Analysis

Ten most impactful NFL trades of the 2022 offseason

It's difficult to argue that there's been a crazier NFL offseason than this year's version. It's even harder to make the case that all this volatility could've been predicted. There was no way to foresee the constant movement of star players, especially on the trade market. This kind of chaos simply hasn't been a part of regular life in this league.

Time will tell if this is the new normal. It also will be intriguing to see how all this player shuffling ultimately affects what happens on the field this coming fall. There were so many teams making blockbuster moves -- all with the hope of improving their respective positions for a championship run -- that not everybody is going to be pleased with the end results. As the saying goes, only one team in this league ever finishes the year feeling good about itself.

This is why it's a great time to evaluate the major trades so far, as well as what they'll mean this fall. This is how it all looks from here, when you're talking about which offseason deal will have the biggest impact on the coming season:

Rank
1
Deshaun Watson
Cleveland Browns · QB
  • TRADED BY: Houston Texans
  • TRADED FOR: 2022 Rounds 1 and 4 picks; 2023 Rounds 1 and 3 picks; 2024 Rounds 1 and 4 picks (with Cleveland receiving a 2024 Round 6 pick)


This deal tops the list for one simple reason: It's practically impossible to acquire an elite quarterback who's just entering his prime. Yes, this is obviously a unique situation, as we're all still waiting to see what comes of the NFL's investigation into sexual misconduct allegations by numerous women against Watson. (The QB is meeting with the league this week.) But Cleveland gave away a truckload of draft picks (six in all, including three first-rounders) and cash (a five-year deal worth a fully guaranteed $230 million) to put the 26-year-old under center. So the ultimate ramifications of this trade are enormous, for the Browns and rebuilding Texans. If Watson isn't given a lengthy suspension, the Browns have a serious chance of representing the AFC in Super Bowl LVII. This roster has been built to be one of the deepest in the league. Cleveland only needed effective quarterback play to become a serious championship contender. Watson gives the Browns a dynamic playmaker at the position and a huge upgrade over his predecessor, Baker Mayfield.

Rank
2
Russell Wilson
Denver Broncos · QB
  • TRADED BY: Seattle Seahawks
  • TRADED FOR: QB Drew Lock, TE Noah Fant, DE Shelby Harris; 2022 Rounds 1, 2 and 5 picks; 2023 Rounds 1 and 2 picks (with Denver receiving a 2022 Round 4 pick)


Wilson instantly upgrades Denver to scary good. The Broncos have a roster brimming with young talent. You want a variety of gifted receivers? Check. You want a strong running game? Check that, too. The defense is even more loaded, with a ball-hawking secondary and an assortment of relentless pass rushers. Add Wilson to this mix, and the promising Broncos are suddenly led by a future Hall of Famer who already has one Super Bowl ring and came within a yard of winning a second in Seattle. The only real question here is how Wilson, who turns 34 in November, will play as he gets older. He's always been most dangerous as a creative scrambler who can frustrate defenders with his legs, vision and downfield accuracy. But as long as he's anything close to what we've seen over the past decade, Denver should make a run in the stacked AFC West.

Rank
3
Tyreek Hill
Miami Dolphins · WR
  • TRADED BY: Kansas City Chiefs
  • TRADED FOR: 2022 Rounds 1, 2 and 4 picks; 2023 Rounds 4 and 6 picks


This deal was seismic in how it affected both franchises. The Chiefs lost the most electric wide receiver in football, while the Dolphins gave quarterback Tua Tagovailoa another reason to raise his game. Hill gives the Miami offense so many things: a frightening downfield threat, an invaluable tool to use during pre-snap motion and a player who can be just as lethal on jet sweeps and reverses. Hill opened up the middle of the field for tight end Travis Kelce and required the attention of at least two defenders on every play in Kansas City. Just think of what that will mean for targets like Jaylen Waddle, Cedrick Wilson and tight end Mike Gesicki in Miami. There's a lot riding on Tua's maturation this fall. Hill provides plenty to help that process happen.

Rank
4
Khalil Mack
Los Angeles Chargers · OLB
  • TRADED BY: Chicago Bears
  • TRADED FOR: 2022 Round 2 pick; 2023 Round 6 pick


The Chargers needed to bolster an underwhelming defense, which is why Mack ranks so high here. Everybody knew the Chargers had issues stopping the run in 2021. Mack helps there. Pro Bowl defensive end Joey Bosa needed a pass-rushing counterpart. Mack is a difference-maker there, as well. For all the skeptics who point to the foot surgery that ended his season after seven games last year, the 31-year-old Mack still had six sacks before going on injured reserve. He's also earned six Pro Bowl nods (most recently in 2020) and been a disruptive force on every defense he's joined. The Chargers made a lot of moves to improve their defense. Mack will make good on his end of the deal.

Rank
5
Davante Adams
Las Vegas Raiders · WR
  • TRADED BY: Green Bay Packers
  • TRADED FOR: 2022 Rounds 1 and 2 picks


The Raiders pulled off a major surprise in landing Adams, arguably the best wide receiver in football. The 29-year-old immediately takes this offense to another level with his route-running, steady hands and big-play ability. He amassed at least 100 receptions, 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns in three of his last four seasons in Green Bay. He's joining a Raiders offense that has a mismatch-nightmare tight end (Darren Waller), a shifty slot receiver (Hunter Renfrow) and a creative offensive mind in head coach Josh McDaniels. It helps even more that Adams is reunited with quarterback Derek Carr, as the two played college football together at Fresno State. There are a lot of people who wonder how Adams will fare without the chemistry he created with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. Carr and Adams have spent plenty of NFL offseasons working out together. They'll find a way to make their own magic happen in Vegas.

Rank
6
Matt Ryan
Indianapolis Colts · QB
  • TRADED BY: Atlanta Falcons
  • TRADED FOR: 2022 Round 3 pick


The Colts are creating a blueprint for how to handle life with a revolving door at quarterback. Ryan becomes the latest veteran signal-caller to take over the Indianapolis offense, but he should be the best of the bunch. Ryan didn't have a ton of support in Atlanta last season, yet he still played solid football. Imagine what he can do with a better surrounding cast, one that includes All-Pro running back Jonathan Taylor, blossoming receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and a sturdy offensive line. Matty Ice might not be the same player he was when he won the league MVP award in 2016, but he is still skilled enough to make the Colts a strong contender to end the Titans' two-year reign as AFC South champions.

Rank
7
A.J. Brown
Philadelphia Eagles · WR
  • TRADED BY: Tennessee Titans
  • TRADED FOR: 2022 Rounds 1 and 3 picks


There's usually only one great reason to trade for a veteran wide receiver who's looking for a massive payday: to give a young quarterback a weapon that can elevate his game in a hurry. We've seen this happen in Arizona (with DeAndre Hopkins and Kyler Murray) and Buffalo (Stefon Diggs and Josh Allen), and it's surely a major factor in the Eagles' decision to acquire Brown and reward him with a four-year, $100 million contract. It's fair to say Brown hasn't generated jaw-dropping stats in his first three NFL seasons, as he's never amassed more than 70 receptions or 1,100 yards in any given year. However, he does fit nicely into an Eagles offense that already has plenty of other weapons for third-year quarterback Jalen Hurts, a group that includes wide receivers DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins, as well as tight end Dallas Goedert. Put Brown with these guys and he'll put up numbers. He'll also block, which is just as important for an offense that just led the league in rushing and will still feature plenty of ground and pound.

Rank
8
Carson Wentz
Washington Commanders · QB
  • TRADED BY: Indianapolis Colts
  • TRADED FOR: 2022 Rounds 2 and 3 picks; 2023 conditional Round 3 pick (with Washington receiving 2022 Rounds 2 and 7 picks)


Wentz has quickly become the quarterback everybody loves to bash. The same player who was once an MVP candidate on a team that won a Super Bowl in Philadelphia has been excoriated in both that town and Indianapolis, despite throwing 27 touchdown passes against just seven interceptions during his lone season with the Colts. The Commanders are betting on the idea that there's still far more good left in Wentz than bad. They're hoping defensive-minded head coach Ron Rivera won't ask as much of Wentz as the Eagles and Colts did. They love his size, athleticism and the potential he displayed when his game was on point. Washington also has a lot of talent around the QB, which should help Wentz avoid getting into trouble by trying to do too much. Look, we all know the guy has flaws. It's just that the Commanders know he's much better than anything else they had on their roster last season.

Rank
9
Marquise Brown
Arizona Cardinals · WR
  • TRADED BY: Baltimore Ravens
  • TRADED FOR: 2022 Round 1 pick (with Arizona receiving a 2022 Round 3 pick)


This trade probably doesn't make this list if DeAndre Hopkins weren't set to start this season with a six-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Hopkins has been Kyler Murray's favorite weapon in the Cardinals' offense. Now Brown gets a chance to show why he was Murray's favorite weapon when they played college football at Oklahoma. Brown isn't the dominant all-around threat that Hopkins is, but he has steadily evolved into more than just a deep threat. He had career highs in receptions (91) and yards (1,008) in 2021, and he's likely to be more dynamic in Kliff Kingsbury's wide-open system. Brown basically wanted out of Baltimore because he wanted an offense where he could showcase his talents. He found that in Arizona, where he's about to face a huge year both for himself and his new quarterback.

Rank
10
Amari Cooper
Cleveland Browns · WR
  • TRADED BY: Dallas Cowboys
  • TRADED FOR: 2022 Rounds 5 and 6 picks (with Cleveland receiving a 2022 Round 6 pick)


Cooper is the second Cleveland player to land on this list, and he has a huge role to play on this team, as well. The Browns could never maximize the talents of Odell Beckham Jr. in this offense with Baker Mayfield. They also just bid farewell to Jarvis Landry. This team sorely needed a veteran receiver who could come in and be a difference-maker, and Cooper has a chance to be that dude. Yes, his production declined in Dallas last season (68 receptions, 865 yards), but let's not forget the player he was during his first three years with that franchise, when he became a huge weapon for Dak Prescott. Cooper had three straight 1,000-yard seasons from 2018 through 2020. He's also only turning 28 years old in June, which means there's likely plenty of good football left in him. 

Follow Jeffri Chadiha on Twitter.

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