With the annual NFL Draft on the horizon, it brings to mind some maneuvering that paid huge dividends for all involved, while others just didn't pan out for any teams or the players who were traded.
PITTSBURGH -- After one season with the Arizona Cardinals, cornerback Bryant McFadden and the Pittsburgh Steelers -- who originally selected him in the second round during the 2005 NFL Draft -- decided to reunite in 2010.
So, the Steelers traded a fifth-round pick, No. 155 overall (the one they received when they traded Santonio Holmes to the New York Jets), to the Cardinals for McFadden and a sixth-round selection in 2010. Arizona took Fordham quarterback John Skelton with that fifth-round choice, while the Steelers -- who already tabbed McFadden to be a starter that fall -- used the 195th overall spot in the sixth round to pick wideout Antonio Brown from Central Michigan.
The Steelers clearly got the best from that deal. McFadden is out of the league now, but he was a solid performer for seven seasons and started all 16 games after the club required him in 2010. He played in 12 games with one start as an NFL rookie in 2005 and tallied one sack, six pass breakups and one interception. McFadden played in all 16 games in 2006 with nine starts, 11 pass breakups and three picks. He was demoted to a backup role in 2007 and played 13 games with three pass breakups and one 50-yard interception return for a TD.
McFadden started eight of just 10 games played during the final season of his first stint with the Steelers and tallied eight pass breakups with two picks. He started all 16 games for Arizona in 2009, but was blamed for giving up some big plays in the Cardinals' playoff loss that year. In his return to the Steelers, McFadden had 81 tackles, with 74 solo stops, 10 pass breakups, two picks and two forced fumbles, but he returned to a backup role in 2011 and started just one of 13 games in his final NFL season in 2011.
Skelton primarily was a backup with the Cardinals from 2010-12, but he also spot-started and opened 17 of the 20 games that he played. Skelton, who spent time with the San Francisco 49ers and Tennessee Titans this past season, has completed 53.2 percent of his passes for 3,707 yards and 15 touchdowns with 25 interceptions. He also has been sacked 47 times in three seasons and run for 282 yards.
The key to the deal with the Cardinals was gaining the sixth-round pick that the Steelers turned into Brown, who was their team MVP this past season. During the 2010 NFL Draft, the Steelers took center Maurkice Pouncey in the first round, outside linebacker Jason Worilds in the second and wideout Emmanuel Sanders in the third. All three have contributed since their rookie years. Fourth-rounder Thaddeus Gibson is gone, but the club had three fifth-round picks that enabled them to trade one to the Cardinals. They also chose offensive tackle Chris Scott and cornerback Crezdon Butler in that round, and both are long gone. The same can be said about seventh-rounder Doug Worthington.
But in the sixth round, the Steelers had two selections and took running back Jonathan Dwyer a handful of spots ahead of Brown. Both have played key roles since then, but Brown has developed into a game-breaking, NFL superstar after just four seasons. As an NFL rookie in 2010, he played in nine games and had 16 catches for 167 yards, but no touchdowns from scrimmage. However, he ran back a kickoff for a touchdown and showed promise as a punt-returner.
In 2011, there were more results on offense and special teams, and Brown made the Pro Bowl as a return specialist. However, his more than 1,000 yards on returns was supplemented by 1,108 yards receiving and two touchdowns on 69 catches in 16 games with three starts. Brown had just 66 catches for 787 yards and five scores in 13 games and 10 starts in 2012, but he exploded this past season with 110 receptions or 1,499 yards and eight touchdowns in 16 games and 14 starts.
He returned a punt for a score in 2011 and last year as well, and when Mike Wallace held out and was expected to leave in free agency after the 2012 season the Steelers made a pre-emptive strike by signing Brown to a big contract extension before training camp that year. It was a six year, $43.04 million contract. The deal included an $8.5 million signing bonus and an additional $3.85 million bonus in the second year. Brown is scheduled to make $6 million this year and 2015, $8.25 million in 2016 and $8.71 million in 2017 before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2018.
So, mark this trade down on the Steelers side of the ledger.