Last year the Raiders traded away two of their Pro Bowl former top picks in their prime. First was Khalil Mack prior to the start of the season, then Amari Cooper at midseason. This year, the Raiders acquired Antonio Brown in a trade with the Steelers, though some would argue 31 years old is a bit past his prime, though that’s debatable and we won’t really know the answer for a few years yet.
Obviously trades involving players in their prime is somewhat common. But some end up bigger deals than others. All of whom we won’t know how big a deal it was until a few years down the road.
NFL.com’s Elliott Harrison decided to compile a list of what he deems to be the top 20 NFL trades of players in the prime and the Raiders are all over it, whether the team acquiring the player or trading them away. They were involved in a total of six trades in his top 20 and four in the top ten alone.
Starting at number 3.
3) Ted Hendricks, linebacker
An ill-fated attempt to play in the WFL led to Hendricks’ trade to the Packers and then his becoming a free agent, whereupon Green Bay dealt his rights to the Raiders for two first-round picks. At the time, there was little doubt he was the most disruptive outside linebacker in pro football, coming off a season in which he picked off five passes and was named first-team All-Pro. In those days, outside linebackers were not “sack” guys. They played in 4-3 defenses, made tackles, interceded in the passing lanes and occasionally blitzed. Hendricks could do it all exceptionally well -- oh, and he became the best kick blocker the NFL has ever known. The Raiders were getting a complete player. A difference maker. Over nine seasons, the heady play and high football IQ of the 6-foot-7 Hendricks sent him to four more Pro Bowls and pushed the Raiders to three Super Bowl titles.
4) Mike Haynes, cornerback
Traded from: Patriots to Raiders, 1983.
Haynes was already a top-flight corner when the Patriots shipped him to Los Angeles. Haynes was unhappy with his contract in New England, feeling that he deserved to be the highest-paid corner in the league, and had been holding out. A deal between to the two organizations was made shortly after the trading deadline; after moving through the courts, a settlement was reached that gave New England a first-round pick in 1984 and a second-round pick in 1985. Boy, was Haynes worth it. Joining the Raiders mid-season, he helped them reach Super Bowl XVIII, where he and fellow corner Lester Hayes controlled the flow of the Redskins’ pass offense, limiting one of the greatest offenses in NFL history to nine points. Haynes used his length and considerable football instincts to make first-team All-Pro in each of the next two years, and he played seven seasons in his new home at a high level.
6) Marshawn Lynch, running back
Lynch ran hard in Buffalo, rushing for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons with a team that had virtually no passing game to speak of. Off-the-field problems derailed Lynch’s 2009 campaign, and with the Bills starting 2010 0-4, he was deemed expendable. Lynch’s “Beast Quake” touchdown rumble versus the Saints will live forever in pro football history, and it showed just how great this player was in a different uniform away from a losing culture. No player in league history ever played better after a trade. Lynch would go on to be the focal point of a Seahawks team that won it all in 2013 and probably would have won it again the next year if Beast Mode had gotten one more carry. Lynch rushed for over 1,000 yards his first four full seasons in Seattle, scoring 56 rushing and receiving TDs in the process. He was the heart and soul of one of the greatest teams of the 2010s.
9) Willie Brown, cornerback
Traded from: Broncos to Raiders, 1967.
Brown was an outstanding, if unknown, DB before he was dealt to the Raiders. What a masterstroke by Raiders owner Al Davis, who added one of the elite cover corners in NFL history, a player who would excel in Oakland for 11 seasons. Most people have seen the “Old Man Willie” clip from Super Bowl XI. What they might not know is that play was well beyond Brown’s prime, when he was as good as they come. Consider that in his first year with the Raiders, the defense allowed four fewer points per game than it did in the previous season. Along with Daryl Lamonica (added via another great trade), Brown helped Oakland improve its win total by five and make it to the Super Bowl in ‘67. In fact, the Raiders only missed the postseason twice and never had a losing season during Brown’s tenure. He went from being an AFL All-Star to a multiple-time first-team All-Pro in his new city, winning a Super Bowl in his old age.
11) Randy Moss, receiver
Traded from: Vikings to Raiders, 2005 AND Raiders to Patriots, 2007 AND Patriots to Vikings, 2010.
Moss was an all-timer masquerading as an average wideout when the Patriots traded for him. After two subpar seasons in Oakland, New England got him on the cheap, dealing the Raiders a fourth-round pick for a guy who would catch nearly 50 touchdown passes over the next three seasons. Bill Belichick was getting a disgruntled player, tired of the losing culture experienced over two injury-plagued seasons with the Raiders, who could still dominate. Moss’ attitude was not a problem early on with the Patriots, as he proved he was still the top player at his position in the NFL by posting a record 23 touchdown catches in ‘07. Oakland can only hope Antonio Brown will do the same for the Raiders this year.
20) Khalil Mack, pass rusher
Traded from: Raiders to Bears, 2018.
Mack, at least at the time of his trade to Chicago, was as dominant a performer as any player on this list. It’s difficult to gauge Mack’s legacy, with such limited service in the league and only one season in his new locale under his belt. Yet, you can make the argument that perhaps no player has ever been traded while playing at the level Mack has these last few seasons. When he was healthy in 2018, no defensive player was better, as his 12.5 sacks and 18 QB hits were huge reasons the Bears had one of the most feared defenses in the league, and he helped foster great team success. After another year like that, people are going to talk about Mack as a future Hall of Famer.
It’s good that five of these six trades involved players the Raiders acquired as opposed to traded away. Though the Randy Moss one probably isn’t great news considering they traded away a first round pick for one good season and then got only a 4th round pick out of it when they traded him to New England.
Should Amari Cooper continue to play as well with the Cowboys as he did the latter half of last season, he could appear on the list at some point as well, though Odell Beckham would be first because he’s a much better player than Coop at this point of his career.