Last year, the biggest trade occurred in many respects by chance. A broken collarbone suffered by Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell gave Oakland the nudge it needed to acquire Carson Palmer from a place he swore he’d never play again.
This year, the NFL wisely moved the trade deadline from the Tuesday after Week Six to the Tuesday after Week Eight. The move reflects a recognition by the league that parity makes it impossible for most teams to know whether their best interests are served by dangling veterans who aren’t in the long-term plans for draft picks or other potential help in the future.
But here’s the problem. Two weeks won’t mean much when it comes to making the inherently delicate decision to fold the tents on the current season. And while the league surely would prefer that there be no tent folding at all, the reality is that, once a team is willing to accept its fate, it should have the ability to improve its prospects. Given the proliferation of parity in the NFL, Week Eight is too early to know with confidence that it’s over.
So move the deadline back, to the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Week 12. That’s enough time for a bad team to know whether it makes sense to make a deal.
Of course, the other side of this particular coin comes from the competitive advantage that a contender can acquire by mortgaging the future in the hopes of grabbing the silver trophy. But every team has the same opportunity to improve itself via trade. If they choose to, so be it. If they choose not to, so be it.
Either way, giving teams the ability to make arm’s-length transactions beyond an artificial deadline in October is good for the game. It drives interest and intrigue and it fosters hope, both for the team that in the present season doesn’t have it and for the team that is willing to go all in to win now.