During the past month, NFL general managers have been trading players and/or draft choices at a pace unmatched in recent memory. The deals have included former No. 1 draft picks and long snappers -- yes, plural. All but three of the 26 draft choices that exchanged hands were fifth-, sixth- or seventh-round picks.
What's going on here? Has the NFL embarked on a new era of next-level wheeling and dealing? Or are we overreacting to what history will judge as a bunch of relatively inconsequential moves?
A quick spin through a few NFL sources Sunday suggested a consensus more toward the latter. To be sure, there have been no NFL rule changes or policy tweaks that make trades more attractive. While the frequency was without recent precedent, the deals themselves might prove to be simply a different process -- more aggressive but at a greater cost -- to either address roster holes or give a once-promising player a second chance. It's also worth noting the heavy participation of recently hired general managers, who are either applying a new style or remaking their rosters in a hurry, or both.
Let's take a closer look at the numbers. As the ESPN Stats & Information chart shows, NFL teams have made 30 trades since Aug. 1 through late Sunday afternoon. That's already more trades than we saw between Aug. 1 and the first game of the regular season in each of the previous nine years. The average during that period was 13.3 trades.
A healthy portion of this year's action has been generated by new general managers for the Buffalo Bills (Brandon Beane), Indianapolis Colts (Chris Ballard) and San Francisco 49ers (John Lynch). Beane has been especially aggressive, dumping receiver Sammy Watkins, linebacker Reggie Ragland and quarterback Cardale Jones -- all draft picks of predecessor Doug Whaley -- for pennies on the dollar.
But the activity has not been limited only to newcomers. Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider has been involved in seven deals, by my count, including the blockbuster of the summer: receiver Jermaine Kearse and two draft picks to the New York Jets for defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and one draft pick. In total, the Seahawks have acquired four players and four draft picks in exchange for one player and four draft picks.
Similarly, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick -- the dean of all NFL decision-makers -- has made five deals.
Of course, teams have always tried to trade players before releasing or waiving them. So the biggest question to ask here is this: Why are teams giving up draft choices, albeit low-round picks in most cases, for players they could probably have acquired on the open market if they were patient?
In some cases, a general manager might feel that the available player is either better or better in his system than the profile of a player he might draft if he holds on to the pick. He might also consider the pick a small price to avoid a bidding war or even a free-agent courtship should he wait for an eventual release.
But let's be clear. These trades, as much fun as they are, have far from shaken the NFL landscape. You can't look at a group of moves that includes one second-round pick, two in the fourth and then 23 in the fifth round and later and consider them paradigm-shifting. Let's check back at the end of the season, when we can see the sum of contributions from the players involved, before getting too excited.