waiting for the moment when the Raiders start to get smarter since the passing of Al Davis.

In 2011, they also trade two picks to Seattle in exchange for Aaron Curry, despite the fact that Curry had lost his job to K.J. Wright and was clearly not of starter quality. Instead of having Curry, a player that was terrible, the Seahawks used their picks acquired from Oakland on J.R. Sweezy and Tharold Simon.

(Wright was picked with a selection that was acquired from the Patriots in exchange for Deion Branch.)

Tone Def

2009 - Jaguars trade Tony McDaniel to Dolphins for 2009 7th round pick

I think it's silly to say about any athlete that "he never gave up!" because most athletes never give up. They're fired. Whether you're in camp for one day or in the league for 12 years, you're almost always fired. But McDaniel's journey from undrafted in 2006 to sticking around in the NFL for eight years until he became a starter, is definitely a unique one.

The Jaguars signed McDaniels after the 2006 draft, possibly falling due to some character concerns that include breaking a dude's face in a pick-up basketball game, and then he managed to stick with the team for three years before being dealt to the Dolphins at the low cost of a seventh round pick. McDaniels played with Miami for four years as a reserve.

In his first seven NFL seasons, McDaniels made four starts.

Finally, the Seahawks signed him last year to a one-year deal, as you know, and he started basically the entire season, making 26 solo tackles and 30 assists. Pro-Football-Reference gave him an AV of nine, which is six more than any other season he had. Seattle didn't have to trade a seventh round pick to get him (just a small one-year deal) but I'm sure they would have.

He signed a new two-year contract this offseason to remain with the team.

I'm taking my talents to South Bush

2011 - Saints trade Reggie Bush, 2012 6th round pick to Dolphins for Jonathon Amaya, 2012 6th round pick

History, why you always be repeatin' yoself, yo?

Nine years after dealing Williams to the Dolphins, they did it again. This time the player was even a bigger name than Williams, and it still worked out pretty well for Miami.

Reggie Bush was never quite as bad in New Orleans as it's made out to be, but was he disappointing? Sure. Bush was a consistent failure in the red zone (that's what my memory and eye test tell me) and not the "do anything weapon" he was sold on going into the draft when he was picked second overall. He did, however, have over 1,300 total yards as a rookie, and also helped the team win the Super Bowl in 2009.

But teams rarely like to see a disappointment in the locker room for too long and after playing in just eight games in 2010 with 150 rushing yards, they sent him to Miami for reserve corner Jonathon Amaya and a swappage of sixth round picks.

Bush rushed for 1,086 yards in 2010, nearly double his career-high, then 986 yards in 2011. Amaya played one season as a backup in New Orleans, before returning to the Dolphins for one more season. After two seasons in Miami, Bush opted to take his game to a city with a warmer climate.


Greatest Trades on Turf

1999 - Colts trade Marshall Faulk to Rams for 1999 second round pick, 1999 5th round pick

1999 - Rams trade Eddie Kinnison to Saints for 1999 second round pick (Dre Bly)

1997 - Patriots trade Mike Jones to Rams for 2000 fifth round pick

We can reasonably make a big deal about how the '99 Rams were successful on the near-zero cost acquisition of Kurt Warner from a checkout line and London Fletcher from the 1998 UDFA heap, and the savvy draft moves to acquire Orlando Pace, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, and Kevin Carter, but management also made some low cost trades that turned into difference-makers.

Most notably, St. Louis got Faulk for a second and a fifth. A second round pick is certainly valuable -- Indy used the second round pick on 11-year starter at LB, Mike Peterson -- but Faulk did "okay" for himself:

He was the AP Offensive Player of the year for the next three seasons in a row.

In order to supplement their loss of a second round pick, the Rams drafted Holt with the sixth overall pick to start at wide receiver, then traded Kennison to the Saints for a pick used on Bly to upgrade the defense. People forget that St. Louis wasn't just an offense to behold, but a top five defense that season as well. Including linebacker Mike Jones, acquired a year in 1997 for just a fifth round pick. He had a career year in 1999, including that time he held onto Kevin Dyson tighter than Rose held onto Jack in order to secure a Super Bowl win.

Greener on the Other Side

2000 - Seahawks trade Ahman Green and 2000 5th round pick to Packers for Fred Vinson, 2000 6th round pick

It's hard to fault almost anything that the Seattle Seahawks have done in the last four years. Especially considering that they've turned the "backpage sports trades" into players like Chris Clemons (acquired with a fourth round pick for Darryl Tapp) and Leon Washington (Washington was actually drafted by the Jets in exchange for the Chiefs signing away head coach Herm Edwards, then traded to Seattle for a 2010 5th and 7th round pick) and they somehow managed to finagle draft picks for players like Seneca Wallace, Tarvaris Jackson, and Barrett Ruud.

Sometimes it just seems like magic with this front office, and no acquisition in trade has paid off like sending the Bills a fourth and conditional fifth round pick for Marshawn Lynch during the 2010 season. In hindsight, what would they have paid for Beast Mode, Beast Quake, Beast Coast/Best Coast Battle?

Who cares? All it actually took was a fourth and a fifth! But it wasn't always that way.

Back in 2000, Seattle was actually making some pretty good deals (there's a reason that front office also took the team to the Super Bowl) but they missed on this one and few people have forgotten about it, but in case you have...

The Seahawks spent a third round pick on Green out of Nebraska in 1998, presumably to supplant the 29-year-old Ricky Watters, but that never happened. Back then, teams seemed more hesitant to share the ball in the backfield (okay, maybe that also just happened with Christine Michael), and even though Green looked good, the team already had Watters. He'd have to fail.

That didn't happen soon enough, and so Green was given up for almost nothing. Vinson never played for Seattle and they actually moved down a round in the 2000 draft to give up on Green. He rushed for over 1,000 yards in six of the next seven seasons, including the longest runs in the league in 2003 and 2004.

He rushed for 1,883 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2003.

But the Seahawks felt like they had a fair backup plan for the replacement of Green, and it worked out okay. It also involved a player-for-picks deal.

In February of 2000, Seattle sent Joey Galloway to the Dallas Cowboys for two first round picks. They used the first of those two picks to select Shaun Alexander 19th overall out of Alabama, and then the next year they traded down with the 49ers (not in the same division at the time) so they could select Koren Robinson, but also used the third round pick acquired in that deal to get Heath Evans.

That same year, they also swapped first rounders with the Packers in the Matt Hasselbeck trade. With the higher draft pick (10th overall), Green Bay chose the disappointing Jamal Reynolds. With their pick acquired from the Packers, Seattle felt that would be a great time to pick up Steve Hutchinson. In 1999, they traded James McKnight to the Cowboys for a third round pick that turned into Darrell Jackson, and in 2002 they traded Brock Huard to the Colts for a fifth that became Rocky Bernard.

Somehow, things can still work out.

Glenn Terry, GlenBoss

2002 - Patriots trade Terry Glenn to Packers for 2002 fourth round pick, 2003 conditional fourth round pick

2003 - Packers trade Terry Glenn to Cowboys for 2004 sixth round pick

Terry Glenn's NFL career is somewhat disappointing, but it really puts into perspective what a "bust" really is. Glenn is not a bust. For him to be a bust, what would that make Akili Smith or JaMarcus Russell or Peter Warrick? Glenn was expected to do more, he still had a long and sometimes good career.

However for the Packers, he was a fairly big bust.

Coming off of his sixth season with the New England Patriots, and playing in just four games in 2001 when they won the Super Bowl, Glenn was dealt to Green bay for two fourth round picks. He was okay that season, catching 56 passes for 817 yards but only two touchdowns. They quickly turned around and dealt him to Dallas, getting a considerably lower value in return than what they gave up to acquire him only a year earlier.

Glenn was okay for Dallas in 2003 and 2004, but had almost 2,200 yards in the next two seasons, leading the NFL in yards per catch in 2005 at 18.3.

Most of all though, I just wanted to do that Glenn Terry, GlenBoss thing.

Pay(tree)it Forward ------ ------ ----- (The stretchiest headline of my career)

2007 - Patriots trade 2007 second round pick, 2007 seventh round pick to Dolphins for Wes Welker

2007 - Patriots trade 2007 fourth round pick to Raiders for Randy Moss

So take the last scenario with Glenn and combine it with the Al Davis and you get the Randy Moss turnaround in Oakland. The Raiders sent the Vikings the seventh overall pick (which in fairness, turned out to be the much-worse Troy Williamson) and a seventh rounder for Napoleon Harris and Moss, but after two disappointing seasons (when most figured his career was over) he was dealt to New England for only a fourth rounder.

He wasn't even half as valuable at the time in trade as Welker was, apparently.

By using three picks in the 2007 draft, none in the first round, the Patriots acquired the top two weapons on an offense that carried them to a 16-0 record. Moss scored 23 touchdowns with over 1,400 yards, and Welker had 112 catches and became the Welker we know today.

Kam Kam, Thank You, Kam

2010 - Seahawks trade Rob Sims, 2010 7th round pick to Lions for Robert Henderson, 2010 5th round pick

The 2006 season is always going to be a bitter pill to swallow. I can't help but wonder if we as fans spent that entire season just in a mode of "eh, this is just bullshit man. Nothing is fair, MAN!" any time anything bad happened. The Seahawks re-signed Shaun Alexander for entirely way too much money, they lost Steve Hutchinson for entirely no reason, and the 2006 NFL draft that we were relying on to reload our NFC Championship team, was disappointing.

In the first round, Seattle chose Kelly Jennings.

In the second round, they chose Darryl Tapp.

The third round pick went to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for signing Nate Burleson.

The fourth round pick was guard Rob Sims.

The best thing to come out of the draft was seventh round comp pick Ben Obomanu, but everything else basically turned to crap. Alexander turned to crap. Burleson turned to crap. Jennings was crap crap crap.... What're you gonna do with all this crap?!

Make crappenade, of course.

In early 2010, the organization got rid of Tim Ruskell and Jim Mora Jr, replacing them with the guys you know so well today. As mentioned before, they took Darryl Tapp (I restrained from saying "Darryl Crapp" because it's mean and he's not the worst, but I want you to know that I did consider it) and traded him for Chris Clemons.

They took Jennings and traded him for Clinton McDonald.

Already, the new front office in 2010 was fixing the mistakes of the front office from 2006, like some sort of magical re-do that could take the same pieces that helped turn the 2005 Super Bowl team into a complete mess, and would eventually transform into a champion.

Pete and John also managed to take advantage of the extra first round pick that was left to them by Ruskell (I can't imagine a scenario in which that regime takes Earl Thomas) and they were well on their way to doing something. However, I still have to point to one move that displays their phenomenal wizadry perhaps most of all.

Rob Sims was a guard on Seattle that started in two of his four seasons, and most importantly, is a guard. Even if he's a pretty good guard, the 2013 Seahawks are a perfect example of the hierarchy of guard value in terms of success. Pete and John traded Sims to the Detroit Lions in 2010, before he ever played for them, and acquired Henderson. Why does that matter? It doesn't.

But the fifth round pick they used on Kam Chancellor turned out to be pretty special, I'd say.

So whether you're trading a pick for a player or a player for a pick, I don't think the having one or the other necessarily makes you the more savvy GM. The only thing that matters is if you know which of the two will be more valuable for you. The Seattle Seahawks would rather have Terrelle Pryor than they would a seventh round pick. The Oakland Raiders would rather have the pick rather than Pryor.

Based on what you've just read, and what you already know... whose side would you bet on in that equation?