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Why our blockbuster NFL trade proposals aren't so crazy

Jason Licht didn't get hired to work in six NFL personnel departments by being unprepared.

Earlier this week, in advance of an interview for this year's version of ESPN.com's NFL trade-deadline package, he reviewed the nine non-draft-day trades he's made as the general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the past two years. That's tied for the league's second-highest total in that span, four behind the team that shaped his go-for-it philosophy, the New England Patriots.

Back in April, Licht made the biggest decision of his life, selecting Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston with the first pick of the draft. On Wednesday, the 44-year-old sheepishly reported that he might have been involved in another, less prominent, first.

"I traded Tim Wright twice -- in a year," Licht said, sounding slightly amused. "I'm not sure that's ever happened."

Indeed, Licht dealt the tight end twice in 371 days, first to the Patriots for a fourth-round pick and guard Logan Mankins, then, after picking him up again, to the Detroit Lions for place-kicker Kyle Brindza. According to ESPN Stats & Information, it's the only time in the past decade the same player was traded twice by the same team in the rough span of a year.

These days, it seems the once neo-conservative NFL is more willing to make deals. The right-hand thinking of, say, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz is giving way to a more moderate, aggressive approach.

"GMs are getting younger, and so are head coaches," Licht said. "They want to mold their teams young, as well. That might be the reason there's somewhat of an appetite to move older players.

"We all strive to have young teams. Young is good for a long time, and young is, frankly, less expensive. Having money in the bank also allows you to go get a veteran you think can help you down the road."

That is the difficult tune to which NFL teams dance -- balancing players young and old, cheap and expensive.

Last March, when the new league season began, there was a flurry of activity as teams scrambled to organize their rosters, dump swollen salaries and get under the salary cap.

New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso, Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall, Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata all changed teams -- often in exchange for those (young) draft choices.

Some startling names, to be sure. Teams are willing to take big spring swings because those veterans have time to assimilate new systems before heading into the season. As the league's Tuesday afternoon trading deadline approaches, a handful of mostly more modest names have been thrown out as candidates, including Chicago running back Matt Forte, San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis, Atlanta wide receiver Roddy White, St. Louis tight end Jared Cook and Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III.

"Good teams make trades," said Charley Casserly, general manager of the Washington Redskins and Houston Texans for 18 years combined and now an NFL Network analyst. "Good teams are aggressive. If you're aggressive, open and flexible, you're going to be a better team. If you're always trying to get better, you will get better.

"Bill Belichick has always been that way. Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore has done it consistently. Seattle, it's well documented. Identify players that can work in your system, go out and get them, teach them. That's a winning combination."

We agree and would like to see teams go bigger and exhibit some serious in-season moxie. Certainly, the way things have played out, even with five undefeated teams there are more than a dozen franchises that think they can make the playoffs. ESPN.com ran down more than two dozen personnel experts from in and around the NFL and chatted on -- and off -- the record about the possibilities.

In what will be characterized as a shameless page-view grab (feel free to leave a comment below), we've crafted some eye-catching but semiplausible deals -- that actually make a certain degree of sense:

Proposed trade No. 1: Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson to the Patriots

Proposed trade No. 2: Texans defensive end J.J. Watt to the Packers

Proposed trade No. 3: Saints quarterback Drew Brees to the Jets

Proposed trade No. 4: Browns tackle Joe Thomas to the Giants

Proposed trade No. 5: Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler to the Redskins

Now, we can hear you laughing. Some of our sources did the same thing. But we're quite serious. A year ago we proposed trades of McCoy and Ndamukong Suh -- and, lo and behold -- in 2015 they were playing for different teams. Most folks, probably McCoy included, didn't see that coming.

The Tom Brady deal to the Texans and former offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien for Andre Johnson and a first-round pick?

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.