Of all the endeavors and spectaculars put on by the NFL League under Commissioner Roger Goodell, the trade deadline has to be one of the most grinding and least anticipated every time it rolls around.   It’s rolling around again, and teams only have a week before the deadline arrives.  The time to wrap up the wheeling-and-dealing is now.

Trading Places

When we say trade deadline, be clear that it’s people that we are talking about trading, or getting rid of, or acquiring.  It can quickly begin to sound sordid if looked at from too many angles.  Some players are ecstatic about being traded, while others hide their tears and try to keep it together in the face of the devastating news that they are on the trading block.  To others it is impossible to ignore the historical parallels.

The first trade went down on Tuesday. According to ESPN, the Detroit Lions acquired Cowboys defensive end Everson Griffen for a 2021 conditional sixth-round pick that could end up as a fifth-rounder under certain scenarios.

The entire trade process is complicated, convoluted and often unpleasant for the men and women involved in the negotiations, much of which is done over the phone.  Then, once a team’s agent finally has all the pieces in place on his end, something goes haywire on the other side and they are back to square one.  It is like big chess game in a way.  There are strategies and moves planned 2 or 3 turns ahead, just as there are secret deals being made ‘under the table’ so to speak.

For some players, the NFL trade deadline turns into a life changing event.  A guy who was on a mediocre team not going anywhere suddenly finds himself in a brand new locker room on a team bound for the playoffs.  Of course, the reverse happens as well, and that must be an exceedingly hard pill to swallow.

Show Me The Money

The issue of salary caps comes very much into play in these negotiations as well, and every team has a different set of numbers to deal with.  An NFL team’s salary cap determines how much more they have to spend on available players at the trade deadline and again at the end of the season when ‘free agency’ time comes around again.

The basic calculation goes like this: Cap Space = (Team Salary Cap)*- (Active Cap Spending)-(Dead Money).  *Team Salary Cap = (Base Salary Cap) + (Carryover) +/- (Adjustments).   Don’t worry if you don’t understand it because almost no one else does either.  You would have to have insider information from a team’s front office, and even if those numbers were to be published, you could not count on their accuracy.

Of course, if a team with sufficient funding wants a certain player badly enough, and the player is also willing, the deal is going to go through.  Witness the Dodger’s signing of Mookie Betts for over $30M on a 12-year contract.  I don’t know what the Dodgers salary cap was for last year, but it wasn’t $30M.  So, where there is a will, there is a way.

It’s A New And Different NFL

The 2020 NFL trade season is different in several ways.  First of all, there’s the convoluted schedule they are running due to the COVID-19 situation.  Secondly, there are an exceptionally large number of good players on the Injured Reserve List and thirdly, because several top ranked players have chosen to sit out this season and weather the virus crisis at home with their families.

Just a look at how crazy things can get as the trade deadline nears.  The Dallas Cowboys are going to have to find a quarterback from somewhere.  However, there are only a limited number of guys who can even qualify for that job.

So, they are perhaps looking down at Miami where Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has done nothing be stellar work for the Dolphin franchise, has been benched in favor of Tua Tagovailoa.  Just imagine all the interesting scenarios that situation brings up.

Ironically, the NFL trade deadline this year falls on the same day as the presidential election in the US.  How did that happen?  It’s usually best not to mix the two.