From Herschel Walker to Russell Wilson, here's a look at some of the worst NFL trades ever

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In a span of just a few days in the 2022 offseason, the Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns made aggressive trades to acquire what they hoped would be franchise-altering quarterbacks.

The results so far have been underwhelming.

The Broncos are cutting ties already with Russell Wilson after investing heavy draft capital and $124 million for two years of mostly disappointing play, making the trade with Seattle and subsequent extension one of the worst deals in NFL history.

The Browns still have a shot to get more value out of their trade that sent three first-round picks and three lower picks to Houston for Deshaun Watson. Cleveland then gave Watson a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract only to get better play from his backups the past two seasons.

Here's a look at some of the worst trades in the NFL over the years:


The Cowboys launched their dynasty in the 1990s when Jimmy Johnson realized the high value of draft picks and turned Herschel Walker into a huge haul of them.

Johnson dealt his star running back to the Vikings in 1989 for five role players, and picks in the first, second and sixth rounds of the 1990 draft. But Johnson negotiated terms into the deal that gave Dallas two additional first-round picks, two second-round picks and a third-round pick if they got rid of the players the Cowboys acquired.

The trades helped Dallas acquire draft picks that led to Emmitt Smith, Darren Woodson, Russell Maryland and Kevin Smith, who contributed to three Super Bowl titles.

Walker did little to get the Vikings over the hump, losing in his only playoff game in three seasons in Minnesota.


The Broncos believed they finally found the successor to Peyton Manning when they dealt two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-rounder and three players to Seattle for Wilson and a fourth-rounder.

Denver believed so strongly in Wilson that the Broncos gave him a five-year, $245 million extension before he played a game for them even though he had two years left on his deal.

Denver is moving on from Wilson before that extension even started but with a high price attached. The Broncos will officially cut Wilson next week after the start of the new league year but will have to carry $85 million of dead money on the salary cap divided over the next two years as a reminder of the bad deal.


The 49ers of the late 1970s were a mess of a franchise and trading for an aging local star epitomized the problems of the pre-Bill Walsh years.

San Francisco dealt five draft picks to Buffalo in 1978 for hometown star O.J. Simpson, who was about to turn 31 and coming off knee surgery.

Simpson rushed for 1,053 yards in two injury-filled seasons for the Niners, while the Bills got two second-round picks, one third-round pick, one fourth-rounder and a first-round pick in 1979 that turned out to be the No. 1 overall selection when the Niners had the worst record in the league in 1978.


Atlanta invested a second-round pick in Brett Favre in the 1991 draft, but he barely got on the field as a rookie as he struggled.

That led the Falcons to cut ties quickly, trading him after the season to Green Bay for a first-round pick. Favre's arrival sparked a franchise revival under GM Ron Wolf and coach Mike Holmgren as the Packers made the playoffs his second season, won the Super Bowl his fifth season and made 11 playoff berths in his 16 seasons as starter.

Favre won three MVPs and ended up as one of the game's most prolific passers ever with 71,838 yards and 508 TDs.

The Falcons turned the pick into running back Tony Smith, who rushed for 329 yards in his career.


The 49ers knew they needed an upgrade at QB from Jimmy Garoppolo and aggressively pursued one in the 2021 draft.

They packaged the No. 12 overall pick, two future first-rounders and a third-rounder to move up to No. 3 where they took the inexperienced Trey Lance out of North Dakota State.

Lance couldn't win the starting job as a rookie, struggled in training camp the next season and then broke his leg in the second game in 2022.

San Francisco dealt him to Dallas last summer for a fourth-round pick after just four starts when he fell behind both 2022 seventh-round pick Brock Purdy and Sam Darnold on the depth chart.


Coach Mike Ditka traded his entire 1999 draft class, plus first and third-rounders the following year to move up seven spots to draft Ricky Williams fifth overall.

Williams lasted just three seasons with the Saints, while Washington got eight picks, including the No. 2 overall selection in 2000 used on LaVar Arrington.


This rare star-for-star trade was made in 2004, long before the value of running backs had been diminished in the NFL.

Washington dealt four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey to Denver for Clinton Portis, who was coming off back-to-back 1,500-yard rushing seasons. Washington even threw in an extra second-round pick to sweeten the pot.

Portis was a solid contributor in Washington with four more seasons with at least 1,000 yards rushing in his final seven years.

Bailey built a Hall of Fame career with the Broncos, earning first-team All-Pro honors his first three seasons in Denver and going down as one of the best cornerbacks of his generation.


Mirer hadn't shown much in four seasons in Seattle after being drafted second overall in 1993. But the Seahawks were able to turn him into a first-round pick from quarterback-starved Chicago in 1997.

The Bears dealt the No. 11 pick that Seattle used to move up to draft star cornerback Shawn Springs.

Mirer made three starts for the Bears, losing all of them and ending his tenure in Chicago with six interceptions and no touchdowns.