The trade deadline in Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NHL are periods of excitement and intrigue. For teams in contention, the trade deadline offers the promise of being able to pick up those final pieces needed to take a serious run at a championship. For teams selling off players, there is the potential of the prospects being brought in, and the hope of a better tomorrow.
Yet, in the NFL, that excitement is just not there, mainly due to the lack of activity at the deadline. Last year, the New England Patriots made the only move at the deadline, acquiring Aqib Talib for a fourth round pick, a trade that turned out well for the Patriots. However, that sort of move was not exactly exciting outside of Foxborough.
In an attempt to generate more activity at the deadline, the NFL moved back the deadline another two weeks, figuring that making the deadline at midseason would give teams more of an opportunity to determine whether or not they would be buyers or sellers. In turn, the hope was that more trade activity would occur, hopefully generating the same sort of buzz that occurs around the MLB or NBA deadlines. There was certainly plenty of buzz leading up to the deadline yesterday, with players such as Josh Gordon, Larry Fitzgerald and Jared Allan mentioned as being available for trade. However, in the end, only one dead came down, where the Patriots acquired Isaac Sapoaga and a sixth round pick from the Philadelphia Eagles for a fifth round pick. Another solid trade for New England, and a trade that definitely fills a need, yet hardly the type of move that the NFL was hoping for as the big move of the day.
In the end, the NFL’s desire to increase movement, and subsequently interest, at the deadline may not come to pass. Players acquired in trade need to learn a new system, which can take time. That may partially explain why the trade for Trent Richardson occurred as early in the season as it did – this way, the Indianapolis Colts could get Richardson acclimated with their offense over a longer period. Players finding themselves thrust into a new system, with different terminology and plays, may take time to catch up. For a team that is looking to make a playoff push, there may not be time to ease that player into the system.
Unlike the other three sports, the NFL lacks the ‘plug and play’ aspect to player acquisition. In baseball, the game is essentially the same regardless of the team, with the only change being different signals. In the NBA and NHL, players do need to learn different responsibilities, but the learning curve is nowhere near as steep as in the NFL. Unless there is a way to mitigate that acclimation process, the trade deadline in the NFL is unlikely to reach the level of activity as the other three major sports.
Even though the deadline was moved back, and more players were mentioned as possibly available, the same amount of trades was made at the deadline this year as in 2012. Don’t expect that to change any time soon.
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