NFL’s five greatest trades of all-time: Where Russell Wilson going to Broncos ranks on list

Russell Wilson’s greatest victory came at the expense of the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. More than eight years after his career-defining win, Wilson is heading to Denver to try to revive a franchise that has not been the playoffs since winning Super Bowl 50. 

If he can take Denver to the mountaintop, Wilson would become the first quarterback to win a Super Bowl with a team that he had previously vanquished in the big game. He would also join Peyton Manning — the last Broncos quarterback to lead the franchise to a championship — and Tom Brady as the only starting quarterbacks to win Super Bowls with multiple franchises. The Wilson trade — which is pending the star QB’s approval — also signals the end of era in Seattle, as Wilson goes down as one of the most important players in franchise history. 

The Wilson trade immediately joins the list of the most significant trades in NFL history. Each of following these trades helped change the fortune of at least one franchise. One trade in particular was the launching pad of one of the greatest teams in NFL history. 

5. Seahawks acquire ‘Beast Mode’ from Bills 

Despite rushing for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, Lynch was found to be expendable by the Bills midway through the 2010 season. Before the deadline, the Buffalo traded Lynch to Seattle in exchange for a 2011 fourth-round pick and a 2012 fifth rounder. 

Simply put, Lynch and the Seahawks were the perfect fit. After running over the defending champion Saints in the 2010 wild card round, Lynch earned Pro Bowl honors in each of his first four full seasons in Seattle. 

He was among Seattle’s key figures during the team’s Super Bowl run in 2013 and NFC championship run in 2014. In six seasons with the Seahawks, Lynch rushed for 6,347 yards and 79 touchdowns during the regular season 937 yards and nine scores in 11 postseason games. 

4. Rams deal Eric Dickerson to Colts 

In 1987, the Rams and Colts stunned the NFL when Indianapolis traded two players, three first-round picks and three second-round picks to Los Angeles in exchange for Dickerson, the league’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year who in 1984 became the first player in NFL history to rush for over 2,100 yards in a season. 

Dickerson led the Colts to the playoffs in 1987, their first playoff appearance since the franchise moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis in 1984. The following season, Dickerson led the NFL in rushing, before rushing for over 1,311 yards in 1989. 

The Rams, despite losing Dickerson, would make the playoffs in each of the next three seasons that included a trip to the NFC Championship Game in 1989. 

The Buffalo Bills were also part of this trade, giving up several assets that included future high picks in exchange for future All-Pro linebacker Cornelius Bennett, who would help the Bills become the first team in NFL history to appear in four consecutive Super Bowls during the 1990s. 

3. Russell Wilson traded to Broncos 

The sheer size of this trade makes it one of the most significant trades in NFL history. While acquiring Wilson, who still must approve the deal, the Broncos gave the Seahawks a pair of first and second-round picks, a fifth-round pick, quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant and defensive end Shelby Harris. Denver finally has a franchise quarterback in tow, while Seattle has the assets in place to rebuilt their team in order to compete in the highly competitive NFC West division. 

In the middle of winter, the Rams pulled off a trade that a year later would result in a Super Bowl victory. On January 31, 2021, the Rams sent Jared Goff, two first-round picks and a third-round pick to the Lions in exchange for quarterback Matthew Stafford. 

After 12 years with the Lions, Stafford quickly settled in with his new team. He threw 41 touchdowns during the regular season while helping the Rams capture the NFC West title. Stafford then led the Rams to playoff victories over the Cardinals, Buccaneers and 49ers en route to throwing three touchdowns in Los Angeles’ 23-20 win over the Bengals in Super Bowl LVI. 

1. Cowboys trade Herschel Walker in ‘great train robbery’ 

“I find out that we had just traded the only guy on our team that was really any good. And I couldn’t believe it.” 

Troy Aikman, needless to say, wasn’t thrilled upon hearing the news that the Dallas Cowboys and new head coach Jimmy Johnson had traded their best player, running back Herschel Walker, to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for a bounty of future draft picks. Walker, a former Heisman Trophy winner and 1,500-yard back the previous season, was leaving a team that would ultimately go 1-15 during Johnson’s first season in Dallas. While the trade was widely unpopular at the time, Johnson was confident that it was the right thing to do. 

“One agent said it’s the biggest trade he has ever seen in the NFL,” Johnson said during a press conference following the trade, “and one owner said it’s a great train robbery. Whatever it is, we’re happy with it.” 

The Cowboys used the picks to help build what would become one of the best rosters in NFL history. In 1990, they used their first pick acquired from the trade to select Emmitt Smith, who would go onto become the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. Over the following two drafts, the Cowboys would select future Pro Bowl defensive tackle Russell Maryland, perennial starting cornerback Kevin Smith, and future three-time All-Pro safety Darren Woodson. 

Along with several other acquisitions, the Cowboys went from NFL doormats to NFL champions. In 1992, just three years after pulling off the greatest deadline deal in league history, Dallas won the first of its three Super Bowl wins over a four-year span.  

“I couldn’t understand it at the time, but I’m glad they viewed it differently,” Aikman said during an interview with NFL Films. “It certainly got us over the hump in a hurry.”

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