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Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.

March 8, 2010 at 1:15 PM

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Free-agent trades in the NFL: A history lesson

Posted by Danny O'Neil

This is the start of a research process, not the end of it. With Seattle's interest in Brandon Marshall, I thought it's worth exploring previous examples of trades involving restricted free agents, a category that technically would include players affixed with the non-exclusive franchise tag.

It's worth noting that in 1998 and 2000 there were two instances in which a player with the franchise tag was traded for multiple first-round picks. It hasn't happened since, showing a change in the market. Teams haven't been willing to give up multiple first-round picks for the right to pay anothe teams player a big fat contract.

Now, as stated earlier, this is the start of the research project, not the end of it. I will continue compiling examples, but wanted to give you a chance to get involved, too. If you can think of examples of a restricted free agent traded, please submit it in the comments section, and if this sounds a little bit like Tom Sawyer talking about how fun it is to paint the fence in hopes of recruiting help, well, there's probably parallel.

This is for players who are restricted free agents, players who've either been tendered a qualifying offer or slapped with the franchise tag entitling their former team to compensation should they sign elsewhere. In that regard, receivers like Deion Branch and Anquan Boldin -- acquired with a trade for draft picks -- are not included because they were under contract at the time of the deal.

April 19, 1997: Quarterback Heath Shuler voided the final five years of his contract, but Washington extended a qualifying offer that put the team in line to receive a first-round and a third-round pick to the team that signed him. Washington wound up settling for a fifth-round choice in 1997 and a third-round choice in 1998 from New Orleans, which acquired Shuler.
   -- Thanks to Mike Sando of, who submitted this example.
April 21, 1998: Defensive tackle Sean Gilbert, Washington's franchise player, was traded to Carolina for Panthers' first-round pick in 1999 (No. 5 overall) and a first-round choice in 2000 that turned out to be No. 12.
Feb. 12, 2000: Wide receiver Joey Galloway, tagged as a franchise player for the second consecutive year, was traded from Seattle to Dallas for Cowboys' first-round pick (No. 19 overall) in 2000 and a first-round choice in 2001.
April 6, 2005: The Chiefs traded a fifth-round pick for DE Carlos Hall, who was a restricted free agent and certainly not a franchise-tagged player. Hall played only one season with Kansas City.
   -- Thanks to Mike Sando of, who submitted the example.
March 21, 2006: The Atlanta Falcons acquired Jonathan Abraham, the New York Jets' franchise player, giving the Jets the No. 29 overall pick in the 2006 draft.
March 11, 2006: Washington traded its third-round pick in 2006 and fourth-round pick in 2007 to San Francisco in exchange for Lloyd, a restricted free agent, who then received a $10 million signing bonus from Washington. He was cut two years later.
   -- Thanks to Mike Sando of for submitting the example
March 5, 2007: The New England Patriots traded their second-round pick (No. 60 overall) and a seventh-round pick to the Dolphins for receiver Wes Walker, a restricted free agent originally chosen in the second round.
  -- Thanks to reader Tom Page who submitted the example
March 17, 2008: Center Chris Myers was acquired by Houston for a sixth-round pick, the same round the Broncos originally selected him in back in 2005.
   -- Thanks to Mike Sando of, who cited the example
April 22, 2008: The Vikings acquired defensive end Jared Allen from Kansas City, trading the Chiefs a first-round choice (No. 17 overall) and two third-round choices (No. 73 and No. 82) in exchange for Allen, who was designated franchise player.
Feb. 28, 2009: New England traded quarterback Matt Cassel, who had received the franchise tag, and linebacker Mike Vrabel for the Chiefs' second-round pick, No. 34 overall.
 April 17, 2009: Offensive tackle Jason Peters traded from Buffalo to Philadelphia in exchange for the Eagles' first-round pick (No. 28 overall) and fourth-round pick (No. 121) in 2009 and a sixth-round choice in 2010.


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