Barnwell: Do the Rams, Broncos and Saints regret their big trades? Lessons from going all-in and the long-term fallout

    Bill Barnwell is a staff writer for ESPN.com.

If you’ve been thinking about the 2023 NFL draft recently, you might have noticed something that doesn’t often happen in December. Three of the draft’s current top five picks already have been traded away. The Broncos, Rams and Saints would be picking in the top five after disappointing seasons, but their incredibly valuable selections instead will be made by the Seahawks, Lions and Eagles.

In each case, these teams sent future first-round picks to plug holes on their existing rosters. Denver and Los Angeles acquired veteran quarterbacks, while New Orleans needed to draft both a wide receiver and a left tackle in the 2022 class. Those three teams didn’t expect to send a top-five pick to their opponents, but with four weeks in the NFL season remaining, that nightmare is about to become reality.

Every team loves getting something for future draft picks when deals go down. In many cases, the deals don’t look quite as impressive years later. For every Jalen Ramsey deal, there’s a Khalil Mack, Jamal Adams or Jay Cutler trade, where a team sends two first-rounders, pays out a big contract and doesn’t get the player it was hoping to add while missing out on valuable, cost-controlled talent in the draft.

Let’s run through the three trades that have shaken up the top of next April’s draft. What were those teams thinking at the time? Were they too confident? Would they make these deals again? What will the teams nabbing these valuable picks do in April? And which of these three is deepest in the mire of mediocrity?

No. 2 pick: Broncos traded to Seahawks

The trade: Denver sent first-round picks in 2022 and 2023, second-round picks in 2022 and 2023, a fifth-round selection in 2022 and a trio of players — tight end Noah Fant, defensive tackle Shelby Harris and quarterback Drew Lock to Seattle. In exchange, the Broncos received quarterback Russell Wilson and a 2022 fourth-round pick.

The early returns: The Seahawks used the 2022 first-round pick from Denver on left tackle Charles Cross, who has been excellent as a rookie at a major position of need. The second-rounder went toward edge rusher Boye Mafe, who has two sacks on 329 defensive snaps. Seattle traded the fourth-round pick to the Chiefs for fifth- and seventh-round selections, which were used on linebacker Tyreke Smith and wideout Dareke Young. Smith is on injured reserve, while Young has played mostly on special teams.

The Broncos took defensive end Eyioma Uwazurike with the fourth-round selection from Seattle. He has played just 25 snaps on defense this season. As for Wilson, well, you know how that has gone.

Would the Seahawks make this trade again? LOL.

What were the Broncos thinking? They thought they were following in the Rams’ footsteps and landing a championship-caliber quarterback. Wilson is 34, and there’s some evidence he has become less mobile over the past two seasons, but the Broncos could have reasonably expected to land at least two years of him maintaining his prior level of play.

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