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Published: March 25, 2014 at 07:38 p.m.
Updated: April 29, 2014 at 01:29 p.m.

Top 15 trades in NFL history

It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it can have a ripple effect that impacts the course of NFL history. We're talking about trades, and specifically trades of all-star caliber, veteran players (so, draft pick-for-draft pick swaps don't make the cut).

16 Photos Total

  • Honorable mention: Rick Mirer traded to Bears (1997) 16

    (Beth A. Keiser/Associated Press)

    Honorable mention: Rick Mirer traded to Bears (1997)

    Mirer is generally considered one of the biggest draft busts of all time, which means it should be considered a minor miracle that the Seattle Seahawks were able to unload Mirer to the quarterback-desperate Bears in exchange for a first-round pick (which turned out to be cornerback Shawn Springs).

  • 15. Michael Haynes traded to Raiders (1983) 15

    (NFL Photo)

    15. Michael Haynes traded to Raiders (1983)

    The Los Angeles Raiders acquired Haynes -- one of the premier cornerbacks in the league -- from the New England Patriots right in time for a run toward glory in Super Bowl XVIII. Haynes joined the Raiders in November 1983 and teamed with incumbent cornerback Lester Hayes to form one of the top cornerback tandems in league history. Haynes played in the final five regular-season games and started in the Super Bowl victory over the Washington Redskins, notching an interception in the overwhelming Raiders win.

  • 14. Jerome Bettis traded to Steelers (1996) 14

    (NFL Photo)

    14. Jerome Bettis traded to Steelers (1996)

    Bettis was dealt by the St. Louis Rams with a third-round pick in the 1996 draft to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a second-round selection in 1996 and a fourth-round pick in the 1997 draft. With the Steelers, Bettis helped guide the team to victory in Super Bowl XL and became the league's sixth-leading rusher of all time.

  • 13. Steve Largent traded to Seahawks (1976) 13

    (NFL Photo)

    13. Steve Largent traded to Seahawks (1976)

    Largent was drafted by the Houston Oilers, but was about to be released during the preseason when the expansion Seattle Seahawks swooped in and made a move for the wide receiver. Largent was dealt to the Seahawks in exchange for an eighth-round pick in the 1977 draft. Largent went on to be a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, an NFL record holder for most career receptions, yards and touchdowns, and becoming the first Seahawks player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

  • 12. John Hadl traded to Packers (1974) 12

    (NFL Photo)

    12. John Hadl traded to Packers (1974)

    This trade doomed the Packers to nearly two decades' worth of despair while concurrently aiding the Rams' run as one of the powerhouse teams of the 1970s. The Packers, desperate for help at quarterback and figuring a veteran signal-caller was all that the team needed to return to glory, acquired Hadl in exchange for first- and second-round picks in both the 1975 and 1976 draft, and a third-round pick in the 1975 draft. It was a disaster for Green Bay, for which Hadl played just 22 games. The Rams, meanwhile, used the bevy of picks to build a winner and eventually reach Super Bowl XIV.

  • 11. Brett Favre traded to Jets (2008) 11

    (Mark Duncan/Associated Press)

    11. Brett Favre traded to Jets (2008)

    Favre's on-again, off-again retirement talk that loomed over the Packers franchise since 2006 finally came to a conclusion (or, so we thought) in early 2008 when Favre officially announced his retirement from the NFL. That opened the door for Aaron Rodgers to assume the starting role in Green Bay. In July, Favre had changed his mind and wanted to return to the Packers, who had made a commitment to Rodgers as the starter. Things got awkward between Favre and the Packers, who ultimately traded him to the New York Jets for a fourth-round draft pick.

  • 10. Randy Moss traded to Patriots (2007) 10

    (Stephan Savoia/Associated Press)

    10. Randy Moss traded to Patriots (2007)

    Moss' tenure with the Oakland Raiders did not go as planned, so in the lead-up to the 2007 NFL Draft, the Raiders shopped the receiver and then found a trade partner in the New England Patriots. Moss posted an NFL record 23 touchdown receptions in 2007, helping the Patriots go 18-0 before ultimately falling to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

  • 9. Eric Dickerson traded to Colts (1987) 9

    (Elise Amendola/Associated Press)

    9. Eric Dickerson traded to Colts (1987)

    Ongoing contract disputes that lingered for multiple seasons finally facilitated Dickerson's move to Indianapolis. The Los Angeles Rams dealt the disgruntled Dickerson to the Colts in a three-team trade. The Colts traded linebacker Cornelius Bennett to the Buffalo Bills for a first-round pick in 1988, first- and second-round picks in 1989 and running back Greg Bell. The Colts then traded Bell, the three draft choices acquired from Buffalo plus first- and second-round picks in 1988, a second-round pick in 1989 and running back Owen Gill to the Rams for Dickerson. While Dickerson led the league in rushing in 1988, Bennett would go on to help the Bills reach four consecutive Super Bowls and Dickerson's former team would reach the 1989 NFC Championship Game.

  • 8. Bobby Layne traded to Steelers 8

    (Associated Press)

    8. Bobby Layne traded to Steelers

    As the Lions collected championships in their 1950s glory days, the team also developed a reputation for its raucousness. Leading the charge on both fronts was Layne, who built a legend for his hard play and harder partying. Still, nobody could argue with the results. Layne helped lead the Lions to four NFL championship game appearances, winning three. However, the final title in team history left Layne bitter. Benched in favor of Tobin Rote, Layne watched his teammates execute an epic playoff comeback over the San Francisco 49ers before throttling the Browns in the 1957 championship. A year later, Layne was dealt to the Pittsburgh Steelers, after which he supposedly cursed the Lions with 50 years of futility.

  • 7. The Ollie Matson trade (1959) 7

    (NFL Photo)

    7. The Ollie Matson trade (1959)

    Matson, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, was the centerpiece of one of the most celebrated and largest (in terms of number of players) trades in league history. The Chicago Cardinals sent Matson to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for seven players, a 1959 second-round draft choice and a player to be named later. The trade was orchestrated by then-Rams general manager and future NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle. While the Cardinals didn't get any impact players in exchange from the Rams, Los Angeles was unable to recapture the glory of the early 1950s with Matson on the roster.

  • 6. Steve Young traded to 49ers (1987) 6

    (NFL Photo)

    6. Steve Young traded to 49ers (1987)

    Young initially opted to play in the USFL for the Los Angeles Express after his college career, but when the league ceased operations Young was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the supplemental draft. Young's two seasons in Tampa Bay were miserable, and when the team selected Vinny Testaverde with the No. 1 overall choice in the 1987 NFL Draft, Young became expendable. San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh traded for Young in exchange for a second- and fourth-round selections. Young served as backup to Joe Montana, but assumed the full-time starting role in 1992 and two seasons later led the 49ers to their fifth Super Bowl triumph.

  • 5. Marshall Faulk traded to Rams (1999) 5

    (Wade Payne/Associated Press)

    5. Marshall Faulk traded to Rams (1999)

    This trade was a classic case of both sides winning. Faulk went from the Indianapolis Colts to the St. Louis Rams in exchange for second- and fifth-round draft picks. The Colts selected a running back -- Edgerrin James -- in the first round of the 1999 draft, and the Colts became a playoff team. In St. Louis, Faulk was a major factor in helping Kurt Warner rise from obscurity to league MVP and the linchpin for the Rams' "Greatest Show on Turf" offense. Faulk helped the Rams win Super Bowl XXXIV and a year later he was league MVP.

  • 4. Joe Montana traded to Chiefs (1993) 4

    (Associated Press)

    4. Joe Montana traded to Chiefs (1993)

    The San Francisco 49ers were fortunate enough to have two future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterbacks on the roster. However, only one could play. The rise of Steve Young facilitated a move for Montana. The 49ers sent the living franchise legend to the Kansas City Chiefs (along with safety David Whitmore and a third-round pick in the 1993 draft) in exchange for a first-round selection. Montana's time in Kansas City was highlighted by an appearance in the 1993 AFC Championship Game and a victory over the Young-led 49ers in the 1994 season.

  • 3. John Elway traded to Broncos (1983) 3

    (Paul Sakuma/Associated Press)

    3. John Elway traded to Broncos (1983)

    Against Elway's wishes, the Baltimore Colts selected the quarterback with the first overall pick in the 1983 NFL Draft. Elway refused to play for the Colts, who were forced to deal the quarterback to the Denver Broncos in exchange for offensive lineman Chris Hinton, backup quarterback Mark Herrmann and a first-round selection in the 1984 NFL Draft. Elway went on to lead the Broncos to five Super Bowls, winning two. The Colts, burned by the Elway draft gamble, wound up moving out of Baltimore and to Indianapolis in 1984.

  • 2. Brett Favre traded to Packers (1992) 2

    (NFL Photo)

    2. Brett Favre traded to Packers (1992)

    Favre was a second-round selection of the Atlanta Falcons in the 1991 NFL Draft, but his first season in Atlanta was ugly (his first NFL pass resulted in an interception returned for a touchdown). New Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf sent a first-round pick in the 1992 NFL Draft in exchange for Favre. Favre went on to play 16 seasons in Green Bay, setting numerous career passing records, but more importantly, helping return one of the NFL's most storied franchises back to glory. The Packers reached two Super Bowls with Favre at the helm, winning Super Bowl XXXI.

  • 1. The Herschel Walker trade (1989) 1

    (Jim Mone/Associated Press)

    1. The Herschel Walker trade (1989)

    The largest trade (based on number of players/draft choices involved) in league history had a ripple effect that impacted the entire NFL in the 1990s. The Dallas Cowboys received eight draft picks from the Minnesota Vikings, including two first-round picks, three second-round picks and a third-round selection. The Cowboys maximized those selections to help build the core of a roster that won three Super Bowls in four seasons. This fleecing of a desperate Vikings team that believed Walker was the final piece of a championship puzzle is generally considered the most lopsided trade in NFL history. Walker never had a 1,000-yard rushing season in Minnesota, and by 1992 was no longer with the team.

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