- John Clayton, NFL senior writer
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It was one of the most interesting trading seasons in years. A whopping 92 trades filled the void for free agency this year. A total of 82 players were shipped around.
With more than three-quarters of the league still in playoff races, more trades would occur if the deadline were later, but NFL traditionalists will never change the timing of the deadline even though the end of the NFL trading period is the equivalent of being 57 games into a 162-game baseball season. Some NFL traditions don't change.
It was a trade period in which the Philadelphia Eagles shipped Donovan McNabb to the division rival Washington Redskins. The Dolphins picked up Brandon Marshall for two second-round picks. Marshall has lived up to his billing with 37 catches for 467 yards, but the Dolphins' offense is averaging 4.7 fewer points than last season. Randy Moss finally got his chance to unite with Brett Favre in Minnesota for only a third-round pick.
For awards, Seahawks general manager John Schneider nosed out Martin Mayhew of the Detroit Lions as the league's top trader in 2010. Seven of the 10 players Seattle acquired in trades are still with the team. Marshawn Lynch added a true threat to the Seahawks' running attack. Defensive end Chris Clemons has contributed 4½ sacks to an improving pass rush. Leon Washington could be a Pro Bowl return man with a 37-yard kickoff return average.
Mayhew added seven players through the trade market, including two -- guard Rob Sims and tight end Tony Scheffler -- who merited contracted extensions. Before breaking his forearm Sunday, Shaun Hill was a steal as a backup quarterback for a seventh-round pick. Mayhew may have finally resolved years of cornerback searches with trades for Chris Houston and Alphonso Smith.
The shrewdest trades were the Jets' pickups of troubled cornerback Antonio Cromartie and wide receiver Santonio Holmes at the cost of third- and fifth-round picks. The worst trade was the Broncos' decision to deal running back Peyton Hillis to Cleveland for Brady Quinn. Quinn is buried as the Broncos' third quarterback, while Hillis won the starting halfback job for the Browns. The Broncos were so desperate for a running game they had to give up a fourth-rounder to acquire Laurence Maroney.
The most disappointing deal was the Raiders' acquisition of quarterback Jason Campbell. Campbell was supposed to help turn the Raiders into a playoff team, but he lost his starting job after six quarters.
From the inbox
Q: MLB, the NBA and NHL have no-trade clauses a player can have worked into his contract. Is this an option for NFL players?
Gary in Middlebury, Ind.
A: No-trade clauses are rare, but it's up to the player to push for it. The league would never prohibit such a clause, but teams like to have flexibility if they want to trade a contract. Of course, players who are in a position to get no-trade clauses are usually highly marketable players. Under the current system, teams have one move to prevent a player from leaving, and that's the franchise tag. We'll see if that continues with the next CBA. This has been an amazing year for trades. We'll see if that continues.
Thomas in Spokane, Wash.
A: No. They should get Westbrook more involved on some passing downs, but Gore is a warrior and one of the best running backs in the NFL. Gore will push his body to the limits and do everything possible to get extra yardage. That occasionally leads to fumbles, but the same thing happens to Adrian Peterson in Minnesota. Sometimes there is a tendency to overuse Gore because he is so good. He's one of the team's best players. Coach Mike Singletary needs to stand by him and keep giving him the ball. But Westbrook is a nice alternative and a talent. Gore doesn't have to be on the field all the time for the 49ers to win, but he needs to be out there the majority of the time.
Q: What do the Baltimore Ravens have to do to prove to everyone that they are an elite team?
Ron in Raleigh, N.C.
A: I don't think they need to prove anything. They've been to the playoffs the past two years. They have -- in my opinion -- an elite quarterback, Joe Flacco. There I go again, leaving myself vulnerable to criticism by saying Flacco is elite, but he is. The Ravens have won three playoff games on the road over the past two years. Like everything else, it takes a trip to the Super Bowl to get ultimate respect.
Q: If the Chiefs decide Matt Cassel isn't the answer and let him walk at the end of this season, what are their options for next year? Brodie Croyle is too injury prone to rely on for the future, and they likely won't get a high enough draft pick to snare an elite QB in the draft. Are there any decent impending free-agent QBs, or possible QBs to be had in a trade?
Brian in Fishers, Ind.
A: As in most years, the search for a new quarterback outside of the draft will be tough. They could go for a Trent Edwards, Alex Smith or Matt Leinart, but the question is how much of an upgrade that would be over Cassel. The best solution is the draft. I didn't mention McNabb because I still believe Dan Snyder will sign him to a contract extension. Leinart would be an interesting option because he has worked with Todd Haley in Arizona, but you get the feeling that Haley would like Cassel more than Leinart. If you are a Chiefs fan, the thought would be to root for Cassel to make it as the quarterback. Cassel offered some hope with his game against the Houston Texans this past Sunday, but he still needs to pick up his play. Last year, the problem was dropped passes. Chiefs receivers are catching the ball better this season, so it's up to Cassel to get them the ball.
Q: The Jets' offense seemed to be on a hot streak after it adjusted in Week 2. Mark Sanchez seemed comfortable with Braylon Edwards and Dustin Keller. Early indications suggest that the addition of Santonio Holmes is slowing down this offense -- as if the Jets feel obligated to spread the ball around. Shouldn't they just do what has been successful and keep Sanchez comfortable with a couple receivers?
Phil in Bellingham, Wash.
A: I definitely don't believe Holmes is slowing down the offense. I've felt all along that Sanchez is blessed with the most offensive talent he will be around in his entire career and that Holmes is the key because he's the best playmaker of the bunch. Before Holmes came off the suspension, Sanchez was doing great in distributing the ball to Edwards and Keller. Add a talented playmaker and the offense gets that much better. I go back to the Miami game. Holmes wasn't there. It was Sanchez versus Chad Henne. Both are pretty close in their developmental stages, but Sanchez had a distinct advantage in that game because he had more weapons.
Q: What do you make of the Bills' release of Trent Edwards (good enough to supposedly be a starter at the beginning of the season), their trade of Marshawn Lynch, and their latest move, a flip-flop from a 3-4 to 4-3? To me, these moves all say that our GM, Buddy Nix, and our coach, Chan Gailey, failed to properly evaluate our personnel. If that is the case, how can we properly rebuild this team?
Tony B in Lackawanna, N.Y.
A: I'm not knocking the current administration, but for years, this franchise has been failing to figure out what it wants to be. That's the problem. It's gone from Drew Bledsoe to J.P. Losman to Edwards to Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. It's gone from Travis Henry to Willis McGahee to Lynch to Fred Jackson and soon to C.J. Spiller at running back. It's gone from a highly paid offensive line to an inexpensive, young offensive line. The silliest thing was switching to a 3-4 when the Bills had been trying to build with 4-3 personnel. What's happening this year is the talent base is bottoming out. Starting with drafting a quarterback in the first round next year, the Bills have to find a formula they can stick with for five years instead of the constant changes.
Q: Is it safe to say that the reason that the Giants are beginning to play much better on defense is not the rejuvenated pass rush, but rather that they actually are getting something from their LBs and that the secondary is on their way toward becoming a premier unit? Am I getting a little too carried away because I think this is the best collective unit they have had in years?
Nick in Wayne, N.J.
A: They are better, but you are getting carried away. The linebacking corps remains an issue. A lot of time, they are using Deon Grant, a safety, in place of a linebacker and only using two linebackers in some formations. They are understaffed at linebacker. They are getting better play out of the defensive line, particularly Osi Umenyiora, who has seven forced fumbles. There are still issues in the secondary. The defense is better, but don't get too carried away. The Giants still have a long way to go.
John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
An unusually active trade market closed Tuesday. The Seahawks and Lions deserve high marks for their overall work, John Clayton writes in his latest mailbag.