"We have a trade."
Those four words have power unmatched.
No matter what team, what players are on the board or who won last year's Super Bowl, when the commissioner says those four words, the NFL world stops turning. The NFL Draft becomes a mere pawn to the whims of the commissioner's next few words.
Sometimes a draft day trade can work out for both teams involved. Other times, it takes just a few years to see the awfulness of a one-sided deal that will be forever memorialized in the annals of the interwebs. Finally, there are times when the trades produce some of the best players certain franchises have ever seen.
In the case of the Saints, the best trades are sometimes the ones never made. In 1999, New Orleans offered nine picks: all of its picks that year, its first-round picks in 2000 and 2001, and a second-rounder in 2002. The Bengals turned down the proposal and selected…Akili Smith. (Side Note: the Saints eventually did almost the same deal with Washington for Ricky Williams)
While that trade was never consummated, here are The Five Best NFL Draft Day Trades that actually happened. Trades that altered the landscapes for the team's that moved up to get franchise players.
Jerry Rice – 1985
49ers Get: 1985 first-rounder (No. 16: WR Jerry Rice), 1985 third-rounder (No. 75: RB Ricky Moore)
Patriots Get: 1985 first-rounder (No. 28: C Trevor Matich), 1985 second-rounder (No. 56: DE Ben Thomas), 1985 third-rounder (No. 84: DB Audrey McMillian)
The 49ers could have given the whole northeast region a lifetime supply of Anchor Steam beer, Garlic Fries and Ghirardelli ice cream and it wouldn't come close to nearing a nice serving of Rice. He is the best wide receiver ever, and some contend, the best football player ever.
Rice helped lead the 49ers to three Super Bowl wins while the Patriots would languish in obscurity for 15 years before owning the best winning stretch in NFL history.
Michael Vick – 2001
Falcons Get: 2001 first-rounder (No. 1: QB Michael Vick)
Chargers Get: 2001 first-rounder (No. 5: RB LaDainian Tomlinson), 2001 third-rounder (No. 67: CB Tay Cody), 2002 second-rounder (No. 48: WR Reche Caldwell), WR Tim Dwight
Ask either team, and they'd probably do it again. Vick was the most electrifying player in football throughout his time in Atlanta, getting to one NFC championship game. Of course, there was the whole off the field incident that not only derailed the Falcons but found Vick spending some of his peak years in a federal penitentiary — so maybe they don't do the trade? — no they definitely would do the trade again..
LaDanian Tomlinson became the heart and soul of a Chargers squad that would consistently battle for an AFC crown. Unfortunately, neither team made it to the Super Bowl, but both got their guy and wins in the process.
Troy Polamalu – 2003
Steelers Get: 2003 first-rounder (No. 16: Troy Polamalu)
Chiefs Get: 2003 first-rounder (No. 27: Larry Johnson), 2001 third-rounder (No. 92: Julian Battle) and 2001 sixth-rounder (No. 200: Brooks Bollinger).
In 2005 and '06, this may have looked like an even deal. Johnson had over 2,000 yards from scrimmage both years. Then Johnson fell off the map and Polamalu kept making plays.
Polamalu will go down as maybe the second or third best safety in the history of the game. The Steelers would win two Super Bowls with him as the anchor of a stingy, ball-hawking defense. The Chiefs, well they haven't been to the Super Bowl in over 45 years.
Darrelle Revis – 2007
Revis Island became a thing. Beason and Kalil became fixtures for Carolina. All and all it was a good day for both sides. Having said that, Revis was the top corner in the league for a number of years and helped shift the Jets to an actual contender for a short period of time, before Revis Island became more like a Club Med.
Julio Jones – 2011
Falcons Get: 2011 first-rounder (No. 6 Julio Jones)
Browns Get: 2011 first-rounder (No. 27 Jimmy Smith-traded for Phil Taylor), 2011 second-rounder (No. 59 Greg Little), 2011 fourth-rounder (No. 124 Owen Marecic), 2012 first-rounder (No. 22 Brandon Weeden) and 2012 fourth-rounder (No. 118 Jarius Wright-traded for Trent Richardson)
Atlanta got a franchise wide receiver who has established himself as one of top three receivers in the league. The Browns got a whole lot of trash with five picks. The odds of completely flopping on that many picks has to be astronomical, if it weren't the Browns.