SI Vault
December 06, 2010
Sometimes team-building comes down to a single brilliant personnel move—like these 10 most influential trades in NFL history
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
December 06, 2010

Deals Of The Century

Sometimes team-building comes down to a single brilliant personnel move—like these 10 most influential trades in NFL history

View CoverRead All Articles

1. The 49ers swap draft spots with the Patriots and pick Jerry Rice.

On draft day 1985, Niners architect Bill Walsh sent the 28th and the 56th pick to the Patriots for New England's pick, No. 16. San Francisco took a receiver out of little Mississippi Valley State; with the choice from the Niners, New England drafted center Trevor Matich of BYU and Auburn defensive end Ben Thomas. Result: Rice played 20 seasons, retiring as the most productive pass catcher in NFL history and a three-time Super Bowl winner. Matich started 22 games in 12 years; Thomas had 3½ sacks in five seasons with five teams. Ouch.

2. The Lions get Bobby Layne; the Yanks get nothing.

Layne had spent one season as a backup quarterback for the Bears and another as an unspectacular starter for the New York Yanks when Detroit sent end Bob Mann to New York for the former Texas Longhorns star in 1950. New York couldn't work out a contract for Mann and cut him loose. Layne went on to lead the Lions to three championships in the '50s—the last three they've won.

3. The 49ers steal Steve Young from the Buccaneers.

Tampa Bay was going nowhere with Young, who was 3--16 as a starting QB in 1985 and '86. After the Bucs drafted Miami's Vinny Testaverde with the first pick in '87, they happily handed Young to Bill Walsh for a second- and a fourth-round pick. Linebacker Winston Moss and wideout Bruce Hill, the players the Bucs drafted, were long, long gone from Tampa by the time Young won Super Bowl XXIX with San Francisco. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.

4. The Cowboys hit the Herschel Walker motherlode.

A bizarre trade if there ever was one: Walker had rushed for 1,514 yards for Dallas in 1988, but in the midst of the '89 season the Cowboys sent him and four draft picks to the Vikings for five players and eight future choices, including three first-rounders. Dallas used one of those picks to trade up and take Florida running back Emmitt Smith at No. 17 in '90. The Walker deal provided the bedrock for the Cowboys' three Super Bowl--winning teams in the '90s; Smith became the NFL's alltime leading rusher.

5. All-purpose star Les Richter goes to the Rams for 11 players.

One of the great prospects of the postwar era, Richter, a linebacker, kicker and guard out of Cal, was drafted second in 1952 but spent two years in the Army. In '54 the ill-fated Dallas Texans, desperate for warm bodies, traded Richter to the Rams for 11 players, mostly roster fillers. Richter made eight Pro Bowls in Los Angeles and is among the candidates for the Hall of Fame this year.

Continue Story
1 2