It’s not always who you trade, but how the deal gets done.
This is evident in the recent trade of former Oregon Duck DeForest Buckner, who went from the San Francisco 49ers to the Indianapolis Colts for the No. 13 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
What message did this trade send to the rest of the AFC? The former first round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft spent the first four seasons of his professional career in San Francisco. While he had a down year in 2019, the 6-foot-7, 300-pound defensive lineman was still highly productive and disruptive through his first three seasons, which featured a Pro Bowl appearance in 2018 .
Buckner is a problem, in the best way imaginable, and that might just be reason enough why the Colts sought after him.
We hear about this all the time: For example, the Jets, Dolphins and Bills won’t have to deal with Tom Brady running the AFC East for the next two years.
The AFC quarterback situation is tough enough with the young, three-headed monster that is Lamar Jackson (Baltimore), Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City) and Deshaun Watson (Houston).
Instead of using Indianapolis’s 13th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on perhaps the quarterback of their future (after getting shell-shocked by Andrew Luck’s retirement and as they don’t have any at this moment under contract after next season), the Colts used that pick and traded for a defensive lineman. A good one, yes, but still. This trade meant more than just the future of their franchise, but also that the Colts want to win and win now.
The Athletic’s Zak Keefer discussed this more in a recent article:
And don’t think for a second Mahomes and [Texans quarterback Deshaun] Watson didn’t factor into this trade. [Colts general manager Chris] Ballard knows the QBs in the AFC his team will have to face in the coming years, how dangerous they are in and out of the pocket and the quickest way to corral them: with pressure straight up the middle. That’s precisely how Buckner got a solo sack on Mahomes in the Super Bowl. That’s why the Colts brought him to Indy. — Zak Keefer
After signing quarterback Philip Rivers to a one-year worth roughly $25 million dollar deal, one can put the pieces together that they weren’t planning on drafting a quarterback this season. At least, not in the early rounds. Plus, it would be unlikely Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert would fall to them at No. 13.
NBC Sports Bay Area reporter Brian Witt also contributed his thoughts on the trade:
In acquiring Buckner and Rivers -- and the money spent to do so -- the Colts essentially are risking their long-term future for a chance at immediate contention. — Brian Witt
Case in point, the Colts want to win and think they can do so this upcoming season. The 49ers? Perhaps thinking more long term.