It's rare to see NFL teams make a player-for-player trade, especially when both players are young. That's exactly what the Indianapolis Colts did Monday, sending linebacker Jerry Hughes to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for linebacker Kelvin Sheppard.
Both players are "linebackers," but they have far different stories. Hughes was drafted in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Colts to be an edge pass rusher; he was one of former general manager Bill Polian's worst picks in Indianapolis, totaling just 41 tackles and five sacks in three seasons. Sheppard was a third-round pick by the Bills in 2011. He started in 24 games over the last two years as an inside linebacker.
Dealing Sheppard opens up a spot for Bills rookie Kiko Alonso, who probably will start next to Nigel Bradham. Hughes figures to be a situational pass rusher in the Bills' new 3-4 hybrid defense under defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Perhaps Pettine can revive Hughes' career like the New York Jets did with former Bills castoff Aaron Maybin.
It's a safer deal for the Bills. They fill a need and get a potential starter for cheap for two seasons. Colts general manager Ryan Grigson went into the offseason wanting to find more toughness and size on defense. Sheppard fits the bill.Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.