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The best way to break down something like the 2022 NFL trade deadline is immediately after the trades happen. No time for rationality, no time for being responsible and waiting to see how moves materialize. That sounds awfully boring. It's best to have strong, infallible takes in the moment, so let's go over some surefire winners and losers from the NFL trade deadline now that all of the trades have been finalized.
Winner: Justin Fields
The Chase Claypool move feels like a bit of an overpay for a wide receiver that has largely been inconsistent over the past couple years of his career. He might not be a guy that makes a huge impact, but the Chicago Bears just needed anyone on the outside that could be a legitimate downfield threat for Justin Fields, who has improved a good bit since the start of the season. What this does show is that the Bears are aware that they need to upgrade the supporting cast around Fields and feel prepared to do so after a quiet offseason on offense.
After the trades of Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn, the Bears have draft pick ammunition to improve the offense in the offseason and are slated to have $114.2 million in cap space for the 2023 season. Claypool as a lead receiver for the rest of the season might yield some shaky results in the short term, but if they can continue to add depth around him in their wide receiver room then this could end up being a talented group of pass catchers by the start of next season.
The Bears are finally poised to continue their investment in Fields beyond the picks they used to draft him, which seems like a pretty smart move after how he’s played over the past month. This move signals that reinforcements are coming for Fields, he just needs to make it to the end of the season. That makes him a trade deadline winner.
Loser: Denver Broncos
The Broncos got a good haul for Bradley Chubb, but they're losers because they even had to make this trade in the first place. This team, in theory, built up for a title run with the Russell Wilson trade. Wilson was supposed to come in and lead a team that had an elite defense to the promised land and a Super Bowl trophy. That, uh, is not happening this year. Not even a little bit. So, the Broncos are forced to regroup and ship off a talented player from arguably the best defense in football. The first-round pick will help them bring in some more cost-controlled talent next year, but this is a team that had planned on being good right now. They aren't, and now they have to make a trade like this.
Winner: Atlanta Falcons
Calvin Ridley's career with the Falcons was over even before he was given a year-long suspension for betting on the Falcons to win games during the 2021 season. Sending him to the Jaguars, with a boatload of stipulations on future picks, is ultimately a good move for this team. They've outperformed expectations up to this point and may get a second-round pick in 2024 if Ridley can get back into form and sign a long-term contract with the Jaguars. This is a pretty solid trade for everyone involved, but the Falcons potentially getting a high pick for someone that hasn't played in over a calendar year is a strong move.
Loser: Elijah Moore
Ah, sorry Elijah. Your nightmare of playing on a playoff-contending team continues. In all seriousness, it's easy to understand why Moore wanted to be traded as his production dwindles and Zach Wilson's future as the New York Jets' long-term quarterback becomes muddier. However, he's going to stick around with the Jets at least through the remainder of this season while they try to get the offense back on track. In the wake of the Breece Hall injury, it makes sense that the Jets aren't trying to give away playmakers. Moore is a good football player, so he has a chance to revitalize what has been a disappointing sophomore season with the team that originally drafted him.
Winner: Baltimore Ravens DC Mike Macdonald
The Ravens have needed to improve their defense this season and got help in a big way when they traded for All-Pro linebacker Roquan Smith from the Chicago Bears. Smith's arrival stabilizes the middle of a defense that could really use it, and gives Patrick Queen a speedy running mate to terrorize offenses. Smith, who turns 26 in April, gives the Ravens their next great middle linebacker following in the footsteps of Ray Lewis and C.J. Mosley. Smith will get a contract extension barring something unforeseen happening and projects nicely into what the Ravens like to do on defense.