Isaac Sopoaga only player moved at a quiet NFL trade deadline
A handful of big names were rumored to be available ahead of Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline — Jared Allen, Maurice Jones-Drew, Josh Gordon, Larry Fitzgerald, Tony Gonzalez, Hakeem Nicks. As usual, though, the annual event passed as little more than a blip on the radar.
The lone deal announced before the 4 p.m. ET cutoff hit: Philadelphia sent nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga and a 2014 sixth-round pick to New England for a 2014 fifth-round pick. Hardly a blockbuster. Every other team chose to stay put, opting to wait for free agency or other events to unfold this offseason.
Allen’s future appeared to be most in question earlier on Tuesday. A report surfaced less than three hours before the trade deadline that the Seahawks and a second, unidentified team had expressed interest in the Vikings’ veteran pass-rusher, who’s set to be a free agent after the 2013 season.
Ultimately, nothing came of that trade buzz, perhaps due to Allen’s massive $14 million-plus contract, of which more than half is still owed to him.
Nicks, also a soon-to-be free agent, may have been a fit for any receiver-needy teams out there. However, no team was willing to reach the high asking price Giants GM Jerry Reese was said to have set, meaning that Nicks will stay put. If (when?) he leaves this offseason to sign elsewhere, New York likely will be in line for a compensatory draft pick, which helps explain why the Giants — who are just two games out of first, by the way — may have wanted an inflated return on their 25-year-old receiver.
Jones-Drew has an expiring contract, too, though the Jaguars have publicly expressed interest in re-signing him beyond the 2013 season. Even if Jacksonville plans to bid Jones-Drew farewell in the coming months, it is unlikely that many teams were banging down the door for a 28-year-old back averaging 3.2 yards per carry this season.
The case for a Gonzalez trade was the strongest of any. Gonzalez is expected to retire at the end of this season and returned to the Falcons in 2013 with hopes of chasing down his first Super Bowl title. Atlanta’s 2-5 start has rendered the latter dream all but impossible, so at least a few folks out there dreamed of a reunion between Gonzalez and his former team, 8-0 Kansas City.
Gordon and Fitzgerald still could be moved prior to the draft, as both have multiple years left on their current contracts and currently reside on teams in the midst of some manner of rebuilding. The Browns or Cardinals would have needed to receive an astronomic offer to part with either player right now. That’s particularly true with relation to Arizona, a team that sits just a game back of a wild-card spot.
Several additional names popped up as possible trade bait over the weekend, including Lions RB Mikel Leshoure, Saints RB Mark Ingram and even Raiders RB Darren McFadden. If their respective teams were actively shopping them, little traction was gained.
So, the Sopoaga trade stood as the only action at the 2013 deadline, following the trend of the NFL’s moving day resulting in minimal activity. Last season, only two trades were completed: New England acquired CB Aqib Talib and Detroit dealt for WR Mike Thomas.
Talib proved invaluable for the Patriots during the second half of 2012 and the playoffs, and they’re hopeful that Sopoaga can provide a little boost as well. New England found itself depleted along the interior of its defensive line after Vince Wilfork tore his Achilles. Fellow tackle Tommy Kelly then injured his knee in Week 6; the date of his return remains in question.
Though he started seven of eight games for Philadelphia, the 32-year-old Sopoaga was not much of a factor. He was enough of a disappointment, it seems, that the Eagles were willing to hand him off less than eight months after signing the ex-49er to a three-year, $11 million deal. Sopoaga is due $3.75 million in 2014 and $3.5 million in ’15, though just $1 million of that is guaranteed. The Patriots will pick up the remainder of the contract, including about $530,000 for the remainder of this season.
It is an under-the-radar move, especially given rumblings of game-changing trades Tuesday. Still, for a Patriots team that needed some help along the D-line and was gashed between the tackles by Miami in Week 8, Sopoaga’s addition could be a critical one.
But unless Sopoaga goes on to play a major factor in a Patriots Super Bowl run, the 2013 NFL trade deadline will join most of its predecessors: a great build-up resulting in near-complete silence.