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Recent NFL Quarterback Trades - Should The Arizona Cardinals Join The List?

With the Arizona Cardinals in the trading market for a QB, let's take a look at some of the previous quarterbacks who were traded for high draft picks.

Yup - it's a quarterback article. As you're probably aware there has been a great deal of talk about the Cardinals trading for a quarterback if and when they're able to this offseason. Names like Kevin Kolb, Kyle Orton, and Carson Palmer have been on the tips of the tongues of most Cardinals fans and for good reason - they are all at least somewhat available (regardless of what John Elway and Mike Brown will tell you).

The first question asked about any of the QB trade options is about the price. Nobody is really too interested in getting robbed for a quarterback that might not be quite as good as we've convinced ourselves he is. Since I'm the history guy around here I thought it would be beneficial to take a look at some of the more recent draft pick for quarterback trades that have happened in the NFL and how they've worked out for both sides.

I'm going to look at only recent trades (yes I know Brett Favre was dealt in 1992) and trades of non-rookie quarterbacks (would you count the Eli Manning / Phillip Rivers swap?). I tried to keep it to only where first- or second-round picks were involved - sorry Mark Brunell and Steve McNair (both traded for third rounders only). 

Seahawks Trade For Charlie Whitehurst (March 17, 2010)

The Target:

The man affectionately known as Clipboard Jesus was a third-round pick by San Diego in 2006. In four seasons with the Chargers he appeared in only two games (both in 2006) and mainly served as the San Diego third stringer.

Apparently Whitehurst had shown enough in four seasons of preseason action since both the Cardinals and Seahawks were hot on his trail. Seattle won the right to trade for him. 

The Price:

2011 third-round pick, Seattle and San Diego swapped 2010 second-round picks (San Diego got the 40th pick while Seattle moved down to 60th).

The Payoff:

Chaz didn't really do a whole lot for Seattle. He couldn't pry the starting job from incumbent Matt Hasselbeck and appeared in just six games. He did start the division clinching win over St. Louis in Week 17 and was solidly above average. What a victory. S

San Diego traded the 40th pick to Miami and the pick wound up as Dolphins defensive end Koa Misi while Seattle took Golden Tate at 60. Considering Seattle is probably again in the market for a QB this year I doubt they are thrilled about what they have in Whitehurst.

Bears Trade For Jay Cutler (April 3, 2009)

The Target:

Considering the Bears had been through roughly 6,000 quarterbacks since Jim McMahon was doing his punky thing the team jumped on the opportunity to get a 25-year-old Pro Bowler with a career 87 QB rating when one suddenly came on the market. The reason Cutler became available was due to his differences in opinion with new Bronco head coach Josh McDaniels.

The Price

Kyle Orton, 2009 first-round pick, 2010 first-round pick, 2009 third-round pick. Chicago also received a fifth-round pick in the deal. 

The Payoff:

Cutler struggled in his first season with Chicago - leading the NFL in interceptions while the Bears went just 7-9. In order to improve the offense the team hired Mike Martz as offensive coordinator and he helped Cutler improve a bit (23/16 TD/INT ratio) or at least not be a total disaster.

With Cutler not throwing interceptions every third play the Bears were able to get to last year's NFC Championship Game where they fell to the Packers. As you probably remember Cutler famously came out that game with a knee injury.

Orton has been effectively a wash with Cutler statistically but Denver hasn't won a damn thing. The traded draft picks turned into Robert Ayers (2009 1st), Anthony Davis (2010 1st - dealt to San Francisco), and Mike Wallace (2009 3rd - dealt to Pittsburgh) while Chicago's 5th rounder ended up being productive receiver Johnny Knox.

Cutler's definitely going to have to produce better than he has in his first two seasons to make the high price tag that was on him worth it.

Chiefs Trade For Matt Cassel (March 1, 2009)

The Target:

Tom Brady's lost season was Matt Cassel's gain as the future Hall of Famer going down to a knee injury gave Matt Leinart's backup a chance to shine. In the first extended playing time of his career, Cassel was 10-5 as a starter and threw up a QB rating of nearly 90.

New England had thrown the franchise tag on Cassel after his solid season but had no intention in hanging onto him with Brady returning to health. That's when the Chiefs decided to make a move for him. 

The Price:

2009 second-round pick

The Payoff:

Cassel struggled badly in his first season completing only 55% of his passes and posting a QB rating of 69.9 in a 4-12 season for the Chiefs. Year 2 was a different story though as Cassel stepped his game up statistically with a 27/7 TD/INT ratio and a 93 QB rating while leading the Chiefs to a division title. He also got himself to his first career Pro Bowl. 

The traded draft pick wound up as safety Patrick Chung who's had a decent couple seasons for New England. If Cassel can continue to play low risk, smart decision making football like he did in 2010 I doubt anyone in KC will lose sleep over this deal. 

Texans Trade For Matt Schaub (March 22, 2007)

The Target:

In three seasons in Atlanta as Michael Vick's backup, Matt Schaub had only started two games but had shown enough skill to be well-regarded a future NFL starter. During that limited playing time Schaub attempted 161 passes and threw 6 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.

Atlanta grabbed Schaub as a third-round pick in 2004. This is probably the most Kolb-like former acquisition. 

The Price:

2007 2nd round pick, 2008 2nd round pick, and Atlanta and Houston swapped 2007 1st round picks (Atlanta received the 8th pick while Houston moved back to 10th)

The Payoff:

In his first two seasons Schaub had a bit of trouble staying on the field - starting just 22 of 32 games but in the past two years he's started all 32 contests. Early injuries notwithstanding he's been a very effective quarterback for the Texans. In his four seasons he's thrown 77 touchdowns to just 46 interceptions and has twice eclipsed the 4,000-yard barrier.

His 2009 season was enough to send him to the Pro Bowl. The primary failing for Schaub is he's yet to get Houston to the playoffs but it's tough to put that fully on him as the Texans offense has been excellent.

The swapped first-round picks gave Atlanta defensive end Jamaal Anderson while the Texans wound up with Amobi Okoye - neither has set the world on fire. As for the second round picks, the Falcons wound up with guard Justin Blalock (62 starts in four seasons) and traded the 2008 second rounder which wound up as tight end Fred Davis who's had a relatively quiet three years. 

Houston would do this trade over again eight times a week. 

Bills Trade For Drew Bledsoe (April 22, 2002):  

The Target:

Unlike a lot of the other guys on this list, Bledsoe had accomplished a TON as an NFL quarterback. In nine seasons with New England since being the No. 1 pick in the 1993 draft, Bledsoe had thrown for nearly 30,000 yards, 138 touchdowns and made three Pro Bowls. He also led the Patriots to the 1996 AFC Title.

So why was he expendable? He went and got himself injured and Tom Brady started writing a story book.  After Brady led New England to a Super Bowl win everyone knew Bledsoe's time with the Pats was at an end. 

The Price:

2003 first-round pick

The Payoff:

Bledsoe played three seasons in Buffalo and was pretty solid. He made the Pro Bowl in his first season but Buffalo went 8-8 and failed to make the playoffs. Individually that first season was pretty much the peak as his stats took a hit in both 2003 and 2004 and from a team perspective they never made the playoffs.

New England ended up dealing the 2003 first rounder - No. 14 overall to Chicago who drafted defensive end Michael Haynes. Troy Polamalu was selected two picks later if you're into that sort of thing.

Chiefs Trade For Trent Green (April 20, 2001):

The Target:

Trent Green was probably supposed to be Kurt Warner. OK maybe that's a bit much, but Green was the Rams starter going into the 1999 season before he blew out his knee in the preseason. According to legend, Warner led the Rams to the Super Bowl while Green rehabbed.

In 2000, Green used an injury to Warner to show he had some serious skill himself as he threw 16 touchdowns to just five interceptions in five starts.

The Price:

2001 first-round pick. (St. Louis received a fifth-round pick from the Chiefs as well)

The Payoff:

Green led the NFL in interceptions in his first season with the Chiefs but got it going in the years that followed. He was a Pro Bowl selection in 2003 and 2005 and for his Kansas City career had an 87.3 QB rating (118 TD, 85 INT). 

He led the Chiefs to the playoffs twice but although the team had a bye in 2003 they never won a playoff game with Green at the helm.   

The first round pick wound up as defensive tackle Damione Lewis who has had a serviceable NFL career. Nine future Pro Bowlers were selected after Lewis in the second round, including guard Steve Hutchinson and WR Reggie Wayne. The 5th round pick KC acquired wound up as career reserve running back Derrick Blaylock.

Seahawks Trade For Matt Hasselbeck (March 3, 2001):

The Target:

The Packers selected Matt Hasselbeck in the sixth round of the 1998 draft and set him behind Brett Favre. As I'm sure you're aware he really didn't get to play much in the regular season but apparently showed enough to become a hot trade commodity in the spring of 2001.

Basically the same story as his future backup Charlie Whitehurst except he was a backup instead of a third stringer.

The Price:

2001 thirrd-round pick, Seattle and Green Bay swapped 2001 first-round picks (Green Bay moved up to 10th while Seattle moved back to 17th).

The Payoff:

It's been a great trade for the Seahawks. After a couple average seasons where Mike Holmgren jerked him around a bit, Hasselbeck found his stride in 2003. From 2003-2007, Hasselbeck made 3 Pro Bowls and took the Seahawks to the playoffs five times - including the 2005 NFC Title.

Hasselbeck was the starter in 2010 as the Seahawks reclaimed the NFC West crown. Overall he's well over .500 as a starter and has thrown 174 touchdowns to just 87 interceptions as the Seattle signal caller.  

Green Bay used the 10th pick in 2001 on defensive end Jamal Reynolds who enjoyed a short NFL career.  The third-round pick was used on linebacker Torrance Marshall, another short time NFL player. Seattle actually used Green Bay's No. 17 pick on Steve Hutchinson who has become a perennial Pro Bowler (though he's since left for Minnesota) and helped make Shaun Alexander an MVP.

Seattle would do this trade again and again.   

Bills Trade For Rob Johnson (February 14, 1998):

The Target:

Jacksonville used a fourth-round pick on USC's Rob Johnson in 1995 in order to get a solid backup for Mark Brunell. Johnson didn't play a ton in his first two seasons but in the first week of 1997 he got his shot.

In that one start Johnson was 20 of 24 for 294 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing for a touchdown. In short he was incredibly good and that put the guy's value through the roof. Johnson had all the measurable.

The Price:

1998 first-round pick, 1998 fourth-round pick

The Payoff:

Johnson was in and out of the lineup in his first year with the Bills due to injury and was passed up due to the Doug Flutie phenomenon. Flutie started through most of 1998 and 1999 before Phillips named Johnson the starter for Buffalo's 1999 playoff game. The game was the Music City Miracle and Johnson sucked in it.

He started a few more times in 2000 and 2001 but never came near the hype that surrounded his arrival. Many attribute it to the fact that the guy didn't really ever seem to give a damn. 

Jacksonville ended up using the first-round pick (No. 9 overall) on Fred Taylor - who would go on to become their leading rusher in franchise history. If a team was looking for someone else they could have picked future Pro Bowlers like Keith Brooking, Takeo Spikes, and Randy Moss. The fourth-round pick wound up as something called Tavian Banks a running back who was in the league for like two seconds before his entire knee exploded. 

What Does It All Mean?

For the most part these types of deals have seemed to work for the team acquiring a quarterback. As anyone knows, if you don't have a good quarterback you're probably not going to win many games. You can address all the defensive positions you want but it's all going to be pointless without a decent QB.

The trade market certainly seems to be less of a crapshoot than the draft. Does that mean the Cardinals are going to get the next Matt Schaub in Kevin Kolb? Who knows. Does it mean they should use the fifth pick to get him? Well, that's a subject for another article but no. No they shouldn't.