There have been some trades in the NFL that have helped change history. Arguably the biggest franchise-altering trade was when the Dallas Cowboys sent Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings, which helped kickstart the Dallas Cowboys’ dynasty in the 1990s.
Few trades have had an impact quite like “The Great Trade Robbery” Dallas pulled off, but one can make a case that a trade in March 2015 shifted the NFL and the shift might be felt for years to come.
On March 10, 2015, the Philadelphia Eagles traded quarterback Nick Foles, a fourth-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and a second-round pick in 2016, to the St. Louis Rams for Sam Bradford and a fifth-round pick in 2015.
While both of these quarterbacks failed to make the impact their new teams were expecting, this one trade shifted the tides of the current NFL.
Although this is speculative, the potential impact from this trade is huge.
It is safe to assume that the 2015 Eagles performed better under Foles. Foles fit Chip Kelly’s system better than Bradford. The ripple effect starts there.
With the Eagles potentially looking better than 6-9 going into the final week of the 2015 season, Kelly was slated to return in 2016. With Kelly staying, Doug Pederson doesn’t leave Kansas City to come to be the Eagles head coach and Kelly doesn’t take over the San Fransisco 49ers. The Eagles probably do not draft Carson Wentz. The 2017 season ends with a different team hoisting the trophy after Super Bowl 52 instead of the Eagles and Foles has a different reception in the City of Brotherly Love.
The Rams’ path with Bradford probably doesn’t change too much compared to their actual path with Foles. It is safe to assume that the 2015 team is another average year with a finish around 7-9. The Rams still move to Los Angeles. With Bradford’s contract expiring, there is still a chance the Rams trade up to draft Jared Goff in 2016 and keep Case Keenum as the quarterback to start as Goff is groomed. As a free agent, Bradford ends up elsewhere in the NFL. Maybe Houston signs him and avoids the Brock Osweiler disaster. Other possibilities include the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets. Wildcards in there include the Denver Broncos and 49ers.
But here is another place where it can get really interesting. Since Foles fits Kelly’s system better, it is safe to assume we see an improved Eagles team in 2015. That improved team potentially steals the division away from the Washington Redskins who won the division at 9-7 thanks to Kirk Cousin’s stellar play. Despite the team still having success under offensive coordinator Sean McVay, he is not viewed as high of a coordinator and the Rams go with someone like Kyle Shanahan after Jeff Fisher is fired in 2016. Since the Chip Kelly disaster in San Fransisco never happens and Shanahan is with the Rams instead, the 49ers also do not get Jimmy Garoppolo in a trade with the New England Patriots, especially if they are content with Sam Bradford and his awkward long sleeves on his jersey leading the way. The different coach might actually trade Colin Kaepernick before the 2016 season since he had been on the trading block at the end of 2015. This leads to him potentially starting his anthem protest on a different team.
The other team impacted the biggest here is the Minnesota Vikings. After the playoff appearance in 2015, some analysts think the 2016 Vikings could be like the 2015 Carolina Panthers and put together one of the league’s strongest teams and potentially make it to the Super Bowl, then Teddy Bridgewater suffers a non-contact injury at practice to his leg. With the starting quarterback looking to be out for the year, the Vikings scramble to find someone, but Bradford isn’t available now. Instead, Minnesota can just stick with Shaun Hill, the journeyman backup on the team or still find someone else. If they look to trade for someone, their options include Geno Smith, Josh McCown or Mark Sanchez. Or they can sign free agents that include Michael Vick, Tarvaris Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst. Maybe Kaepernick gets traded to Minnesota, but the Vikings look a lot different on offense regardless of who is under center in 2016 than the actual team that started 5-0 before falling apart. Maybe Norv Turner is still there. There is a good chance the entire 2016 season is a disaster, which in turn sees them finding a different quarterback in 2017. With the Redskins having less success over the past three seasons, maybe the Vikings steal Cousins away a year earlier. Keenum might still join the team in 2017, but he probably doesn’t start most of the season with Minnesota having a quarterback not made of glass like Bradford.
One can argue that the three top teams in the NFC going into 2018 are the Eagles, Vikings and Rams. Without this trade, going down the rabbit hole shows a potentially different NFL where two iconic plays, “Minneapolis Miracle” and “Philly Special,” never happen and these three top teams might be going into 2018 in rebuilding mode rather than being favorites to win a championship.
Luke Peterson is the sports editor of the Leavenworth Times. Contact him at email@example.com