NFL trade deadline 2022 winners and losers: Bears finally appear ready to build around Justin Fields

The best way to break down something like the 2022 NFL trade deadline is immediately after the trades happen. No time for rationality, no time for being responsible and waiting to see how moves materialize. That sounds awfully boring. It’s best to have strong, infallible takes in the moment, so let’s go over some surefire winners and losers from the trade deadline now that all of the deals have been finalized.

Winner: Justin Fields

The Chase Claypool move feels like an overpay for a wide receiver who has largely been inconsistent over the past couple years. He might not make a huge impact, but the Chicago Bears needed anyone on the outside who could be a legitimate downfield threat for Justin Fields.

The second-year quarterback has improved a good bit since the start of the season. This shows that the Bears are aware that they need to upgrade Fields' supporting cast and are prepared to do so after a quiet offseason on offense.

After trading away Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn, the Bears have draft pick ammunition to improve the offense this offseason and are slated to have $114.2 million in salary cap space for 2023. Claypool as a lead receiver for the rest of this season might yield some shaky results in the short term, but if the Bears can continue to add depth around him in their wide receivers room then this could end up being a talented group of pass catchers by the start of next season.

The Bears are finally poised to continue their investment in Fields beyond the picks they used to draft him, which seems like a smart move after how he has played over the past month. This deal signals that reinforcements are coming for Fields; he just needs to make it to the end of the season. That makes him a trade deadline winner.

Loser: Denver Broncos

The Broncos got a good haul for Bradley Chubb, but they’re losers because they had to make this trade in the first place. This team, in theory, is built up for a title run after dealing for Russell Wilson in the offseason. Wilson was supposed to come in and lead a team that had an elite defense to a Lombardi trophy. That, uh, is not happening this year. Not even a little bit. So, the Broncos are forced to regroup and ship off a talented player from arguably the best defense in football.

The first-round draft pick will help Denver bring in some more cost-controlled talent next year, but this is a team that had planned on being good right now. The Broncos aren’t, and now they have to make a trade like this.

The Broncos made moves this offseason like a team ready to contend. Then they made moves at the NFL trade deadline like the opposite. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
The Broncos made moves this offseason like a team ready to contend. Then they made moves at the NFL trade deadline like the opposite. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Winner: Atlanta Falcons

Calvin Ridley’s career with the Falcons was over even before he was given a year-long suspension for betting on the Falcons to win games during the 2021 season. Sending him to the Jacksonville Jaguars, with a boatload of stipulations on future draft picks, is ultimately a good move for this team. The Falcons outperformed expectations midway through the season and may get a second-round pick in 2024 if Ridley can get back into form and sign a long-term contract with the Jaguars. This is a solid trade for everyone involved, but the Falcons potentially getting a high pick for someone who hasn’t played in over a calendar year is a strong move.

Loser: Elijah Moore

Ah, sorry, Elijah. Your nightmare of playing on a playoff-contending team continues.

In all seriousness, it’s easy to understand why Moore wanted to be traded as his production dwindles and Zach Wilson’s future as the New York Jets' long-term quarterback becomes muddier. However, he’s going to stick around with the Jets at least through the remainder of this season while they try to get the offense back on track.

In the wake of the Breece Hall season-ending injury, it makes sense that the Jets aren’t trying to give away playmakers. Moore is good, so he has a chance to revitalize what has been a disappointing sophomore season with the team that drafted him.

Winner: Baltimore Ravens DC Mike Macdonald

The Ravens have needed to improve their defense this season and got help in a big way when they traded for All-Pro linebacker Roquan Smith from the Chicago Bears. Smith’s arrival stabilizes the middle of a defense that could really use it, and gives Patrick Queen a speedy running mate to terrorize offenses.

Smith, who turns 26 in April, gives the Ravens their next great middle linebacker, following in the footsteps of Ray Lewis and C.J. Mosley.

Smith will get a contract extension barring something unforeseen happening and projects nicely into what the Ravens like to do on defense.