The Athletic

NFL trade deadline: What the Dolphins, Vikings, Lions, Packers and others are telling us

The 2022 NFL trade deadline zoomed past as teams made 10 moves on Tuesday, including one involving a future first-round draft pick.

Bradley Chubb, TJ Hockenson, Chase Claypool, William Jackson III, Jeff Wilson and Nyheim Hines were among the traveling players, days after teams sent others including Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn to new homes. The Green Bay Packers, meanwhile, remained on the sidelines despite clear needs and their Aaron Rodgers championship window shrinking.

While the details of each move can be interesting, the view from 5,000 feet reveals more meaningful information. The exchanges show what the teams think of themselves, rightly or wrongly, while raising questions about what some teams think at all.

Here’s what the Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts are telling us, and why some of their movements make more sense than others. We’ll also look at what the Packers are signaling while standing.

Miami Dolphins send San Francisco’s 2023 first-round pick (currently 20th), a fourth-round pick in 2024 and running back Chase Edmonds to the Denver Broncos for pass-rusher Bradley Chubb and a fifth-round pick in 2025

What Miami tells us: The Dolphins are signaling that they feel good enough about their quarterback situation next year to trade their biggest remaining chip for another. Miami presumably plans to continue with Tua Tagovailoa beyond this season, although anything seems possible for an organization that tried to smuggle off Tom Brady and was punished by the league for tampering.

After trading first-round picks to acquire Jaylen Waddle, Tyreek Hill and now Chubb, what happens to the offensive line?

What Denver tells us: The addition of Russell Wilson didn’t make the Broncos an immediate Super Bowl contender or they wouldn’t offload a better pass thrower at the deadline. Wilson’s new contract requires Denver to be on him for multiple seasons, not just this one. The Broncos now have their eyes on the horizon after starting this season thinking big.

Early feedback suggests the Broncos misjudged Wilson, coach Nathaniel Hackett, their team, or some combination of the three. They weren’t the only ones. Before the season, a $100 bet on Denver’s Super Bowl win would have returned about $1,700 had the team won it all. Now, that same bet would pay out up to $15,000 if Denver somehow claimed the Lombardi Trophy.

As for Chubb, Denver needs to see him as a good player more than a great one. By trading him, the Broncos avoid paying him big-game money on a new contract. The Broncos picked up a badly needed 2023 first-round pick that Wilson could encourage them to use for the offensive line.

Minnesota Vikings send second- and third-round picks in 2023 to Detroit Lions for tight end TJ Hockenson, a fourth-round pick in 2023 and a fourth in 2024 that becomes a fifth if the Vikings win a playoff game

What Minnesota tells us: The Vikings might think they can make a deep playoff run this year given the state of the NFC. They also might think a receiving tight end can be an important part of the equation after losing Irv Smith to injury. This trade provides more evidence that having a GM with an analytics background doesn’t force a team to behave accordingly, as leaving the second round of 2023 for a player who could be costly to keep limits the flexibility of the Vikings in the future.

At worst, this decision reflected the Vikings’ inexperience in leadership roles. It’s not hard to imagine a first-year head coach, calling for offensive play, worrying about his first-year general manager how badly he needs to replace an injured tight end. It’s not hard to imagine such a team making a short-sighted move for a player at a non-premium position. Hockenson is under contract next season for $9.3 million. The franchise value for tight ends in 2024 could be $12-15 million.

At best, Hockenson gives the Vikings offensive coach a chess piece he’ll maximize for years to come, in an NFC North that Green Bay looks less likely to dominate in the future.

What Detroit tells us: The Lions, 1-6 and currently No. 1 in the 2023 draft order, won nothing this season, so they are looking to the future. They weren’t interested in paying whatever it would take to re-sign Hockenson down the line. They shape themselves like a physical racing team. Hockenson is more of a receiver than a blocker — not a tight end like coach Dan Campbell, who played the position at 265 pounds. The passing game will come through receiver Jameson Williams, the 12th pick in the 2022 draft, and Amon-Ra St. Brown. Minnesota’s picks could be better spent improving defense.

Chicago Bears send 2023 second-round pick to Pittsburgh Steelers for receiver Chase Claypool

What Chicago tells us: Assessing quarterback Justin Fields in the second half of the season will be easier with another weapon, especially one as young (24 years old), tall (6-foot-4, 238 pounds) and affordable (salary of 1 $.5 million next season) as Claypool. If he felt like the Bears were giving up the season after trading Smith and Quinn, the move adds to the growing excitement surrounding the Bears offense in recent weeks.

What Pittsburgh tells us: The Steelers love rookie George Pickens and their overall depth at receiver is enough to move Claypool to the capital draft instead of extending his contract after another year. It also looks like the Steelers will be more active in those markets as they continue in rebuilding mode under a new general manager in Omar Khan.

Atlanta Falcons send receiver Calvin Ridley to the Jacksonville Jaguars for a fifth-round pick in 2023 and a fourth in 2024 that will move to a third if Ridley reaches incentives and a second if Ridley signs an extension

What Atlanta tells us: The Falcons are done with Ridley, who remains suspended for playing and previously took time off for what he called his mental well-being. The Falcons then used the top 10 picks for pass catchers while implementing a running-focused offense.

What Jacksonville tells us: Sounds like GM Trent Baalke buying low in hopes the investment will pay off big. He did it as general manager of the 49ers and came under fire when injured draft picks such as Tank Carradine and Marcus Lattimore didn’t work out. In Jacksonville, the 2021 selection of injured safety Andre Cisco could pay off, as Cisco has started all eight games this season and has two interceptions, including a six pick. Ridley joins a young receiving corps with free agent additions Christian Kirk and Zay Jones.

Buffalo Bills send running back Zack Moss and a conditional 2023 sixth-round pick to the Indianapolis Colts for running back Nyheim Hines

What Buffalo tells us: The Bills are on the verge of winning it all and haven’t needed to do much, but with some lingering needs, why not meet them? Hines is a clear upgrade from Moss. Buffalo also addressed safety depth by acquiring Dean Marlowe from Atlanta for a seventh in 2023.

What Indianapolis tells us: Paying the rest of Moss’ $978,750 salary for this season is better than paying the rest of Hines’ $3.3 million salary, especially without a quarterback capable of maximizing Hines’ value in the passing game. (although, excellent throwing and catching from Sam Ehlinger at Hines in week 8). There’s no other obvious reason to do this for the Colts.

Green Bay Packers send nothing to anyone, despite obvious needs at receiver

Look around the NFC North. The Bears just acquired a receiver from Pittsburgh. The Vikings just acquired a tight end from Detroit. The Lions are nearing the debut of Williams, the receiver they drafted 12th this year.

The Packers, with as dire a receiver need as any team, were unwilling or unable to make a deal to upgrade at the position.

It’s hard to see why, especially considering the reasons for the huge offensive performance gap between Kansas City and Green Bay after the two teams traded elite wide receivers this offseason. Two executives from other teams asked if the Packers weren’t willing to take risks through trade acquisitions, or if they perhaps didn’t know how to make such deals.

Either way, Green Bay tells us the roster as it’s currently set up is essentially the roster the Packers plan to play with for the rest of the season, for better or worse.

(Photo by TJ Hockenson: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)


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