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Bob Angelo

Thoughts On The Game
  • Writer's pictureBob Angelo

NFL Trade Deadline 2023

Vince Lombardi once told his Green Bay Packers: “Gentlemen, we will chase perfection, knowing all the while we can never attain it… But along the way, we will catch excellence.”

Such was the mindset of general managers and their personnel people as the annual NFL “Trade Deadline” came and went @ 4:00 pm EDT this past Tuesday. It’s that time of year when struggling franchises hold fire sales to dump high-priced but still valuable talent to legit contenders with pressing needs and post season aspirations--such as the franchises coached by the men pictured above.

So which NFL teams improved the most?

As he is wont to do, Philadelphia general manager Howie Roseman led the way. Over a two-day period, the architect of the Eagles' Super Bowl roster added a pair of blue-chip veterans whose impact was immediate and decisive—with long-term implications.

On Monday, October 23rd, Roseman acquired former Tennessee Titans All-Pro safety Kevin Byard. Last Sunday in Washington, not only did Byard line up as a starter, but he recorded 7 tackles in a gritty effort against a Commanders team that led the Eagles most of the day and threw for nearly 400 yards. It’s Roseman’s hope that Byard’s presence eventually will bring stability to the backend of a statistically poor pass defense (27th in Fewest Pass Yards Allowed, tied for 30th with 16 TD passes allowed).

Midway through the fourth quarter, Roseman’s Tuesday the 24th acquisition was involved in the game’s turning point. At 6 ft 3 in and 220 pounds, future Hall of Fame wide receiver Julio Jones has always given QB’s an inviting target. With Sunday’s game tied at 24, Jones ran a route, positioned himself, reached for Jalen Hurts’ pass then absorbed a hard hit to the helmet. He didn't flinch!

The result: an 8-yard TD that gave his new team a lead it never relinquished. Going forward, both Jones and Byard should play significant roles in the Birds bid to return to the Super Bowl.

Elsewhere in the NFC, San Francisco GM John Lynch made moves to rejuvenate a struggling pass rush and fortify a defense allowing completions on more than 2 of every 3 pass attempts—pressing problems contributing mightily to the 49ers current three-game losing streak. Lynch is hoping more pressure will help fix all the above.

His first trade landed veteran edge rusher Randy Gregory, the former Cowboy who Denver signed to a huge contract. Much of Gregory’s 2023 salary in the Bay Area will be underwritten by Broncos’ dollars. As the deadline approached, Lynch went big, trading for Washington’s Chase Young, the second overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. (Washington’s other defensive end Montez Sweat wound up with the Chicago Bears, a curious move by a struggling 2-and-6 team on the verge of playoff extinction.)

If Gregory has anything left in his tank, and if Young can avoid injury, stay on the field, and realize his enormous potential in a new setting, Nick Bosa and the Niners just might begin collapsing pass pockets, stuffing ground games, and defending pass plays—and the 49ers just might live up to their pre-season hype after all.

Seattle somehow needed to keep up!

The Seahawks’ 5-2 record ranks first in the NFC West, one half game better than the 49ers. The Seahawks’ ascendent defense has recorded 26 sacks, fifth best in the NFL. Their acquisition of veteran New York Giants defensive tackle Leonard Williams was a calculated move to add a reliable, stabilizing presence to a defensive front that’s already formidable.

Williams is approaching his 30th birthday, an age when most interior defensive linemen begin to lose their edge. Like Sweat in Chicago, he’ll become a free agent in March then negotiate a newer, larger contract—with Seattle or some other team. But Seahawks GM John Schneider wants Williams’s help now. In October, the Hawks allowed the fewest points in football. Schneider wants to replicate this result in November. The former Giant definitely will make Seattle better, and the Hawks are betting his risk is worth the reward.

Finally, there’s the big NFC trade I actually saw coming. When Arizona Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon announced Monday that rookie Clayton Tune would start at QB if Kyler Murray wasn’t ready to play, I knew that Joshua Dobbs would wind up in Minnesota. Don’t know why or how—I just did!

Despite a 1-7 record as a starter, Dobbs, a well-travelled seven-year veteran, put up respectable passing numbers this season in Arizona. With Kirk Cousins lost for the season due to a ruptured Achilles tendon, Minnesota needed a better passer than the names media folks were offering as options. Gannon’s announcement told me that Dobbs had played his final game for the Cardinals. The rest was an educated guess.

I never met Minnesota’s new GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. I do know a lot about the Vikings. After they started 1-3, I waited patiently for them to begin downloading veteran players with big price tags such as safety Harrison Smith and edge rusher Danielle Hunter. But following three consecutive wins, including an upset stunner over the San Francisco 49ers, the Vikings suddenly became contenders.

Alas, Kirk Cousins tore his Achilles tendon!

Dobbs is an interesting player and human being. At 28-years of age, he’s joining his sixth NFL team. At the University of Tennessee, he earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering. That noted, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know he’s got a huge pair of football spikes to fill in Kirk Cousins. If the experiment works and the Vikings make the post-season, Adofo-Mensah could earn NFL Executive of the Year honors. If it fails, Dobbs will likely move onto his seventh team.

Such is life for NFL GM’s and journeymen at the trade deadline.

In the AFC, Buffalo’s signing of free agent running back Leonard Fournette ranks as the only major transaction. The former fourth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft brings six years of experience and a Super Bowl ring (Tampa Bay, Super Bowl LV) to a team whose time to win one of their own may soon be running out, at least for this season!

I thought the Bills might seek out a linebacker to replace the injured Matt Milano, but as their GM Brandon Beane probably learned, All-Pro types at that particular position rarely move. In Fournette, the Bills signed a big, strong, fast runner with big-time championship experience, another tool to help lighten the load on their do-all QB Josh Allen.

Finally, Kansas City traded to reacquire Mecole Hardman from the New York Jets to bolster its struggling pass catching corps. But the Chiefs failed to add a Julio Jones caliber receiver. On Sunday, they’ll face off in Germany against former Chief Tyreek Hill and the Dolphins, whose loss ranks as one of the principal reasons the Bills Super Bowl hopes may be on the wane.

I’ll wrap it right here. This is not to say that other trades didn’t happen or won’t matter much. But among this year’s bona fide Super Bowl aspirants, it’s safe to say that Philly, San Fran and Seattle improved their respective positions, Minnesota gave themselves a chance—and those teams that sold off assets will be looking to win a few football games with the talent they currently possess, while all while preparing for the 2024 NFL Draft.

Savvy GM’s take advantage of every player personnel opportunity in the hopes of winning the Lombardi Trophy. As the Hall of Fame coach whose name appears on the coveted silver prize observed decades ago: the pursuit of NFL perfection can and will yield excellence.

The NFL Trade Deadline is one the more significant marker event moments along the way.

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