The man who is considered by many as the greatest player in league history, future Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice, was swapped on NFL trade "deadline day" in 2004. So it seems that just about any trade, no matter how unthinkable, is possible.
But even considering the Oct. 19, 2004, trade that sent Rice from the Oakland Raiders to the Seattle Seahawks, in exchange for a draft choice, it will be an upset if there is much action before Tuesday, when the league's trade deadline arrives at 4 p.m. (ET). At 42 years old, and in his 20th season, Rice caught only 25 passes in his 11 appearances (nine starts) for the Seahawks. It was the lowest-ever output for Rice in a season during which he played more than two games.
The lackluster play of Rice in Seattle is typical of the performances for most players who are traded on deadline day. So while the phones will ring in general managers' offices around the NFL before the deadline, and many trades will be proposed, there don't figure to be many blockbuster swaps, as pointed out by ESPN.com's John Clayton in a "Mailbag" reply earlier this week.
In the 20 seasons spanning 1989-2008, there were a total of just 25 trades made on deadline day. The 25 deals involved only 27 veteran players (excluding draft choices), and just two of the deals included more than one player. In 2005, journeymen quarterbacks A.J. Feeley (to San Diego Chargers) and Cleo Lemon (Miami Dolphins) were traded one-for-one. The Dallas Cowboys sent wide receiver Antonio Bryant to the Cleveland Browns for wideout Quincy Morgan in 2004.
For the most part, trades made on deadline day have been pretty much nondescript. Of the 27 players who changed teams on deadline day in the past 20 years, none ever made it to a Pro Bowl game during the season in which they were dealt. None of the 27 veterans ever played in a Pro Bowl in any year, in fact, after being traded. Like Rice, several of the players traded at the deadline still had some name value, but few had any game-changing skills remaining.
Arguably the most prominent veteran traded in the past several years -- wide receiver Roy E. Williams, who went from the Detroit Lions to Dallas last year, in exchange for a package of draft choices -- has just 30 catches and three scores in his first 14 games with the Cowboys. With the Cowboys, Williams, a first-round choice in the 2004 draft, has yet to register a game with more than 86 receiving yards. In fact, Williams, expected to be the go-to guy in the Dallas passing attack this season, has 10 games with fewer than 50 yards and seven with fewer than 30 yards.
The statistics for many players traded on deadline day aren't quite so dismal, but very few translate into even average numbers. That helps explain why in the previous 20 years, there were six seasons in which there were no deadline deals and six others in which were only one each. For all the rhetoric surrounding NFL deadline day -- high-profile names such as tailbacks Larry Johnson and Steven Jackson, wide receiver Terrell Owens, defensive end Julius Peppers, quarterback Brady Quinn, and linebackers Shawne Merriman and Derrick Johnson have been cited speculatively -- it will be very surprising if any veterans of prominence change teams on deadline day.
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