Trading in the NFL used to be easy.
Want to trade with the Chicago Bears? Talk to George Halas and it'll get done in one conversation. Open to a deal with the Baltimore Colts? Weeb Ewbank will walk over to your table at the draft and work something out in minutes.
When I worked for the Dallas Cowboys, we just made trades. We weren't worried about things like players sharing the secrets of their former teams with their new bosses. Obviously, we weren't worried about a salary cap. Trades were so loosely scrutinized, George Allen once dealt away draft picks he didn't have.
This looseness led to some active trade markets. I remember one particularly busy trade-deadline day in 1974. Norm Snead, the starting quarterback of the New York Giants, went to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for two high draft picks. John Hadl went from the Los Angeles Rams to the Green Bay Packers for five picks spread out over two years. The Kansas City Chiefs sent Curley Culp and a first-round choice to the Houston Oilers for John Matuszak and a third-round selection. And the Dallas Cowboys shipped Craig Morton to the Giants for a first-round pick (which we ended up using on Randy White). Today, people are loath to trade with rivals or within their division, but we didn't used to be concerned about that. Morton, for example, started against us the week after the deal.
In the modern NFL, of course, complicating factors like the cap and the complexity of playbooks make it tough to do much wheeling and dealing. When a major move does get done -- like last month's trade of former first-round draft pick Trent Richardson from the Cleveland Browns to the Indianapolis Colts -- it sends shockwaves throughout the league.
Considering the high-stakes nature of today's NFL and the razor-thin line between success and failure, though, perhaps it's not surprising so few trades are made. It's like blackjack: If you hit, you're a hero, but if you miss, you're a bum -- and heroes get contract extensions while bums get fired.
As we approach the Oct. 29 trade deadline, I thought I'd put together a handful of potential deals that would make sense. Many would likely be precluded by the restrictive trade environment of today's league, but all of them would be helpful for both parties involved.
New York Giants receive: Jonathan Stewart, running back
Carolina Panthers receive: Hakeem Nicks, wide receiver
Why it would make sense: Presuming Stewart, who started the season on the physically unable to perform list after undergoing offseason ankle surgery, is fully healthy, this deal would help both teams. The Giants need running back help -- Wednesday's signing of Peyton Hillis isn't the ultimate fix -- and Stewart is still a relatively young guy (26) who did top 1,000 yards from scrimmage (including 1,133 rushing yards in 2009) in two of the past four seasons. The Panthers, meanwhile, could use a talented receiver like Nicks, who has the potential to give Cam Newton a great boost. While veteran Steve Smith would continue to be the No. 1 receiver in Carolina this season, the Panthers could likely convince Nicks that he would be the man in the future. Stewart, who conceivably has been made expendable by the resurgence of DeAngelo Williams (10th in the NFL with 394 rushing yards), could turn out to be the long-term answer for New York at running back.
Trades are often easier to pull off when both parties have a prior relationship, which is why I could see a deal between the Panthers and the Giants actually happening. Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman came over from the Giants' front office, and I'd imagine that he has a good working rapport with his former colleagues. Gettleman is a straight shooter and the Giants know that; they'd likely feel they could trust him regarding Stewart's health.
Of course, the Giants have shot down rumors that they're interested in moving Nicks. But they're still 0-6, and Nicks is still in the last year of his contract. Anything can happen.
Dallas Cowboys receive: Jason Babin, defensive end
Jacksonville Jaguars receive: Jermey Parnell, offensive tackle
Why it would make sense: Salary-cap concerns likely would doom this one in real life, but I think it is sound from a football standpoint. The Dallas Cowboys are hurting for defensive linemen, especially as stud DeMarcus Ware potentially will miss a month with a quadriceps strain. Babin (33) is on the older side, but he can still rush the passer. With offensive tackle Doug Free playing well this year, the Cowboys conceivably could have a piece to offer the Jaguars in youngster Jermey Parnell, who split time with Free in 2012 but has been mostly relegated to backup status this season.
Jacksonville obviously is building for the future. Parnell, who has a lot of upside, could help bolster a position that has been weakened by the trade of veteran Eugene Monroe and the season-ending injury to No. 2 overall draft pick Luke Joeckel. As for Dallas, it wasn't that long ago that the Cowboys' offensive line was the team's Achilles' heel. Nobody likes to give up depth. This deal might look very bad for the Cowboys two years from now, if Babin is no longer in Dallas and Parnell has developed into a top-notch starter for the Jags. But it's sometimes necessary to roll the dice. Dallas has a real opportunity in a paper-thin NFC East, and if coughing up a valuable backup can help improve the team's chances to win, I think it would be worth it.
New York Jets receive: Josh Gordon, wide receiver
Cleveland Browns receive: Second-round draft pick
Why it would make sense: Though the team has insisted Gordon is not on the block, if the Cleveland Browns, who are trying to stockpile draft choices, could get a second-round pick back, I think they'd be happy to trade him. The receiver has lights-out talent and is improving every day. Getting the appropriate value in return for a player as good as he is will be difficult, though, because of the off-field issues in his recent past. Yes, he has the potential to make a gigantic difference, but is acquiring him worth the risk that he might become a detriment to your team?
I could see someone like Rex Ryan, who needs to win now to keep his job, seizing on the opportunity. The New York Jets are extremely thin at receiver, what with the hamstring injury to veteran Santonio Holmes, and might be interested in taking a chance on Gordon.
Incidentally, the Browns took a lot of heat for dealing Richardson, but the running back has struggled to make an impact in the weeks since joining the Colts -- and I'm sure few people are complaining about the move in Cleveland today.
New England Patriots receive: Kenny Britt, wide receiver
Tennessee Titans receive: Mid-to-late-round pick
Why it would make sense: Kenbrell Thompkins' late-game heroics aside, the Patriots obviously could use some receiver help. The still-young Kenny Britt (25) could give Tom Brady and Co. the boost they need. Britt might have fallen out of favor in Tennessee, but he should do well in New England. After all, Bill Belichick has shown he can work with guys like Britt before. This deal could echo last season's deadline move for Aqib Talib; similarly unwanted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Talib landed in New England, where he's become a key defensive contributor.
Pittsburgh receiver Emmanuel Sanders would also make sense for the Patriots, who did, we should remember, attempt to acquire him this offseason by submitting an offer sheet for the restricted free agent. (The Steelers matched the offer.) Pittsburgh needs to get younger and add more guys like promising rookie receiver Markus Wheaton.
Houston Texans receive: Rex Grossman, quarterback
Washington Redskins receive: Mid-round draft pick
Why it would make sense: I still have faith in Grossman, who did take a team to the Super Bowl. I also trust Mike Shanahan; he's smart, and if he didn't think he could potentially win with Grossman as his quarterback, he wouldn't have Grossman on his roster. That said, Washington seems to be set at the position. Even if Robert Griffin III falters long term, top-notch backup Kirk Cousins can be the future there. And the Redskins conceivably would welcome a chance to accumulate more draft picks in exchange for Grossman.
So which organization out there could use the services of a veteran like Grossman? How about the Houston Texans, the team with which he spent a forgettable season in 2009? Veteran Matt Schaub obviously has had his issues, and I don't think second-stringer T.J. Yates is that good. Grossman could play well enough to keep things from completely falling apart.
Follow Gil Brandt on Twitter @Gil_Brandt.