NFL trade deadline winners and losers
A look at who came out ahead — and who didn't — following the NFL's 2017 trade deadline, which passed Tuesday afternoon:
Russell Wilson: No one is going to confuse newly acquired LT Duane Brown with Seattle Seahawks legend Walter Jones. But three-time Pro Bowler Brown, 32, instantly becomes the most accomplished lineman to ever block for Wilson, who's suffered at least 40 sacks each of the previous four seasons. Brown, who only played one game for the Houston Texans this year — Sunday in Seattle, ironically, after a holdout — should also upgrade the Seahawks' 21st-ranked run game and will likely find his outspoken personality is a better fit in his new locker room than the previous one.
Buffalo Bills fans: The prospect of reaching the playoffs for the first time in the 21st century grew even brighter as the Carolina pipeline spit out more help, this time in the form of WR Kelvin Benjamin, who addresses one of the few glaring deficiencies of a Bills roster that's mostly devoid of holes.
Jay Ajayi: The health of his knees has been a concern since college, but this opportunity with the Eagles appears to be a much better opportunity to parlay his talent into one, solid contract after his rookie deal expires following the 2018 season. (But first, Jay, make sure your pass protection of Mr. Franchise, Carson Wentz, is flawless.)
Adam Gase: His Miami Dolphins are ranked last in scoring and total offense, and that was with Ajayi's services. Gase's frustration with his team has been evident most of the season, and now he's sent a strong message about the expectations of a program that reached postseason in 2016 and still could get there this year.
Marcell Dareus: If his head is screwed on properly, he could post some sick numbers in Sacksonville after too often being invisible in Buffalo in recent years.
Jimmy Garoppolo: After mostly languishing in New England for three-plus seasons, he's finally getting his own team while joining forces with a respected offensive mind in rookie coach Kyle Shanahan. Flush with high draft picks and cap space, the Niners should steadily improve around Garoppolo, who seems a near lock to also soon realize a financial windfall from GM John Lynch given the high second-round pick bartered to acquire him.
Jimmy Garoppolo: This ain't New England, buddy. We wish you luck staying upright in your bid to showcase your ability while teamed with middling talent. Also, it's worth noting that Tom Brady's previous ballyhooed backups — Matt Cassel, Brian Hoyer, Jacoby Brissett, (ahem) Drew Bledsoe — failed to distinguish themselves post-Foxborough. Don't wait too long to take the money and run, JG10.
Patriots' emergency plan: What happens if the "break glass in case of emergency" scenario arises? Garoppolo seemed capable of keeping them afloat almost indefinitely if TB12 was lost for any period of time. Hard to fault New England for pocketing such a valuable draft pick given how messy Garoppolo's situation could have gotten in a few months, but the Pats are almost surely dead meat minus Brady now.
Ancient running backs: Thirty something RB Frank Gore is still an Indianapolis Colt. Thirty something RB Matt Forte is still a New York Jet. Sorry, fellas: No rings this year.
Kirk Cousins: Though the Garoppolo deal probably only reduced Cousins' market by one team, it was probably his most attractive option given his familiarity with Shanahan and his playbook, not to mention the 49ers' future roster resources. Cousins could still have attractive suitors — Denver Broncos? Jacksonville Jaguars? Arizona Cardinals —but staying in Washington suddenly seems like a far more likely option, even if franchises like the Cleveland Browns or New York Jets can throw more money at him. (Also, Kirk, did you forget to ask the front office to go searching for healthy blockers?)
Martavis Bryant: His off-field baggage is well documented. But it was only a month ago that Bryant was widely viewed as an uber-talented big-play threat with the potential to eventually be a No. 1 receiver. Now he's painted himself as a malcontent and earned a spot on the bench (and in Mike Tomlin's doghouse) while JuJu Smith-Schuster is running away with Bryant's job. Could be some time before he's able to feature his talents the way since-departed (and far more patient) Steelers WRs Emmanuel Sanders, Mike Wallace and Markus Wheaton did before cashing in elsewhere.
Cleveland Browns: Like the 49ers, they're also winless. Yet analytics didn't reveal any transactions to improve this sad outfit — or, based off ESPN's reporting, analytics got gunshy about well-regarded Cincinnati Bengals backup QB AJ McCarron just minutes before the deadline expired at 4 p.m. ET. So now Cleveland must (again) re-assess its long-term QB strategy with Garoppolo (and, apparently, McCarron) off the table. And as if Joe Thomas' season-ending triceps injury wasn't bad enough, this might have been the year to move him given the apparent market for left tackles.