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NFL trade grades, 2024 offseason: Steelers ace Justin Fields deal; Giants hit on Brian Burns

Kevin Patra grades the most notable player trades of the 2024 offseason, arranged below according to the position of the most notable player involved.


Justin Fields trade

Steelers receive:

Chicago Bears

Bears receive:

  • 2025 conditional sixth-round pick

The Steelers get the best grade I can give out for highway robbery. They acquired a quality quarterback at a bargain-basement price. A mattress store would be jealous of that deal. Not only did the Steelers give up a lone Day 3 pick, but it isn't even in this year's draft. If Fields plays enough, that pick could turn into a fourth-rounder. So if Fields become their next starter, he will have cost the Steelers a fourth-rounder next year. That's good business.

Fields has flaws but remains a dynamic player who has shown signs of growth in each of his three seasons. He's the type of talent that deserves second and third chances. Some aspects of his move to Pittsburgh remind me of when Ryan Tannehill exited Miami for Tennessee to originally "back up" Marcus Mariota. It didn't take long for Tannehill to flip that script, enjoy Comeback Player of the Year honors and help Tennessee win multiple division crowns. Fields offers that sort of upside. How it shakes out with Russell Wilson -- who "has pole position" in the chase for the top job in Pittsburgh, according to Mike Tomlin -- remains to be seen. But good teams continue to take swings on quarterbacks, not shying away if they miss.  

Chicago got a “plus” added to its grade based solely on the humanity of the move. The Bears sent Fields to a preferred destination where he has a better shot to actually play. It's good PR for GM Ryan Poles. The Bears also avoided putting presumptive No. 1 pick Caleb Williams in an awkward spot, having to answer questions about Fields' presence in the locker room after the draft.

From that perspective, a trade makes sense, but, woof, the return on a former first-round quarterback was poor. Poles appeared to misread the market early or didn't want to wait to create one later. Not wanting his rookie quarterback to enter a locker room that still featured another QB who'd drawn outspoken support from teammates is one thing. Shipping the incumbent out for the equivalent of a middle seat in the back of coach that has a chance to become a middle seat in business class is something quite different.

The Bears could have hung onto Fields into the draft (as the Cardinals did with Josh Rosen, who was traded after Kyler Murray was selected in 2019) or even into the summer (Baker Mayfield wasn't traded from Cleveland until July of 2022) to see if a better market would surface. An injury to a starter could have created a need. Might doing so have caused some uncomfortable conversations and angst? Sure. In a league that constantly talks about "business being business," perhaps we should praise Poles for opting to calm the mental strain on the entire locker room, but the return likely suffered for it.  

Sam Howell trade

Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks receive:

  • QB Sam Howell
  • 2024 4th-rounder (No. 102 overall)
  • 2024 6th-rounder (No. 179)

Commanders receive:

  • 2024 3rd-rounder (No. 78 overall)
  • 2024 5th-rounder (No. 152)

I like this move by Seattle after Drew Lock left for the New York Giants. The Seahawks received a backup QB with starting experience by moving down a couple of rounds. That's smart shopping. Not only that, but Howell will count less than $1 million on the cap in 2024 and $1.1 million in 2025, per Over The Cap. Howell played well in spurts, but things started to unravel down the stretch as defenses got more tape on the UNC product. The start of his career has some parallels to Lock's. Howell turned it over a lot (as did Lock), including 21 INTs in 17 starts in 2023, but he also put up nearly 4,000 yards passing behind a bad offensive line. If Geno Smith gets injured, Howell has enough game play to keep the ship from sinking. The 23-year-old's skill set should also mesh well with OC Ryan Grubb. Given the low cost -- in picks and dollars -- Howell's presence also wouldn't stop Seattle from adding a rookie QB to the mix this year or next.

The market for backup quarterbacks wasn't great, particularly given how many we saw play significant snaps last season. Netting a 24-spot move-up and a 27-spot move-up in this year’s draft barely moves the needle for a QB with 18 games of starting experience. Yet, Howell was a former fifth-round pick, not a first-rounder like others who were traded this offseason. The move clears the way for Washington to use the No. 2 overall pick on a quarterback with Marcus Mariota as the veteran mentor. Given the film Mariota put up the past couple of seasons, I'd rather have Howell available if my backup needed actually to play, but from an experience/mentor standpoint, the Commanders’ decision is understandable. The deal also gives Washington six picks in the top 100, which is needed ammo for a club that still requires depth and playmaking after a busy free agency period.

Mac Jones trade

Jaguars receive:

Patriots receive:

  • 2024 6th-rounder (No. 193)

Jones' run in New England was essentially over after his third benching (out of four) last season. It would have taken a massive commitment from new coach Jerod Mayo and his staff to reverse the gears set in motion during last year's dismal performance. Jettisoning the former first-rounder opens the door for New England to take a QB No. 3 overall in the 2024 NFL Draft, with Jacoby Brissett as the veteran backup/mentor/bridge starter if needed. Following a 3,801-yard rookie campaign in 2021, Jones got worse each season in New England, looking lost and in his own head at times in 2023, making boneheaded mistakes. The fact that New England got anything for a lame-duck QB who might have been fourth on the depth chart heading into the final year of his rookie contract is something, but it doesn't make the whiff on a first-round pick any easier to digest.

Moving to Jacksonville could benefit the 25-year-old QB. Playing behind Trevor Lawrence, he'll be able to step out of the spotlight and refine aspects of his game that need sanding. Doug Pederson has helped revive other quarterbacks (Nick Foles, anyone?), and his offense could be a boon for Jones if he ever gets on the field. Jacksonville gave up a sixth-round pick and will pay Jones $2.79 million -- that's not a bad use of resources, particularly after the bumps and bruises Lawrence experienced last season. Playing Jones in a pinch wouldn't doom the Jags' chances in 2024.

Kenny Pickett trade

Eagles receive:

Steelers receive:

  • 2024 3rd-rounder (No. 98 overall)
  • 2025 7th-rounder
  • 2025 7th-rounder

As good as the trade for Fields was for Pittsburgh, the Pickett dump was nearly as bad. It received little return -- a pick swap and two future seventh-round picks -- for the former No. 20 overall draft pick, who was still on the cheap portion of his contract. And yet, based on reports of Pickett's negative reaction to the signing of Russell Wilson, Pittsburgh appears justified in washing its hands of the situation. The former Pitt Panther never raised his game or team in two seasons. Blame can go to the scheme or play-caller, but ultimately, Pickett rarely flashed anything resembling a franchise quarterback, and his paltry stats underscore the point -- 13 total touchdowns, 13 INTs and 178.96 pass yards per tilt in 25 games. Both the QB and the club needed a fresh start.

Pickett is a fine backup quarterback for Philly, as someone who can keep the boat afloat if Jalen Hurts deals with injury. We know Hurts played through injury last season, so solidifying the backup spot makes sense. Tanner McKee, a 2023 sixth-rounder, was the other option. The price was right. Trading down a round and giving up two future seconds is a solid price for someone with starting experience who costs less than $2 million this year and roughly $2.6 million next season, per Over The Cap. Adding Pickett as a backup could signal a plan to run Hurts less under new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, but his presence is not wholly unlike Gardner Minshew playing that role a couple of years ago. As we saw with Minshew, Philly is a solid place for a QB to revive a career.

Desmond Ridder trade

Cardinals receive:

Atlanta Falcons

Falcons receive:

Say hello to a rare, low-level, even trade of spare parts. The Cards were in need of a backup quarterback after last season's merry-go-round before Kyler Murray's return. Given Murray's injury history, having a starter with experience is a net benefit. Ridder's play was uneven in two seasons in Atlanta, where he generated 14 touchdowns to 12 INTs in 17 starts. His penchant for red-zone mistakes routinely cost the Falcons a chance to win. However, he gives the Cardinals someone with starting experience who isn't a threat to take Murray's gig. Arizona gets a grade bump in the positional value extracted from the swap for a little-used receiver drafted by the previous regime.

I like the addition of Moore to the Falcons offense. Atlanta spent the offseason building up the armory for Kirk Cousins. ATL's weaponry includes tight end Kyle Pitts, receivers Drake London, Darnell Mooney and Moore, and running backs Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier. Clearly, Atlanta brass sought to add speed to the mix, and snagging Moore certainly provides that element. Moore was never a high-volume player in Arizona after being drafted in the third round, but he can excel on bubble screens and owns the kind of speed defenders must respect. He didn't make noise as a No. 2 with the Cards but is a solid No. 3 behind London and Mooney.


Keenan Allen trade

Chicago Bears

Bears receive:

Chargers receive:

  • 2024 4th-rounder (No. 110)

Chicago needed to upgrade the WR position regardless of who is going to be under center in 2024. Less than two years after the failed acquisition of Chase Claypool, GM Ryan Poles again elected to go the trade route to snag an established veteran. Allen is a dynamite route-runner coming off a career-high 108-catch season in which he tallied 1,243 yards and averaged 95.6 yards per game played, earning his sixth Pro Bowl nod. He's a QB's dream, able to generate separation versus man, find gaps against zone coverages and seemingly make himself available at every snap. Pairing him with DJ Moore immediately makes the life of the next Bears QB (presumably Caleb Williams) easier. In that light, it's a home run in exchange for a mid-rounder.

Of course, the downside is that Chicago just shipped out another draft asset (giving them just four total picks at this stage) for a soon-to-be 32-year-old who will cost $23 million against the cap (per Over The Cap) on the last year of his contract and hasn't played a full season since 2019. Allen missed four games in 2023 and seven games in 2022 due to injury. He remains one of the most talented receivers in the NFL, but there is risk in this move -- and Poles doesn't exactly have a pristine record when it comes to calculating WR trades.

Discussions of a pay cut preceded the Chargers' decision to trade Allen. We assumed the Bolts would have to part with one of their $20 million receivers this season, but jettisoning both (they also cut Mike Williams) stings. That leaves Justin Herbert with a current receiver corps of Quentin Johnston, Josh Palmer, Derius Davis and Simi Fehoko. (Insert "Not great, Bob" GIF here.) The blood-letting became necessary after the previous regime's swings and misses, but there is still the pain of losing Allen, a franchise staple. The additional high fourth-rounder gives L.A. nine draft picks, including five within the first 110 selections. Multiple could go toward filling out the WR room.

Jerry Jeudy trade

Cleveland Browns

Browns receive:

Denver Broncos

Broncos receive:

  • 2024 fifth-rounder (No. 136)
  • 2024 sixth-rounder (No. 203)

The Broncos finally bailed on the last first-round pick of John Elway's tenure as general manager. Hampered by injury and inconsistent play, Jeudy never truly broke out in Denver, failing to crack 1,000 yards in any of his four seasons with the team and totaling just 11 touchdown catches; his athletic traits couldn't quite outshine the roughness of his route-running. The Broncos needed cap space after releasing Russell Wilson, and while the return for Jeudy isn't anything to write home about, they did shed salary while adding low-cost assets. Sean Payton now has six Day 3 draft picks with which to attempt to unearth inexpensive talent.

The Browns entered the offseason needing to add a No. 2 opposite Amari Cooper. Bringing in Jeudy solves that puzzle. The ability of the former No. 15 overall pick -- who turns 25 in April -- to play in the slot or out wide gives Kevin Stefanski flexibility with his wideout corps. Though I'm not in love with Jeudy's game, he certainly represents an upgrade in Cleveland and should fit better as a second-fiddle to Cooper than he did as a No. 1 in Denver. This grade was issued independent of the recent big extension (for three years and up to $58 million) that the Browns -- perhaps unnecessarily -- handed Jeudy, though that does speak volumes about how Stefanski and GM Andrew Berry view the Jeudy's place in their future. Given that it won't be a one-year rental, the trade could look even better if Jeudy finally lives up to his pre-draft status.

Diontae Johnson trade

Panthers receive:

Steelers receive:

This is precisely the type of move the Panthers needed to make if Bryce Young is expected to grow in Year 2. Johnson gives the young quarterback a go-to wideout who commands defensive attention and can get open, regardless of the coverage (whereas Carolina's receiving corps last year couldn't generate a sliver of space). Netting the wideout without giving up a premium draft asset is a bonus for a club with a ton of holes; Carolina could still take a WR at No. 33 overall. A dip in production and questions about his effort toward the end of his time in Pittsburgh are concerning, but a new setting could bring out the best in the former Pro Bowler, who should be plenty motivated entering a contract year.

The deal is a bit harder to explain for Pittsburgh. Acquiring Jackson, a solid corner with inside-outside flexibility on the final year of his contract, helps fill a gap at DB. However, corner remains a need heading into the draft, and now the club has created a big hole at receiver alongside George Pickens. Pittsburgh has tremendous history of finding WR talent, and there are still cards to be played, but I'm just not sure how this trade helps make the Steelers much better for 2024.


Joe Mixon trade

Houston Texans

Texans receive:

Bengals receive:

  • 2024 7th-rounder (No. 224)

Cincinnati was prepared to cut Mixon before dealing him to Houston, so getting something in return is better than nothing. To fill the void, the Bengals signed Zack Moss, who is younger and cheaper; he was also more efficient than Mixon in 2023, logging more yards per carry (4.3 to 4.0), yards after contact per carry (2.8 to 2.5, per Pro Football Focus) and missed forced tackles (36 to 31, also per PFF). He and Chase Brown form a solid pairing that should keep the Bengals' offense humming if Joe Burrow stays healthy. 

Given that we saw a slight bump in the running back market this offseason (partially due to the lack of running back talent in the draft), it's somewhat surprising that no one wanted Mixon for more than a final-round pick, given that he was set to cost just $6 million. Even so, the Texans' willingness to give up a draft choice for a player who was set to be released underscored their need at the position, as did their reported decision to give him a new extension. As I hinted earlier in this blurb, Mixon has become less efficient in recent years and isn't breaking nearly as many tackles as he did early in his career, but he brings three-down capability to Houston. His style should fit nicely in Bobby Slowik's scheme, and he does have pass-catching ability (I'd like to see him used more in that area than he was by the Bengals). Can Slowik rejuvenate a player who has been leaking juice? Given the extension, Houston certainly thinks so.


Morgan Moses trade

New York Jets

Jets receive:

Baltimore Ravens

Ravens receive:

  • 2024 4th-rounder (No. 113)
  • 2024 6th-rounder (No. 218)

On the face of it, this is an excellent trade for the Jets. With holes at three starting spots on the line, Gang Green had little choice but to seek answers during free agency, and given the dearth of options on the market, it was a boon to acquire Moses -- who had a strong season with the Jets in 2021, and who is a plus pass blocker -- via a relatively inexpensive trade. Adding guard John Simpson and tackle Tyron Smith makes the O-line rebuild a potential home run while opening up the Jets' options with the No. 10 overall pick. The trade also does come with risk. Moses is 33 years old, missed three games last season, allowed 8.5 sacks (according to Next Gen Stats) and was in a rotation down the stretch as the Ravens tried to manage their way through injury. He revealed this offseason that he played through a torn pec and had surgery after the season. The veteran expects to be healthy to start 2024, but will it last? I'd still draft a tackle early if I were New York, given the ages and contracts of their current projected starters.

Why would Baltimore trade away a low-cost offensive lineman who played well when healthy, given the interior changes they were already staring at (losing Simpson and Kevin Zeitler)? Perhaps the club sees a cliff coming and decided it was better to get something for Moses now. A pick swap and a sixth-round choice is a minimal return for a starting-caliber offensive tackle in a market barren at the position. It's usually worthless to grade the Ravens' offseason moves until about June, as they generally find bargains later in the process. After the exits of three starters from last season, there are real questions about Baltimore's O-line, particularly regarding depth, heading into the draft. Signing the versatile Josh Jones (who started 24 games over the past four seasons) is a solid first step.


Brian Burns trade

New York Giants

Giants receive:

Panthers receive:

  • 2024 2nd-rounder (No. 39)
  • 2024 5th-rounder (No. 141)
  • 2025 5th-rounder

This was a home-run move by Big Blue. Teams can rarely acquire two-time Pro Bowl pass rushers without giving up multiple highly prized assets. Adding Burns in exchange for a second-round choice and two Day 3 picks is a steal in my book. Locking him down with a big-money long-term deal was simply the icing on the cake.

Turning 26 next month, Burns can win with speed and power. He discombobulates backfields and requires attention from the offense. The combination of Burns, Kayvon Thibodeaux and Dexter Lawrence will put offensive lines in a pickle. Someone could be coming free every snap. Even in what was a down 2023 by his standards, Burns generated eight sacks. For his career, Burns has earned 46 sacks and 59 tackles for loss. If the NFL is built around quarterbacks, those who can disrupt the passer are extremely valuable, and the Giants snagged a pass-disruptor without sacrificing a first-round pick.

Conversely, the Panthers' failure to extract a single first-rounder in return for Burns was borderline malpractice. (Then-GM Scott Fitterer's reported decision to turn down an offer of two first-round picks from the Rams for Burns stings right now.) Yes, new GM Dan Morgan and coach Dave Canales were backed into a corner by the previous regime, needing to add draft assets with which they can start to fill a slew of roster holes. Landing an early second-rounder was significant. But I'm not sure it was worth losing Burns. In fact, I'm of the mind you don't ship out young, good pass rushers. You pay them. Why would the Panthers not give Burns (who was hit with the franchise tag before being traded) the same extension New York did? What do they see that we haven't?

Between the Burns trade and the losses of Frankie Luvu and Yetur Gross-Matos in free agency, the Panthers watched 45.5% of their QB pressures and 67% of their sacks from 2023 walk out of the building. D.J. Wonnum was a solid free agent add, but he's not of Burns' ilk.


Maliek Collins trade

49ers receive:

Houston Texans

Texans receive: 

  • 2024 7th-rounder (No. 232)

Turning 29 next month, Collins remains an excellent interior penetrator. In 2023, his 51 quarterback pressures ranked 12th among all defensive tackles, and he generated a 12.2% pressure rate. That comes in better than Arik Armstead (38 QBP, 11.2%), whom he replaces in the Niners' lineup. Collins might not rack up the sacks, but his pressures affect the opposing offense. He and fellow penetrator Javon Hargrave make for an enticing tandem. The price ($8.5 million in 2024 with a non-guaranteed $10 million in 2025) for Collins was also right for San Francisco. However, he is a below-average run defender who won't help the issues San Francisco had in that area down the stretch last season.

The Texans shed Collins' contract while spending up front in free agency, adding Danielle Hunter, Denico Autry, Folorunso Fatukasi, Tim Settle and Mario Edwards Jr. They were also reportedly in on Armstead before he signed in Jacksonville. I'd expect Autry to spend more time on the interior than he did in Tennessee. Trading Collins for a seventh-rounder indicates he could have been a cut candidate for Houston, who decided to nearly completely revamp DeMeco Ryan's D front in 2024.


L'Jarius Sneed trade

Tennessee Titans

Titans receive:

Chiefs receive:

  • 2024 7th-rounder
  • 2025 third-rounder

Titans GM Ran Carthon used his massive swaths of cap space this offseason to remake his club into a threat in the AFC South. Sneed is a physical corner who might pick up penalties but also shuts down some of the top wide receivers in the NFL. Those kinds of guys are difficult to come by. Snagging one without giving up a 2024 pick is brilliant. Pairing Sneed with free agent addition Chidobe Awuzie turns something that was a weakness for the Titans last season into a strength this year. Tennessee should be able to play much more physically in new DC Dennard Wilson's scheme with the two veterans on the back end. There remain questions up front, thanks to the attrition Tennessee saw there this offseason, but now Carthon can focus on that spot during the draft. The one concern that knocked the Titans' grade down a smidge is giving a new contract to a player who dealt with knee issues during parts of 2023.

The Chiefs' money concerns were evident from the onset. We know they can't pay everyone, and with the young secondary players they have in place, they were comfortable losing Sneed. Still, if trading away a physical corner who doesn't give up touchdowns is painful, then having to wait until next year for the third-rounder is like pouring lemon juice on the cut. In theory, K.C. could have played out 2024 with Sneed on the roster, let him walk, then potentially recouped a similar compensatory pick in 2026. Yes, the team is confident that its talent and development process will cover for the lost production, but the minimal return warrants a low grade.

Carlton Davis trade

Detroit Lions

Lions receive:

Buccaneers receive:

  • 2024 3rd-rounder (No. 92)

Detroit Desperately Searches for Secondary Answers: Volume 452. Last offseason's maneuvers didn't work out for GM Brad Holmes. Injuries struck Emmanuel Moseley and Chauncy Gardner-Johnson early, and Cam Sutton struggled. (This offseason, Gardner-Johnson signed with the Eagles, while Sutton was released after a domestic battery warrant was issued for his arrest.) This year, Holmes tried again by adding Davis.

He fits the Lions' profile, as a rugged player who has played well in man coverage during his career. At his best, Davis can match up against a team's top receiver, allowing coverage to roll elsewhere. However, he's also going to cost $14.5 million on the final year of his contract and is coming off a down season where he was picked on at times. Davis missed five games due to injury in 2023 and has never played a full season. It could be a reoccurring nightmare for Detroit if injury issues strike again. The cost of a Day 2 pick -- even with the sixth-rounders coming back -- is nothing to sneeze at for a potential one-year rental.

The Bucs needed space to keep the rest of their core together. Jettisoning Davis' contract was the move. Given his up-and-down play and injury history, the Bucs just couldn't count on Davis at that price tag. They still have Jamel Dean as a top-flight corner to lean on in 2024. Getting a third-round pick is a savvy move, and the cash dump allowed Jason Licht to retain his top targets and bring back safety Jordan Whitehead.

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