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Tim Benz: NFL should push back its nonsensical trade deadline date

November 15, 2018

The NFL is full of random, arbitrary dates.

For instance, the byes start in Week 4. Teams can begin pulling players off injured reserve after eight weeks. And you need to report to your team with at least six weeks to go to accrue a season.

Yet, the NFL trade deadline occurs when some teams have played only seven games, with nine to go.

That’s too soon.

By comparison, look at MLB, the NHL and the NBA. Those sports post their trade deadlines approximately two-thirds of the way through the season. Or, in the case of MLB, with only 25-30 games remaining out of 162, if you count the waiver deadline date of Aug. 31.

The NFL should adopt a similar approach. I’d advocate moving the mark until six weeks remain in the season. That way, it is streamlined for the next team that has to go through a Le’Veon Bell-type of situation.

The Steelers and other teams with early bye weekends won’t even be halfway through their schedules before they have to figure out they need to make trades to gird their clubs for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs.

It’s counterintuitive and counterproductive for the NFL to have such an early deadline, for many reasons.

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INJURIES

More so than the other three major sports, injuries are a factor in the NFL. There are more players suffering more significant injuries on a larger roster in this sport. Plus, the NFL’s injured reserve rules are far more punitive than the others’.

A later trade deadline will give NFL general managers a longer leash to decide if a top-caliber player is going to be able to come back healthy before figuring out if a trade is necessary to replace that player.

Such a change would also help potential playoff teams who suffer a sudden injury after the current deadline date.

Just look at the Steelers. They lost Bell a week after the deadline in 2015. Luckily, they had DeAngelo Williams that year. But what if they hadn’t? Or what if he had gotten hurt the next week? Maybe a struggling team in need of draft picks could’ve shipped a running back to Pittsburgh, which had eyes on the Super Bowl that year.

In that type of scenario, a playoff-worthy team isn’t dented as badly. And a bad team may be on a path to getting better more quickly the next offseason.

Everybody wins.

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THE SCHEDULE AND PARITY

How many NFL teams are really out of it to the point that they are sellers before Halloween in the NFL?

This year, the Bills may be. Oakland and the Giants, yes. The Cardinals and the 49ers could be. But they haven’t acted like it yet. Even teams such as the Colts and Browns don’t seem poised to sell.

Even the bad teams aren’t ready to wave the white flag eight contests into a 16-game campaign. There is always a feeling in the NFL that you are never out of it until you are mathematically eliminated.

Sometimes reality sets in for struggling teams close to Thanksgiving, but not before we trick-or-treat.

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DRAFT PICK CURRENCY

There are no such things as minor league prospects in the NFL. There are in hockey and baseball. NBA teams can always sell rookies on entry-level deals at the deadline, too.

The NFL doesn’t have that. Its high-prospect rookies often start in Year 1.

Football teams have draft picks as currency, and they are golden. Much like losing teams may need a few more weeks before they know they are out of it, winning teams may need a few more weeks before they are convinced they are truly in it for a Super Bowl title.

Only then will they start giving away valuable building blocks of the future.

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TIMING

As we pointed out, there are other dates on the NFL calendar that complicate trade strategy. Asking teams to beat the buzzer on a trade while they are doing guesswork as to whether a player should be recalled from injured reserve is complicated.

And for the next club that finds itself in a Bell-esque situation, why not give it a longer period of time to keep its trade options open while a player is messing around with them in a franchise-tag or hold-out situation?

We contacted the NFL for a defense of why the trade deadline exists at the time that it does. We didn’t get a response. I’d love to know why they think it is essential to keep it this early.

One league executive I communicated with said they didn’t know why, and basically, it’s just always has been that way.

That’s not a smart enough reason for me. Push the trade deadline back, NFL. It’s best for everyone involved.

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