The Washington Football Team, formerly known as the Washington Redskins, has had some terrible trades in recent history.
People love to point out the failure of the Donovan McNabb trade, and how Clinton Portis was a great running back but absolutely not worth losing Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey.
And of course, the Robert Griffin III trade with the Los Angeles Rams (then the St. Louis Rams) will always be a topic of discussion.
Even if Griffin III followed the path that his rookie year set for him (making him an elite quarterback) it would be hard to justify giving up that many draft picks just for one player. Which makes many consider this to be an absolutely lopsided trade, and it wasn’t one that was in favor of Washington.
However, that does not mean they are always on the wrong side of the deal. Sometimes, Washington is the one making out like bandits. What are the greatest trades in their history though?
Let’s take a look back and try to figure that out. Here are the five best trades in franchise history.
5. Bobby Mitchell Makes History
The Washington Football Team was the last to integrate in the NFL. They did so by trading for star Bobby Mitchell in 1962.
Mitchell was a member of the Cleveland Browns when Washington traded for him. They gave up a lot at the moment, sending the first overall pick in the draft (Ernie Davis) to the Browns.
Davis was a superstar talent running back, but they were afraid he was going to be asking for too much money. So they sent him off to Cleveland for Mitchell.
Now, Davis was a tragic story. He passed away before he even got to play a game in the NFL. Due to that, I actually considered not even counting this.
But in reality, it would not have mattered what Washington traded for Mitchell, he was a star. And he would have made this a lopsided trade almost no matter what.
Mitchell spent seven years in Washington. Not only was he a legend and one of the best players in franchise history, he made history.
Mitchell was the first black player to play for Washington, and he did so while dominating on the field.
The wide receiver finished his career in Washington with 393 receptions for 6,492 yards and 49 touchdowns. He also had 90 carries for 498 yards and two more touchdowns on the ground.
In 1983, Mitchell was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. He was a four-time Pro Bowler and one-time first-team All-Pro.
Mitchell is long remembered as one of the greatest players in Washington Football history. Due to that, it’s easy to see how getting him would make almost any trade tilt in their favor.
4. Santana Moss Comes to Washington
This is the most recent entry on the list. Before the 2005 season, Washington traded star wide receiver Laveranues Coles to the New York Jets for another star wide receiver Santana Moss.
Coles would go on to spend just five more years in the league. And while he was solid in that time, the production was nothing close to what Moss would do for the rest of his career.
Moss spent another 10 years in the NFL, all with Washington. In those 10 years, he became easily one of the greatest receivers in the history of the franchise. And if we’re all being honest with ourselves, one of the most under-appreciated wide receivers in the history of the entire NFL.
Moss reeled in 581 receptions for 7,867 yards and 47 touchdowns in his time in Washington. That included some absolutely massive seasons and a Pro Bowl visit.
While Moss likely won’t make the Hall of Fame or get much recognition outside of the fanbase, it was an incredible career. He finished his 14 years in the league with 732 receptions for 10,283 yards and 66 touchdowns. And he’ll be remembered as a member of the Washington Football Team.
Yes, Washington did not win much with Moss on the team. But that’s not fair to throw at him. After, they haven’t won much in a very long time.
Moss did help the team win some massive games and was part of a few historic teams. Teams that are outliers in a long few decades of struggles in the Nation’s Capitol.
Moss was one of the brightest stars on the team for an entire decade. And they got him in a rare massive win of a trade.
3. The Earnest Byner Robbery
Earnest Byner for Mike Oliphant. That was a trade that went seriously wrong for one team, and it wasn’t the one that got Byner.
Lucky for Washington, they received Byner. Meanwhile, they sent Oliphant to Cleveland. That’s right, the Browns make the list twice – that’s got to sting a little bit. Maybe they want to steer clear of any more trades with Washington for a while.
The trade was made before the 1989 season. And to be fair to Cleveland, Oliphant was in just his second year. He had the fresh legs of the two.
Byner on the other hand had struggled to recapture the magic of his breakout 1985 season. So they might have thought they were giving up a player on his decline for an up-and-coming star.
Instead, the Browns got a player in Oliphant who had 97 rushing yards and one touchdown on 15 carries, as well as 22 receiving yards on three receptions in two years with them. Then he was out of the league.
Byner went a different route with Washington. He spent the next five years with them, and became an absolute star.
The running back picked up 3,950 yards and 25 touchdowns on 990 carries in those five years. And added 185 receptions for 1,577 yards and four touchdowns in the air.
What’s most important to note about those numbers is that the majority of his production came in two seasons between 1990 and 1991. Those were the years that made Byner a legend in Washington.
He was a Pro Bowler in both of those years. And in 1991 he was a key member of the Washington Football Team that won a Super Bowl.
Playing a key part in one of the three Super Bowl championships in team history? That alone makes this trade a massive win. Throw in the fact that Byner had the best years of his career in Washington while Oliphant was sadly done with his career just two years after the trade.
2. Sonny Jurgenson Switches Allegiance
In 1964, Washington traded Norm Snead and Claude Crabb to the Philadelphia Eagles for Sonny Jurgensen and Jimmy Carr.
Now, Carr and Crabbe were good football players, but the focus here is one the two quarterbacks, Snead and Jurgensen.
Snead spent seven seasons with Philadelphia. In that time, the team went 28-50-3 with the quarterback as their starter. He completed 51.6% of his passes for 15,672 yards and 111 touchdowns compared to 124 interceptions.
The Eagles did not have a winning season with Snead.
Meanwhile, Jurgensen and Washington made a lot of history. He spent 11 years with the team. In that time, he went 52-51-5 as the starting quarterback.
Jurgensen completed 58% of his passes for 22,585 yards and 179 touchdowns compared to 116 interceptions.
While Washington did not win any Championships with him, they did have some great seasons.
Jurgensen was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983, the Eagles were not winners again for a long time.
1. The Ricky Williams Haul
In 1999, Washington had the fifth overall pick, and running back Ricky Williams was on the board. The New Orleans Saints really wanted Williams.
How badly did they want him, you ask? Well, they traded away their first round, third round, fourth round, fifth round, sixth round, and seventh-round picks in the 1999 NFL Draft for him.
That’s not all though, they also gave away their first round and third round picks in the 2000 NFL Draft. Literally all of that for the fifth overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft. And with that pick, they took Williams.
The running back became an NFL legend. But he only spent three years in New Orleans.
In those three years, Williams managed 3,129 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns on 814 carries. He also had 132 receptions for 1,092 yards and two more touchdowns in the air.
While those are great numbers, some of his best years were after his time with the Saints.
Meanwhile, Washington did not hit on all those picks. In fact, some of them were pretty bad.
They did manage to get two stars out of the entire thing though. That would be Lavar Arrington and Champ Bailey.
Arrington was a great linebacker and pass rusher. He was severely underrated for a long time and a Washington legend. And yes, Bailey’s career with the team did not last nearly as long as it should have. But he was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL while with them, and one of the greatest of all-time.
And even when they traded Bailey, they got Clinton Portis out of the deal, and he had some incredible years with the team. Getting that for just three years of Williams is an absolutely incredible trade-off.