This offseason has been one of the wildest in NFL history as two teams have put a lot on the line to get franchise quarterbacks. The Denver Broncos ponied up three players and five draft picks for Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and the Cleveland Browns traded six picks (including three first-rounders) to grab Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.
NFL teams have been making trades with the hope of snagging a franchise quarterback for decades. Sometimes it pans out, but oftentimes teams fail spectacularly. Here are the five worst quarterback trades in NFL history.
5. The Rams and Eagles Swap Sam Bradford and Nick Foles (2015)
The St. Louis Rams traded Bradford to the Philadelphia Eagles and a 2015 fifth-round pick in exchange for Foles, a 2015 fourth-round pick, and a 2016 second-round pick. Any time a team brings in a new starting quarterback, it aims to begin a new era, but this one only lasted one season. The Eagles went 7-9 and traded Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings, and Foles asked for and was granted a release when the Rams took Jared Goff with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft. Foles returned to Philadelphia where he came off the bench to win Super Bowl LII, and Bradford retired after the 2018 season.
4. Johnny Unitas Goes to San Diego for a Final Stand (1973)
The Baltimore Colts unceremoniously benched Unitas during the 1972 season. Following the slight, he was ready to cut ties with the franchise, and LA traded him to the San Diego Chargers for future considerations. Unfortunately, the 40-year-old quarterback was not the same player he used to be, and the Chargers replaced him with Dan Fouts after a 1-3 start. Unitas retired during the 1974 preseason.
3. Daunte Culpepper Helps Resurrect Alabama Football (2006)
When you look at the dominance of Alabama in college football over the last 15 years, much of it can be traced back to Daunte Culpepper. In Nick Saban’s first season with the Miami Dolphins in 2005, the team started 3-7 but rallied to win its final six games and narrowly missed the playoffs in his first season. Miami entered the 2006 season expected to contend for a playoff spot but needed a quarterback. Saban opted not to go for San Diego Charger quarterback Drew Brees and gambled a second-round pick on Culpepper, who had suffered a knee injury with the Minnesota Vikings. With his knee not fully healed, Culpepper struggled and was benched after a 1-3 start. The Dolphins finished 6-10, and Saban left for Alabama in the offseason, where he has won six national titles.
2. The 49ers Pony up for Jim Plunkett (1976)
The New England Patriots took Plunkett with the first pick in the 1971 NFL Draft. After four seasons, the Patriots had only won 24 games, and Plunkett had lost his starting job to rookie Steve Grogan. That did not stop the San Francisco 49ers from trading New England quarterback Tom Owen, two first-round picks in 1976, and a first- and second-round pick in 1977 for Plunkett. The gamble did not pay off. San Francisco won 13 games in two seasons, and he was released during the 1978 preseason. Plunkett signed with the other Bay Area team, the Oakland Raiders, whom he quarterbacked to two Lombardi Trophies.
1. The Packers Mortgage Their Future on John Hadl (1974)
Green Bay Packers head coach Dan Devine thought his team was an experienced quarterback away from a return to greatness, so he paid a hefty price for Hadl during the 1974 season. The 34-year-old veteran had led the Los Angeles Rams to the playoffs in 1973 and was named NFC Player of the Year, but was not worth Green Bay’s first- and second-round picks in 1975 and '76, and its third-rounder in '75. Hadl went 3-6 in 1974 and 4-10 in '75 as a starter before being traded to the Houston Oilers. It took Green Bay years to recover from the loss of draft power.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports' Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.