The NBA trade deadline is the most exciting event in American professional sports. The Sacramento Kings recently traded DeMarcus Cousins, a three-time all-star who is currently averaging almost 28 points and 11 rebound per game, to the New Orleans Pelicans for a mid-level prospect, three depth players and two essentially-meaningless draft picks. France got a better return in the Louisiana Purchase than Sacramento got in the Cousins trade.
Although the trade affirms Sacramento’s status as one of the three worst franchises in the NBA (and arguably in professional sports), it serves as an example of how exciting other sports can be at the deadline. Blockbuster trades occur with alarmingly regularity in the NBA, while even minor, unexciting trades are an anomaly in the NFL. Comparing the two leagues is apples to oranges given their respective cap structures, but there is no question that the NFL would be dramatically more interesting if teams engaged in trade dialogue on a more regular basis.
It will never happen, but if it did, here are five trades that would make a lot of sense for the Steelers:
(Some of these are going to get weird)
Steelers trade a 2017 fourth- and 2017 seventh-round pick to Chicago for CB Kyle Fuller
After promising rookie and sophomore campaigns, Fuller, a first-round pick in 2014, missed the entire 2016 season after recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. Team doctors cleared Fuller on Nov. 30, but he instead shut himself down for the remainder season. This, according to the Chicago Tribune, did not sit well with management, who apparently wanted Fuller to see some game action last season. Chicago’s current general manager is not the guy who drafted Fuller, so it isn’t difficult to imagine that some draft capital would be enough to get the Bears to ship him out. In return, the Steelers would get a young, versatile cornerback who would very likely be a day one starter.
Steelers trade a 2017 seventh-round pick to Dallas for RB Darren McFadden
McFadden is a strong candidate to probably be released anyway, but he is just a year removed from a 1,000-yard season. Although he turns 30 in August, McFadden doesn’t have a ton of mileage and probably wouldn’t shy away from a backup role.
Steelers cut Ladarius Green, trade 2017 first-round pick and WR Sammie Coates to the Patriots for TE Rob Gronkowski
Gronkowski is a generationally-talented tight end, but Bill Belichick has shown a strong willingness to move on from star players for the right price. The Patriots just won the Super Bowl without Gronkowski and seem likely to re-sign free agent Martellus Bennett. Coates showed flashes of star potential last season, but was ultimately rendered ineffective by a broken hand. The Steelers do have a proclivity for developing receivers, so replacing Coates shouldn’t be difficult. A Pittsburgh offense featuring Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and Rob Gronkowski would have 2001 St. Louis Rams upside.
Steelers trade 2017 second-round pick, 2017 sixth-round pick, and 2018 fourth-round pick to Rams for edge defender Robert Quinn
Of all the trades mentioned thus far, this one might be the most unrealistic, given that Quinn still has three years and over $30 million remaining on his current deal. The Steelers would have to dump salary (just like NBA team!). The Rams would benefit from recouping some of the picks they wagered away in the Jared Goff deal.
This deal kind of goes against the whole “pay for future return, not past performance” mantra, but the idea of getting a 26-year-old All-Pro on the same line as Bud Dupree and James Harrison is certainly appealing. If things would completely fall apart in the first year, the Steelers would take on just a $900,000 penalty (with $11 million in cap savings) by cutting Quinn in year two.
The blockbuster: The Steelers trade a 2017 first-round pick, a 2018 conditional pick, LB Lawrence Timmons (as part of a sign-and-trade), WR Antonio Brown, and LB Bud Dupree to the Raiders for edge defender Khalil Mack, WR Amari Cooper, and a conditional draft pick.
Full disclosure: Antonio Brown is probably my favorite Steeler ever. I’m only suggesting this after seeing dozens of comments suggesting the Steelers should trade Brown after the Facebook thing or “failing to show up” against New England in the AFC game. Many of these posters wanted an edge defender, so I got them the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
The trade would allow Derek Carr to team up with league’s one of the two best receivers while also filling Mack’s void and building for the future. Khalil Mack would give Pittsburgh a franchise centerpiece on defense along with a receiver whose skill set is extremely similar to Brown’s. To reiterate, this trade would NEVER happen, but if it did, it would confer short- and long-term benefits to both parties.
With all of that said, I am interested to hear some of your suggestions. Write some draft scenarios down in the comments. If you’re new to BTSC, we encourage you to join the community.