The 15 Worst Quarterback Trades in NFL History (2023)

Since the quarterback is the most important position on an NFL football field, it's no surprise that some of the most absurd deals in league history revolve around him. Every team covets a franchise player at the position and they will do anything to ensure they have one. The only problem is that sometimes they are misjudged and fail to see that the quarterback in question is worse than they thought, or fail to see his future potential before handing him over.

These are the types of deals that make or break NFL franchises. It's been going on forever, and while some trades have worked well for quarterbacks over the years, many others have failed. In some cases, we've seen hall of famers abandoned for next to nothing, and cartoon busts traded for a king's ransom. Let's take a look at some of these ridiculous quarterback deals that went down and how one of the teams involved made a huge mistake. In some cases, it burned them down for years to come.

Below are the 15 worst quarterback trades in NFL history.



15 15. Carson Palmer For a 1st and 2nd place

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It wouldn't be fair to say that Palmer excelled during his time in Oakland, but he has played well for the Bengals in the past. The trade that Cincinnati agreed to send the Raiders was a rushed deal, and they were never able to improve their performance, regardless of which quarterback they gave a chance.

Granted, the Oakland trade got picks that turned into two prolific players (Giovanni Bernard and Dre Kirkpatrick), but Palmer clearly had some gas in his tank, evidenced by his resurgence in Arizona immediately after leaving the Raiders. Since that trade, the Bengals have never won a playoff game, but Palmer has, so it's hard to say they came out on top here.

14 14. John Elway Trade on Draft Day

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Elway agonized away from Baltimore (it would be Indianapolis the following year) and insisted that under no circumstances did he want to play for the Colts. His ace up his sleeve was that he could easily play professional baseball and not play in the NFL. Colts management finally relented and traded Elway after taking him first overall in exchange for Chris Hinton, Mark Herrmann and a 1984 first-round pick.

It was a decision that continued to sink the Colts until they could land Peyton Manning, but it's easy to see why they would have gotten it then. Still, Elway was and still is one of the greatest quarterback prospects of all time, so it's a deal that still stands today, though it's understandable why they didn't want to call his bluff at the time.

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13 13. Bucs dá a Steve Young os 49ers

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The Buccaneers were optimistic about Vinny Testaverde being chosen by the team as the overall winner in 1987, and while it seemed like a good idea at the time, that decision would soon be regretted. Although Tampa Bay only gave up 2nd and 4th place, it turned out that Testaverde was never the elite player that many thought he was. He had a long career, but much of it was spent as a journeyman quarterback outside of Tampa.

Meanwhile, Young was able to lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl and was consistently one of the best quarterbacks of the '90s. His production with the Bucs wasn't great in the early years of his career, but in hindsight, this is one that Tampa would love. have back and not close.

12 12. Brad Johnson For a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place

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In just one of several terrible quarterback deals for Washington, Johnson was drafted as a franchise player in 1999 and was anything but. Signing him was a tremendous expense, and that first-round pick brought Daunte Culpepper to the Vikings, who had a run (albeit a relatively short one) as one of the best quarterbacks in the game. Meanwhile, Johnson's output never eclipsed an intermediate level.

Ultimately, the Redskins let Johnson go a few years later, only to see him win a Super Bowl with the Buccaneers (despite being carried around by a great defense). Unfortunately for Washington, it wasn't even the worst quarterback trade in team history. The Vikings easily won this game and had a good comeback for an average player.

11 11. Roman Gabriel for two players and two 1

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There was a time when Gabriel was one of the top quarterback names in the entire league. A former AFL No. 1 (although he chose to play for the NFL's Rams), he was a superstar of his day and had some very happy years in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s. glory for Gabriel giving up several first-round players and several players, plus a third-round player in 1975.

While Gabriel had a solid season for Philly in 1973, his aging quickly fell off the map, leaving the Eagles without an infallible starting quarterback. However, they gave up several draft picks that they could have gotten one. It was just a bust of a trade from every angle, though Philly bounced back to make a Super Bowl in 1980 with Ron Jaworski in the middle.

10 10. Drew Bledsoe for the first time

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He is best known today as a Patriots quarterback who preceded Tom Brady, but in his prime, Bledsoe was generally viewed as a top-tier NFL player. He had a few good seasons in New England, although he could be fickle, and when that trade happened most people assumed that Buffalo was signing a good quarterback who could turn their fortunes around.

However, after a solid 2002 season, Bledsoe appeared to be finished as an NFL starter. Although the Bills didn't sell the farm, just giving up a lonely first round, he was still a pick that could have been used to select a better quarterback. They never made a playoff game with Bledsoe at center, and the experiment was immediately scrapped in 2004. Soon after, Bledsoe would be dropped from the league altogether.

9 9. Joe Theismann For 1st place

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It's hard to feel too bad for the Dolphins in this case, considering they would acquire the likes of Dan Marino only a relatively short time later, but it was still a bad trade in a vacuum. When he started playing for the Redskins, Theismann was one of the best quarterbacks in the league and had several seasons where his performance eclipsed most quarterbacks in the 70s and 80s.

During his time in Washington, he played in several Super Bowls and has established himself as one of the most iconic players in franchise history. Meanwhile, Miami wouldn't make a splash in the playoffs until they faced Marino. This trade was an easy win for the Redskins that would go a long way towards future success.

8 8. Exchange of Redskins for RGIII

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The precedent that warned modern NFL teams against selling the farm to a quarterback, Washington's decision to give up three first-round picks to Griffin was the biggest league news at the time. Griffin was undoubtedly a star at Baylor, but he always had doubts about durability. And that's before you even consider the musical chairs the Redskins wanted to play with their coaching staff.

Long story short, Griffin stuttered after a good rookie season and the Rams brought several prolific players into the net in exchange for him. Fortunately for the Redskins, the trade wasn't entirely debilitating, though it did set them back a few years despite being able to develop Kirk Cousins.

7 7. Joe Montana for 1st place

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It wasn't exactly a secret that Montana was on cloud nine when he went to the Chiefs, but Kansas City still chose to pull the trigger on him. It probably wasn't the best decision, and while the former Super Bowl quarterback didn't feel embarrassed, he was clearly not the player he was a few years earlier.

The impact of this trade on the Chiefs was not devastating, but also unnecessary. They would have done better just thinking about it and then selecting a quarterback from one of the next two drafts rather than choosing a flyer with a name that would end up being just a feel-good play. After his second season in Kansas City, Montana was retired and the team never eclipsed a 9-win season.

6 6. Chris Chandler for 2nd overall win

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In another terrible decision by the Tampa Bay front office, they decided to forgo a second overall pick in exchange for Chandler, who was a mediocre starter for the Colts early in his career. Needless to say, this made no sense, and he predictably fizzled out with the Bucs after only a season and a half with the team, neither of which produced anything resembling a good NFL quarterback.

Of course, Chandler would later enjoy success with the Falcons, which was a key ingredient in his 1998 Super Bowl run. But that was years later, and the Bucs certainly had no idea that kind of feat was on the horizon for him. . Otherwise they would have kept it for now. It was simply an ill-advised trade by Tampa, who were at this point in the early 1990s throwing darts to find a quarterback.

5 5. Rob Johnson for the first time

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And these deals are becoming more and more inexplicable. You have reason to have no idea who Johnson is, as evidenced by his career statistics. A former Jaguars fourth-round pick, he was wanted by the Bills for some reason, despite making just one start in three seasons with the team. Despite this, Buffalo acquired him for a first-round selection of the 1998 season.

Of course, Johnson sucked, never starting more than 11 games in a season for the Bills in his four years with the team. They would have fared better with Doug Flutie, who proved his worth in 1999 when he led them to a playoff appearance. Instead, Johnson was kept in the starting lineup and continued to play terribly. That first-round pick Jacksonville got? Became All-Pro running back Fred Taylor.

4 4. Chargers trade for Ryan Leaf

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The Chargers dropped the ball by giving up a 1st, 2nd and 3rd round pick along with pro Eric Metcalf to move up to acquire the Leaf in the 1998 draft. and Leaf turned out to be the sucker. He wasn't a good player and he also had serious personal problems that didn't give him a chance to develop.

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Leaf was eliminated from the league in a short amount of time and is widely regarded as one of the greatest quarterback eliminations of all time. It's easy to see why the Chargers wanted a quarterback, but the trade really was the worst they could have done. They bounced back soon after with Drew Brees and Philip Rivers, but struggled for a few years with Leaf's move.

3 3. Rick Mirer for 1st place

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A Notre Dame product ranked second overall by Seattle, the Mirer trade is considered one of the worst quarterback acquisitions of the '90s. it won't work. Mirer was a big name for his college performance, but when he joined the Seahawks, it was clear he was a mediocre starter in the NFL.

Still, the bears were ready to pull the trigger. All you really need to know is that Mirer appeared in seven games for them in 1997 and threw zero total touchdown passes, along with seven interceptions. That's what he produced in exchange for a first-round pick. Simply unbelievable.

2 2. Jeff George for two first places and a third place

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George was a former Colts overall champion in 1990, and a few years later, his name still carried a bit of clout. After all, he had shown blitzes in Indianapolis and the consensus was that he was just in a bad cast, meaning he could be more consistent with an improved supporting cast. This led to the Falcons offering him two first-round picks and a third-round pick in 1994.

While some of that turned out to be true, and George posted some solid numbers with the Falcons in 1995 and 1996, in 1997 he was dropped from the roster. It was a short span for such an effort, and George never got along with the coaching staff during his time at Atlanta, which produced just one successful season. To add insult to injury, one of the picks for the Colts turned out to be Marvin Harrison.

1 1. Brett Favre For 1st place

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Packers coach Mike Holmgren, who threw a total of four passes for Atlanta in 1991, decided to trade him the following year. It turned out to be the catalyst that would re-establish Green Bay as one of the league's top threats. Favre proved his dominance almost immediately when he landed the starter job in 1992 and hasn't let up for nearly 20 years.

Without a doubt, the Falcons were sitting on a gold mine with the former second-round pick. Unfortunately, they just didn't know. Favre emerged as one of the best quarterbacks of his era, and the player the Falcons acquired for him was never worth anything. In many cases Atlanta would have been correct if they had given up a 2nd round quarterback for a 1st round pick. Little did they know they had a future Hall of Famer on their hands.

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