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NFL trade deadline 2021: 5 winners and losers

Vincent Frank

The 2021 NFL trade deadline came and passed Tuesday afternoon with a few notable moves. However, the big names such as Deshaun Watson and Odell Beckham Jr. remained with their current teams. Is either player a winner or loser after maintaining the status quo?

Meanwhile, the championship-contending Los Angeles Rams added another star player in that of future Hall of Fame pass rusher Von Miller. That has to be seen as a win, right? Below, we look at the five biggest winners and losers from the 2021 NFL trade deadline.

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Winner: Los Angeles Rams go all in with Von Miller

nfl trade deadline winners/losers: los angeles rams acquire von miller
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

General manager Les Snead and Co. have gone away from conventional wisdom that says draft stock is somehow more valuable than proven talent. How else can we explain that this team has not made a first-round pick since selecting Jared Goff No. 1 overall in 2016? In fact, Los Angeles will have gone eight years without a Day 1 selection once the latter of the compensation it sent to the Lions for Matthew Stafford takes hold in 2023.

We can question whether this is a successful strategy. But it sure beats sitting back and allowing other teams to seize their championship windows. In adding Miller to the mix ahead of the NFL trade deadline, Los Angeles will now pair the future Hall of Famer with four-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald. Given Los Angeles’ dominant offense with Stafford under center, this team now has to be seen as the odds-on Super Bowl favorite. As John Keating once said, “Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys.”

Related: Power rankings following NFL trade deadline

Loser: Cleveland Browns drama

nfl trade deadline winners/losers: odell beckham jr, cleveland browns
Jeff Lange/Akron Beacon Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The entire Odell Beckham Jr. situation took a turn mere hours before Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline. His father took to social media to blast quarterback Baker Mayfield for not getting his son the ball two days after OBJ caught just one pass for six yards on one target against the Pittsburgh Steelers. For Beckham Jr. and the Browns, this is the latest example of their marriage being on thin ice.

Since being acquired in a blockbuster trade from the New York Giants ahead of the 2019 season, things have taken a turn for the three-time Pro Bowler. Thus far this season, Beckham has been among the biggest disappointments in the NFL. He’s caught just 17 passes for 232 yards in six games. Meanwhile, the Browns sit at a pedestrian 4-4 after starting the season with legit Super Bowl expectations. How fun.

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Winner: Arizona Cardinals add to stockpile of weapons

nfl trade deadline winners/losers: arizona cardinals
Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Once Arizona lost starting tight end Maxx Williams for the season, general manager Steve Keim did not waste any time finding a replacement. It’s this head-first mentality that has helped turn Arizona into a legit title contender after two down seasons to open the Kliff Kingsbury era in the desert.

Of course, we’re talking about Arizona trading for three-time Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz. In his first two games as a member of the Cardinals, Ertz caught a combined 7-of-9 targets for 108 yards and a touchdown. He adds to a special skill-position group that already includes wide receivers DeAnde Hopkins, A.J. Green and Rondale Moore.

Winner: Denver Broncos initiate rebuild

It is possible for two teams to come out of a trade as winners. Sure today’s instant gratification society doesn’t want to admit that. But Denver did well by acquiring a second and third-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft for the aforementioned Miller. He was slated to leave in free agency next March and doesn’t fit into the team’s long-term rebuild.

At 4-4 on the season, Denver knows its not a top-end playoff contender. First-year general manager George Paton also needs an opportunity to build this team in his mold. Acquiring two valuable picks next year not only does that, it provides the Broncos with flexibility if they want to expedite said rebuild by acquiring a potential franchise quarterback. This NFL trade deadline deal was a win-win for both Denver and Los Angeles.

Loser: Deshaun Watson won’t play in 2021

nfl winners and losers: deshaun watson
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Leading up to the deadline, rumors persisted that Watson could very well be headed to the Miami Dolphins. In fact, something seemed close after the three-time Pro Bowler waived his no-trade clause to head to South Beach. As you likely already know, nothing came to fruition on this end.

The primary reason? Watson refuses to settle the 22 civil cases against him stemming from sexual misconduct allegations. In particular, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was not about to pull the trigger until that off-field situation was settled.

Outside of his legal issues, this now means Watson will miss an entire NFL season while he’s in the prime of his career. Even if things are settled from a legal perspective by next March, there’s also now a chance teams will have moved on to other options at quarterback — limiting the interest Watson receives once NFL free agency opens.