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Stafford, Watson, and Lance: 3 impactful trades that have influenced this postseason in multiple ways

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In 2021, the San Francisco 49ers gave Miami a package of picks so they could move up in the draft and take Trey Lance. Two years later, Sean Payton was the coach in Denver.

If you’re wondering what those two facts have to do with one another, then this piece is for you.

When teams make a deal like that 49ers-Dolphins swap, the repercussions can last for years, and as the playoffs begin, it’s worth looking back at three huge trades that helped shape several of the franchises in this postseason.

The domino effect is truly wild — and in some cases, it’s tough to keep track of.

TRADE NO. 1: STAFFORD HEADS WEST

THE DEAL

After the 2020 season, Detroit sent QB Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for QB Jared Goff, a 2021 third-round pick and first-round picks in 2022 and 2023.

THE AFTERMATH

The Lions used that third-rounder on DB Ifeatu Melifonwu. They traded the 2022 first-rounder they received (No. 32) along with 2022 second- and third-rounders to Minnesota for a first-round pick (No. 12) and second-rounder that year. Then Detroit took WR Jameson Williams at No. 12.

The first-rounder Detroit received from the Rams in 2023 was No. 6. The Lions traded down from there to No. 12 and received a second-round pick from Arizona in the process. They took RB Jahmyr Gibbs at No. 12 and then added TE Sam LaPorta with the second-rounder they got from the Cardinals.

THE VERDICT

A pretty clear win-win, although it’s one that could come back to haunt Detroit if Stafford knocks the Lions out of the playoffs this weekend. The Rams won a Super Bowl in Stafford’s first season with the team, and he now has them back in the playoffs and looking dangerous. Goff has performed well enough in Detroit to give the Lions their first division title in 30 years. They’ve also drafted some solid offensive threats in Williams, Gibbs and LaPorta with picks related to this trade.

TRADE NO. 2: WATSON TO CLEVELAND

THE DEAL

After the 2021 season, Houston sent QB Deshaun Watson and a sixth-round pick in 2024 to Cleveland for first-rounders in 2022, 2023 and 2024, fourth-rounders in 2022 and 2024 and a third-rounder in 2023.

THE AFTERMATH

Cleveland owed Houston the No. 13 and 107 picks in 2022. The Texans traded down a couple spots to No. 15 and took OL Kenyon Green. They drafted RB Dameon Pierce at 107.

Last year, Houston received picks No. 12 and 73 from the Browns. The Texans sent No. 12 with No. 33 to Arizona in exchange for the No. 3 pick, which Houston used on LB Will Anderson Jr. Houston also gave up first- and third-rounders in 2024 in that deal with the Cardinals. In the third round, the Texans moved up from No. 73 to 69 and picked WR Tank Dell.

After going from Cleveland to Houston to Arizona, the No. 12 pick wasn’t done changing hands. The Cardinals dealt it to Detroit (the aforementioned Jahmyr Gibbs pick) and thus created a link between the Watson trade and the Stafford-Goff swap. Also, the No. 33 pick — sent from Houston to Arizona when the Texans moved up to draft Anderson — was then traded from the Cardinals to Tennessee, which used it on QB Will Levis.

THE VERDICT

The Browns gave up quite a bit of draft capital — plus a $230 million guaranteed contract — for Watson. He hasn’t brought much stability to the quarterback position. He’s been limited, by suspension and injury, to only 12 starts over the past two seasons, although Cleveland did go 5-1 in the six games he played in this season on its way to a playoff berth.

Houston appears to have solved its quarterback concerns with rookie C.J. Stroud, and using one of the picks from Cleveland to trade up and get Anderson could pay off nicely as well.

TRADE NO. 3: MIAMI CASHES IN

THE DEAL

About a month before the 2021 draft, Miami traded the No. 3 overall pick to San Francisco for the No. 12 pick, plus first-rounders in 2022 and 2023 and a 2022 third-rounder.

THE AFTERMATH

The 49ers picked Lance at No. 3. He started four games in two years for them before they dealt him to Dallas for a fourth-rounder before this season.

Meanwhile, immediately after acquiring No. 12 from the 49ers, the Dolphins swapped that pick — along with a 2022 first-rounder — to Philadelphia and moved up to No. 6. Miami took WR Jaylen Waddle in that spot. The Eagles eventually traded up from No. 12 to No. 10 in a deal with Dallas, and Philadelphia took WR DeVonta Smith. The Cowboys took LB Micah Parsons at No. 12.

The following March, the Dolphins used the No. 29 pick in the 2022 draft (acquired from San Francisco the previous year) as part of the trade that brought WR Tyreek Hill from Kansas City to Miami. The Chiefs then traded up from No. 29 to No. 21 and took CB Trent McDuffie.

The Dolphins still had one more first-rounder coming from San Francisco in 2023, but during the 2022 season, they dealt it to Denver in a trade that landed LB Bradley Chubb for Miami. The Broncos didn’t use the pick either. They sent it to New Orleans when they hired Payton to become their coach in early 2023.

THE VERDICT

It’s impressive that San Francisco was able to shrug off a trade that went this badly. The 49ers are the top seed in the NFC — although imagine how good they’d be if they’d kept all those picks. Miami put them to good use, supercharging its passing game with Waddle and Hill. Even teams like Philadelphia and Dallas ended up with impressive players in the resulting wheeling and dealing.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL

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